Is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) serious?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be serious. People who have the condition may have trouble learning or working, difficult relationships with peers, friends, or spouses, trouble remembering, and low self-esteem. Children also suffer a higher risk of injury, behavior problems, and have a higher rate of substance abuse.

Dr. Lara Honos-Webb, PhD
Psychology Specialist

ADHD is a serious diagnosis. While ADHD may roll of the tongue these days like a hip new fad, it is a classified mental disorder. Adults with ADD have higher rates of divorce, job changes and drug and alcohol use than the average population.

The symptoms of ADHD are so serious that many times people with the diagnosis don't believe they have any gifts. All that they can see is relationship difficulties, professional failures and a trail of catastrophic mistakes caused by ADHD.

If you have ADHD you can create a different future for yourself by finding and focusing on gifts even though it might be hard to believe. Changing the way you see yourself will change you and your life. Many people with ADHD become very successful because the gifts of ADHD include creativity, emotional sensitivity, interpersonal intuition, exuberance and being nature smart.

With the promise of the gifts of ADHD come many pitfalls. For every wildly successful ADD businessperson, there is one who lands in prison for tax evasion. For every ADD adult sailing through life on her charisma, there is one caught in a downward spiral of sensation seeking, one impulse feeding on another. For every great leader with ADD, there is a gang member using his leadership gifts to enlist others in a life of crime.

One promise for ADD adults is that the world is changing in ways that will not only accommodate these differences but may create a high demand for them. In this global, digital world innovation and creativity are highly valued. The buzzwords of today are inventiveness, adaptability, and creativity - the very gifts of ADHD.


Dr. Iris M. Rodriguez-Ocasio, MD

ADHD is serious when the child, teenager or adult is not treated because they become frustrated with their inability psychologically to fit in with their peers. With medication they can keep up and live normal lives.

Dr. Heather Wittenberg, PhD
Psychology Specialist

ADHD is thought to be largely an inherited neurological condition. The diagnosis requires (among other things) that the symptoms cause "clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning." So by definition, ADHD is more than just having a little difficulty concentrating.

But the degree of symptoms does vary from person to person. Some cases are much more severe than others. It is important to know, though, that ADHD is very treatable—usually with a combination of medication, education, and counseling. Ideally, folks with ADHD learn strategies for coping with their symptoms, and seamlessly integrate those strategies into their everyday lives.

Ms. Julie A. Fast
Mental Health Specialist

Yes. In my case it is very serious. My ADD is attached to a bipolar disorder diagnosis which is not uncommon, but it does make it more difficult to treat.

ADD affects so many areas of life:

  • Work: It can cut your work hours drastically because you spend so much time just finding a comfortable place to sit. Then you have to constantly get back on task because you are gazing out the window or staring into space.
  • School: Oh wow. The pressure is so intense to sit and get information from a book when you can’t focus on the words and your mind is doing its own gymnastics.
  • Relationships: People get really frustrated with your behavior. Why can’t you sit still? What is your problem? This work is easy! Why can’t you focus! No Legos for you!
  • Money: Money is lost from lost work time- or from frustrated clients who can see you’re having trouble getting work done.  ADD probably costs the business world a lot of money.
  • Deadlines: hahhahahhahha.
  • Lack of focus: On some days I was absolutely unable to keep on task.
  • Personal Comfort: Squiggling and wiggling-  pain in the body – the feeling you are in the wrong place and that you would focus better in another location, so you get up and leave and feel uncomfortable somewhere else.
  • Self Belief: I have been down on myself for the past ten years for not being able to sit down and work more. Yes, a lot of it is mood swings from bipolar disorder, but a good deal was ADD.
  • Anger at self: Why didn’t I seek help sooner? I knew about ADD drugs, but did not ever even think of taking them as they can cause mania. But I found out they are usually safe if a person is on mood stabilizers.  So…..
  • I tried Ritalin. One year and a miracle later, I can sit longer and work with more focus than in the past ten years.  I didn’t know how severely I had ADD until a small pill took away most of the symptoms. If I don’t take my Ritalin, all of the symptoms come back.

If you have ADD, get help. I don’t want you to drive to five Starbucks just to find a comfortable place to work!

PS: I should note that ADHD is a childhood diagnosis and ADD is more commonly used to describe adults. Adults don’t have the H as they don’t tend to bounce off the walls as seen in kids.

Dr. Janetta Kelly, MD

Some children will exhibit some improvement in symptoms as they mature. Persistence into adulthood is determined by severity and treatment of ADHD in childhood. Development and quality of life can be adversely affected. As a child progresses from one grade to another s/he may exhibit decreased school performance or achievement despite apparent average or above average intelligence. They may also experience social difficulties like making friends, or playing or interacting cooperatively with others. This can potentially and consequentially lead to a low self-image or self-esteem. An adult may find themselves passed over for promotions, have varied work performance, and/or have difficulty attaining or maintaining a desired job position. 

Sometimes a child can be labeled as a problem in the classroom if behaviors are not addressed, and/or in high school lead to some dropping out before graduating thus not realizing their true potential for achievement. Some pre-adolescents and adolescents may begin self-medicating by engaging in substance abuse to cope with their symptoms and any resultant negative interactions with their environment, especially in families where there is a history of alcoholism, and drug and other addictions.

Dr. Diana K. Blythe, MD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can have a huge range of symptoms and severity. Because ADHD includes the hyperactivity aspect of ADD, the symptoms tend to be more obvious to others and more bothersome to you than just ADD without the hyperactivity.

Kids, or adults, with inattentive type ADD have trouble with paying attention and concentrating, but are not hindered as much by the impulsivity and hyperactivity of ADHD. This can affect job performance and schoolwork, but they are not interrupting others as often. 

The hyperactive, impulsive type ADD diagnosis is characterized by more fidgeting, more interrupting and more impulsive behavior. This fidgeting can make kids, and adults, more accident prone. The interrupting often makes others mad at you.

In other words, ADHD can have varying levels of severity depending on your symptoms and your environment.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.