A 3D illustration of a girl looking at a wave of schoolwork; is ADHD a disability concept art.

Millions of people in the United States have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD. A defining trait of this condition is that it disrupts day-to-day functioning. Because of this classic hallmark, many wonder, “Is ADHD a disability?”

Is ADHD a Disability?

Yes, under law ADHD and other mental health/psychiatric conditions, like depression, can be a disability… but only in extreme cases.

In the United States, both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Social Security Administration (SSA) recognize ADHD as a disability in certain cases.

ADHD and ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects those with disabilities from discrimination. This protection extends to both school and the workplace (as well as other places and scenarios). While there is not a complete list of what mental health and psychiatric disorders count as “disabilities,” people with ADHD may still be entitled to lawful protection and even have the right to ask for reasonable accommodations at work and school.

People generally have to meet a few criteria in order for protections to be granted, including:

  • The disability or condition severely impacts part or all of the individual’s life and day-to-day functioning.
  • The person has documentation of such a disability and/or a history of such a disability.
  • Person A suspects Person B has such a disability currently or in the past and discriminates against Person B else based on these suspicions (whether or not these suspicions are true).

ADHD and SSA

In severe cases, the Social Security Administration may recognize severe cases of mental health or psychiatric disorders to be a disability. Based on extremely strict criteria, these individuals may receive disability benefits from Social Security.

ADHD in Adults and Children

Most people associate ADHD with children. Because of misconceptions regarding this condition and age, many experts believe that ADHD is underdiagnosed far more in adults than in children. Despite the fact that most ADHD diagnoses occur during childhood or even adolescence, adults can have ADHD as well. According to some estimates, about 10 million adults in the United States have ADHD. This specific form of ADHD is known as adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, sometimes also known as AADD or adult ADHD.

Both adults and children must meet rigorous standards to receive an ADHD diagnosis. The primary diagnostic difference between adults and children with ADHD? Adults have to meet one fewer requirement in each diagnostic category than children do.

There are some overlaps of ADHD in both adults and children, including difficulty focusing, fidgeting, disorganization, and forgetfulness. In adults, some common ADHD symptoms may present slightly differently than they do in children. Common signs of AADD, for example, include restlessness, relationships problems, or inconsistent performance in the workplace.

Gender and ADHD

Age isn’t the only factor that influences ADHD diagnoses; gender likely plays a key role, too. According to the ADHD Institute, cisgender males are much more likely than cisgender females to receive a formal diagnosis, regardless of age. Now, many experts believe that this disparity isn’t because cisgender males are necessarily more predisposed to this disorder.

Rather, the lack of official cisgender female diagnoses is likely due to the fact that diagnostic tests are skewed towards symptoms that present more commonly in cisgender males. In other words, cisgender females often display ADHD symptoms differently than cisgender males do, and, as such, they may fly under diagnosing professionals’ radars.

In Brief: Is AHDH a Disability or Not?

People wondering, “Is ADHD a disability?” should know that in certain cases, the law may consider this condition to be a disability. This legal status only applies in specific instances, though.

Disclaimers: This article does not constitute professional legal advice.

Written by