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What happens to children whose ADHD goes unnoticed?

For many, when we think about ADHD our mind automatically goes to energetic little boys who do not no follow directions and often disrupt their classrooms. What we rarely discuss is the inattentive child who is not listening but also not bothering anyone. Some may even be hyperactive but the restlessness is occurring on the inside. Many are even maintaining average or above average grades in school but are working much harder than their peers to do so.

So, what happens to these children if they remain under the radar until adulthood? Academic underachievement, and underemployment are obvious repercussions. It is also not uncommon that many make it into higher education often times finding that the lack of structure foils their previous coping strategies. What I want to focus on in this blog post are the less obvious repercussions we don’t think about. The impacts on relationships, marriages, and general mental health.

Men are 3X more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and are often diagnosed earlier (Holland, Riley, & Krucik, 2017). This is likely due to the fact that men are more likely to have exhibited hyperactive and more disruptive behaviors as children. Many women don’t get diagnosed until adulthood if at all. As a counselor, the first thing we typically see in these women is depression and/or anxiety. The ADHD can be missed if the clinician does not look more deeply into the root of the depression and anxiety. The symptoms of these two things can overlap ADHD in various ways. Many have developed depression due to years of feeling inadequate and internalizing their ADHD symptoms as personal failures (feeling lazy, not smart, unmotivated etc). The anxiety typically comes from years of feeling like they’re living in chaos or trying to keep it all together.

Unnoticed or untreated ADHD can also wreak havoc on a person’s relationships. According to some studies the divorce rate of adults with ADHD is nearly twice that of the general population. Common ADHD issues such as inattentiveness, difficulty managing bills, completing chores, and difficulty managing emotions can exasperate the more common reasons for divorce by a lot. If one does not know there is a reason for their own behavior, and the partner doesn’t know either it can be difficult to solve the issues even with marriage counseling in play.

We often don’t think about the repercussions of ADHD on the two-thirds of children who continue to be deeply impacted through adulthood. It is assumed that ADHD is a childhood problem that one will grow out of, when in fact if we do not address it the consequences can be immense. We must remember that children with ADHD grow into adults with the same symptoms but different issues. When this goes unnoticed and/or untreated, it can have detrimental impacts on a person’s overall well-being.

So how do we make sure that children with ADHD don’t slip through the cracks? There are a few things we can pay attention to. Some of the subtler symptoms include: difficulty following directions, seeming as though they are daydreaming when spoken to directly, objection to tasks that require sustained attention, disorganization, and forgetfulness. ADHD symptoms can easily be mistaken for willful disobedience, which is why it is always important to explore the message a child’s behavior is trying to send us. Overall, we must keep in mind that not all children present symptoms the same way, not all children are hyperactive, and not all children with ADHD are going to appear to be struggling severly academically.

Holland, K., Riley, E., & Krucik, G. T. (2017, October 24). ADHD Numbers: Facts, Statistics, and You. Retrieved from https://www.addrc.org/adhd-numbers-facts-statistics-and-you/


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© 2020 by Gloria Joy Sherrod LPC