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How Do Socioeconomic Disadvantages Impact ADHD?

Despite growing insight into adult ADHD, there isn’t much data to explain how income, race, and culture affect trends in diagnosis and treatment of adults with the disorder. One reason for this is that when doctors check kids for ADHD, that’s typically their primary condition. Adults are more likely to have other issues that make an ADHD diagnosis less obvious.

Another factor is that an adult ADHD diagnosis mainly depends on self-reporting. That means adults would have to recognize symptoms in themselves and get treatment. Children are more likely to get a diagnosis because adults who care for them see the symptoms.

But some patterns experts see in children with ADHD may give insight to who gets diagnosed with and treated for the condition as an adult. Here’s what we found.

Does Socioeconomic Status Affect ADHD Diagnosis?

One study found that kids who live in families below the federal poverty level are more likely to get an ADHD diagnosis compared to kids who don’t. Another suggested the same. More specifically, the risk of diagnosis doubles for children of low socioeconomic status.

Researchers aren’t sure exactly why this is the case, but their studies identified certain factors related to the likelihood of getting a diagnosis, such as financial difficulties and parents’ marital status.

One theory about why ADHD is higher in children of lower socioeconomic groups is that there’s a connection between low socioeconomic status and readiness for school. The less ready a child is to start school, the more likely they are to have behavioral issues. They may not be as mature as their classmates and get an ADHD label.

The higher a family’s income, the lower the percentage of ADHD diagnosis across all racial and ethnic groups. Studies also show a relationship between ADHD diagnosis and attending an unsafe school and living in a dangerous neighborhood.

Although there isn’t much data on the impact of lower income and adult ADHD diagnosis, there is evidence that a missed diagnosis in childhood affects the way you’re able to function and achieve as an adult. Early diagnosis and treatment, such as behavioral management and skills training, helps narrow gaps in skills and knowledge that can affect employability.

Does Race/Ethnicity Affect ADHD Diagnosis?

One study found that non-Hispanic Black children are more likely to have ever been diagnosed with ADHD or a learning disability compared with non-Hispanic white or Hispanic children aged 3-10.

Surveys of non-Hispanic Black and white children show both groups are more likely to be diagnosed with these developmental conditions than Hispanic children. Theories about why this is true include:

  • Socioeconomic and cultural factors
  • Difference in interpretation of behavior
  • Higher likelihood of other mental health conditions depending on race
  • The way health care providers make diagnoses

But some research shows a different result. Depending on the study, Black children may have a higher or lower rate of ADHD diagnoses compared with non-Hispanic White children.

Other research suggests white adults have the highest rates of ADHD while Asian and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander adults had the lowest rates. Researchers aren’t sure why this is, but they do know that racial and ethnic background plays a key role in whether adults with ADHD get help. Reasons for this include:

  • Cultural opinions on mental health services
  • Trust in the medical system
  • Specific preferences about doctors

What Factors Impact ADHD Treatment?

Thousands of kids are being underdiagnosed and undertreated for ADHD, and research shows this is in large part due to race and ethnicity. The impact of this data extends to adulthood, affecting employment and overall mental health later in life.

In fact, taking medication for ADHD early in life can help lower the risk of:

  • Major depression
  • Anxiety
  • Conduct disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Smoking
  • Substance abuse

According to research, kids are more likely to get medication to treat ADHD if they are:

  • Non-Hispanic
  • Living in a home with English as the primary language
  • Living in the South
  • Also diagnosed with another condition

White children are most likely to receive treatment for ADHD.

The higher a family’s income level, the higher the odds a kid with ADHD will take medication to treat their disorder. What’s more, research suggests that inequalities in the health care system are behind the higher chances of kids from upper-class families getting this treatment.

Adult ADHD: What Are Functional Impairments?

The symptoms of adult ADHD can snowball into problems or challenges that impact your daily life. These issues are called functional impairments.

Impairments can take a toll on you at home, at work, and socially. You might notice them, or people around you might point them out.

The good news is that if you have them, treatment can help get your life back on track.

How Do ADHD-Related Symptoms Lead to Impairments?

An example of an ADHD symptom is getting easily distracted. An impairment is how that symptom interacts with the demands of the world, says Ari Tuckman, PsyD, co-chair of the National Conference Committee for the nonprofit organization CHADD.

An impairment is about the end result and how it affects your life, Tuckman says. The symptoms of ADHD can cause impairments across all different parts of life, he says.

David W. Goodman, MD, director of the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Center of Maryland, offers some examples.

If you have trouble managing time or can’t keep track of time: You might run late to work, have trouble finishing assignments on time, or underestimate how long it takes to do your work. You may rush to complete tasks and make careless errors.

Other people at work may notice these things. That can lead to poor job performance reviews. You might get put on probation or lose your job.

If you have trouble managing money: You might spend impulsively, putting charges on your credit cards. You may pay your bills late, or you might forget them under a stack of other paperwork.

