Untreated ADHD makes focusing, remembering details, and controlling impulses harder. It can feel like you’re swimming upstream against a strong current. You can make progress, but it takes a lot of time and effort.
ADHD is also linked to mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.
Fortunately, it’s highly treatable.
Finding the right ADHD treatment is life-changing for many adults.
Proper ADHD management can improve focus, motivation, communication, and other essential skills. The right help will get you on track to meeting your goals.
Continue reading to find out more about the challenges untreated ADHD presents and learn how timely treatment can make all the difference.
10 Risks of Untreated ADHD in Adults
Less than 20% of adults with ADHD receive the care and support needed to manage their symptoms.
Adult ADHD often goes undetected because it looks different than it does in children. Over the years, some adults may have learned workarounds for their ADHD to function “normally.” This form of high-functioning ADHD is often masked by the person’s achievements or intelligence.
Untreated ADHD may affect work, academics, relationships, mental wellness, and physical health in the following ways.
Though ADHD is labeled an attention-deficit disorder, individuals with ADHD don’t actually have an attention deficit. They have an abundance of attention. The challenge lies in controlling and directing it.
ADHDers may find it the most challenging to follow through on certain types of tasks:
- Projects that require sustained attention
- Tasks with delayed rewards
- Repetitive work
They may procrastinate or get easily distracted, leading to missed deadlines, unfinished work, overlooked instructions, and careless mistakes.
However, the ADHD brain can also hyperfocus, becoming oblivious to surrounding distractions.
When you learn to manage your abundance of attention, hyperfocus can serve as a superpower, helping you concentrate on work that interests you.
ADHD affects both long-term and working memory – the limited-storage system of your brain that holds information temporarily.
Someone with ADHD may have difficulty remembering details. They may forget important dates, miss meetings, events, or celebrations, and misplace items like keys or documents.
The impact of ADHD on memory can also make learning more challenging, as this affects a person’s ability to store and manipulate information.
Remember that ADHD doesn’t define your intelligence. Your brain simply processes and holds information differently.
Disorganization and Poor Time Management
One of the consequences of untreated ADHD in adults is disorganization, which can show up in the following ways:
- Struggling to divide big tasks into structured, smaller steps
- Talking in an incoherent and non-sequential way
- Jumping haphazardly from one task to another
- Underestimating time needed for a task
- Forgetting appointments
- Struggling with routines
- Cluttered workspaces
- Misplacing items
Due to these symptoms, a person with ADHD may have trouble being on time, keeping track of their schedule, meeting deadlines, and keeping up with their workload.
There are many ways to improve your organizational skills and prioritization.
For instance, you can enlist the help of a professional ADHD organizer to help you tackle clutter. If you need help when it comes to switching from one task to another, you could set up an ADHD transition ritual to ease the process.
These untreated ADHD symptoms may contribute to relationship challenges:
- Struggling to finish household chores and tasks
- Unintentionally blurting out hurtful statements
- Zoning out during conversations
- Forgetting important events
- Interrupting other people
- Emotional outbursts
Because of their symptoms, ADHDers may find themselves in heated conflicts and misunderstandings with their loved ones.
What’s crucial is learning to communicate effectively and build strategies that can help you fulfill important commitments. That way, you’ll be able to maintain healthy and happy relationships with your friends, family, and partner.
Stifled Career Growth
ADHD can make it harder for an individual to meet deadlines, pay attention to instructions, collaborate effectively with workmates, and handle complex projects.
People with ADHD may find they’re not as productive, motivated, or focused as they’d like to be at their job.
A study found that the rate of full-time employment in adults with ADHD was only 34%, compared to a rate of almost 60% for their non-ADHD peers.
However, ADHDers who find a role that complements their strengths often succeed in their careers. Traits like creativity, fast-paced thinking, and higher energy levels are often part of ADHD, too.
Research suggests that adults with ADHD struggle more with financial decision-making. People with ADHD are also more likely to spend impulsively compared to non-ADHDers.
As a result, they may be more likely to exceed card limits, accumulate debt, and become financially dependent on other people.
ADHD can make it challenging to stick to a budget and save money, but this doesn’t mean the person is irresponsible.
They just need ADHD-friendly finance management tools and professional guidance to help them get their finances back on track.
Substance Misuse and Addiction
Some adults with ADHD turn to substances such as alcohol, drugs, or nicotine to self-medicate and find relief from the challenges they face.
Some research estimates that substance misuse and addiction rates are about twice as high in people with ADHD compared to those without ADHD.
ADHD and a substance misuse disorder can be treated concurrently. But through early intervention and management of ADHD symptoms, substance misuse disorders can be prevented.
Mental Health Struggles
Problems at work, school, or home may cause a person with ADHD to become overly self-critical and doubt their strengths and capabilities.
And due to the quick-paced nature of the ADHD brain, ADHDers often ping-pong between good and bad perceptions of themselves.
One day they feel confident, and the next completely overwhelmed. These mood fluctuations can be emotionally draining and lead to low self-esteem.
Because of these struggles, ADHD is often linked to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.
This explains why self-care and self-compassion are powerful tools for anyone living with ADHD.
Poor Physical Wellness
ADHD may be linked to more risky behaviors, such as substance misuse, smoking, binge eating, and unsafe sex.
ADHD may also pose additional challenges in terms of leading a healthy lifestyle. For instance, adopting a balanced, ADHD-friendly diet and sticking to an exercise routine may require organization, planning, and motivation, all of which can be affected by ADHD.
This can put people with untreated ADHD at a higher risk of heart disease, obesity, and other chronic ailments in the long run.
Judgment, decision-making, and impulse control may be affected in a person with ADHD. Those with ADHD can have a harder time understanding the dangers or harms of their actions on themselves or those around them.
As a result, the individual may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as reckless driving and substance abuse.
If you notice a tendency for these types of behaviors, this doesn’t make you a bad person. ADHD simply makes it difficult to ignore and control the urges that could get you into a legal fix.
Medication, counseling, and social training can help you better manage your impulses.
Adult ADHD Treatment
ADHD isn’t a journey that you have to go on alone.
With medication, therapy, and a support system, navigating life often becomes much easier.
Treatment may involve the following:
- Medication: Stimulant medications help regulate brain activity and are often the first treatment choice for most people.
- Behavioral therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy is a goal-oriented form of psychotherapy that helps replace unhealthy habits and thought patterns with beneficial and productive ones.
- Support groups: ADHD support groups are a safe space for you to share your experiences and learn from people who are also navigating the journey of ADHD.
- ADHD coaching: An ADHD coach can provide tools and advice to help you carry out your daily duties and responsibilities in an organized and timely manner.
A combination of both medications and therapy is proven to be the most effective for many people.
ADHD medications can improve symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. Meanwhile, ADHD coaching and therapy can help you understand your condition better and build healthy coping strategies.
You might even learn how to harness your natural creativity, intuitiveness, and resilience. Some of the attributes of ADHD can actually give you an edge!
Treatment Should Not Be Overlooked in Adult ADHD
While adult ADHD cannot be cured, its symptoms can be treated.
The fact is that people with ADHD have the potential for greatness – with or without help. But treatment tilts the odds in your favor, paving a smoother path toward your goals!
The first life-changing decision you can make is getting the right diagnosis.
If you’re concerned that you may have ADHD, you can take ADDA’s ADHD test for adults, which will help you identify signs and symptoms. The results can help you make a more informed decision on the best next steps to improve your quality of life.
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