Skip to content

    ADD & ADHD Health Center

    Font Size

    Workplace May Overwhelm Adults With ADHD

    Simulation Study Portrays Patients Plagued by Short Attention Span
    WebMD Health News

    May 26, 2005 (Atlanta) -- Plagued by hyperactivity and restlessness, adult victims of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder often have significant difficulties getting the job done, according to the first study to simulate their performance in the workplace.

    "They have difficulty with many of the things they need to do in the workplace, such as solving math problems or understanding a document dealing with new regulations," says researcher Joseph Biederman, MD, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

    Making matters worse, the boss often has no idea of what's really going on and may end up writing off the employee as a low-skilled fidgeter, the study indicates.

    "Adults with ADHD are typically unemployed, underemployed, or change jobs frequently," says Biederman.

    In fact, his other research shows that ADHD patients suffer an average of $10,000 a year in lost income -- adding up to nearly $80 billion annually on the national level. More than 8 million adults, or 4.3% of American adults, suffer from ADHD.

    The study was presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

    An Accurate Portrait

    Howard Eist, MD, past president of the APA and an ADHD specialist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., says the study paints an accurate portrait of adults with ADHD in the workplace.

    But there are a few jobs where adults with ADHD tend to excel -- journalism and emergency room medicine, he says.

    "The deadline pressure, the constant jumping from task to task, gives them an adrenaline rush, similar to the effect of Ritalin," a drug used to treat ADHD, Eist tells WebMD. "Boredom is noxious to people with ADHD."

    Getting On With the Job

    For the study, 18 adults with ADHD and 18 adults without the condition participated in an eight-hour simulation work day. Those with ADHD were asked to abstain from taking their medications on the day of the study.

    The participants sat at classroom-like tables, where they performed and were graded on a variety of tasks: reading passages, solving math and logic problems, watching videos, and writing.

    Compared with those without the condition, ADHD patients were significantly less likely to comprehend what they read and correctly solve math problems.

    Today on WebMD

    Post it notes
    Symptoms and treatments.
    Close up of eye
    What's zapping your focus?
    man driving car
    How to manage your impulses.
    contemplating woman
    Learn to stop procrastinating.
    concentration killers
    Woman taking a vitamin or supplement
    ADHD and Substance Abuse
    Reduce Side Effects ADHD Medications

    woman with adhd doing college homework
    smiling man
    ADHD in Marriage and Romantic Relationships
    Adult man lying awake in bed