That can create financial problems, like running up debt or a worse credit score.

If you can’t pay attention: Your mind could drift during conversations. You could lose track of what someone else says, or you forget what they said. And if other people need to repeat instructions for you, that could frustrate them.

As a result, other people may be more likely to walk away from you. They might decide that you’re unreliable, inconsistent, and undependable.

If you’re easily distracted: You could run a red light while driving your car.

That could lead to an accident that gets you or someone else hurt. Or if your car is in the shop for a while getting repaired, you could have trouble getting to work. And if you can’t get to work, it could affect your job.

When Might ADHD Impairments Show Up?

If you have ADHD as an adult, that means it started when you were a child.

Impairments tied to it can show up in childhood, too. For instance, maybe you got bad grades in school or had trouble socializing with other kids.

But those impairments might become more obvious to you – or to people around you – as you get older, when the demands in your life go up, Goodman says. Think: high school, college, jobs, bills, marriage, children.

What Types of Impairments Are Linked to ADHD?

Research shows that adult ADHD is linked to different kinds of impairments, especially if you don’t get it diagnosed and treated. It can make you more likely to:

  • Get into car accidents
  • Get worse grades in college, take a long time to finish, or drop out
  • Lose jobs or be unemployed
  • Have trouble managing money, leading to financial problems
  • Have unstable relationships and marriage problems, leading to higher rates of separation and divorce
  • If you’re an adult now and had ADHD as a child, research suggests you’re more likely than those who didn’t have childhood ADHD to engage in behaviors that lead you to being arrested, convicted, or incarcerated. Some of that behavior may involve low-level offenses, like peeing in the alley behind the bar or impulsively shoplifting, Tuckman says.

    How Do Other Mental Health Problems Play a Role?

    Up to 80% of adults with ADHD also have at least one other psychiatric condition, research suggests. Those conditions can include mood and anxiety disorders.

    Impairments can stem from ADHD, but they can also be an outgrowth of other psychiatric illnesses that can happen along with ADHD, Goodman says.

    What Can You Do About ADHD-Related Impairments?

    Impairments are often what motivate adults to get professional help for their ADHD, Tuckman says. Treatment for ADHD helps people with the disorder take charge of their impairments.

    If you haven’t been diagnosed with ADHD and you wonder if you might have it, a good first step is to learn about it.

    Next, you could search for a mental health clinician, like a psychiatrist or a psychologist. It’s important to choose one who has training and experience treating adults with ADHD, Goodman says.

    If they diagnose you with adult ADHD, they’ll make a treatment plan just for you. They may recommend things like:

    • Medication to ease your ADHD symptoms
    • Techniques to help you get organized and manage your time better
    • Talk therapy to improve your thinking-related habits and skills and to help you manage any other mental health conditions
    • Sessions with a professional called an ADHD coach, who can give you advice on how to tackle your daily tasks in a goal-oriented way.

    If you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD and you’re struggling with impairments, talk to your doctor or mental health clinician. Tell them what you’re going through. They can help you figure out the best treatment plan.

    Vocational Rehab for Adult ADHD

    The same ADHD symptoms that may have made school more challenging for you could also cause problems once you enter the workforce. Trouble with attention, memory, planning, and organization can make it harder for you to land the job you want – and keep it. But that’s where vocational rehabilitation comes in.

    You don’t need to give up on your dream of becoming a professional writer, investment banker, or whatever else it is you want to do. Career help is available for people with ADHD and other learning disabilities. Here’s what you need to know.

    What Is Vocational Rehabilitation?

    Vocational rehabilitation is a government-sponsored program designed for people who have physical and mental disabilities like ADHD. It can help you find a job that matches your skills and interests, often at little to no cost to you. Once you do find a job, this program will arm you with the skills you’ll need to succeed and stay employed.

    By guiding you through the job search process, a vocational rehab program can help you avoid some of the anxiety that often comes with finding and starting a new job. And it can help you land in a career where you find both satisfaction and success.

    How Can ADHD Affect My Career?

    ADHD affects many of the skills you need to succeed at work. The condition makes it harder to:

    • Stay focused
    • Get organized
    • Learn new things
    • Follow instructions
    • Finish tasks and meet deadlines

    You may not realize that these areas are affected unless someone tells you. ADHD also affects your ability to get along with other people, such as your co-workers. Good interpersonal skills are important when you work as part of a team.

    Research finds that people with ADHD are more likely to be unemployed and to earn less money than those without ADHD. And even if you do land a job, your symptoms could make it harder for you to meet your employer’s expectations and move up in the company.

    How Does Vocational Rehabilitation Work?

    A vocational rehab program can help with many parts of the job search and hiring process. It offers services like career counseling, psychological testing, and on-the-job training. The program itself is different for everybody because it’s personalized to your unique talents and job search needs.

    To start, you’ll meet with a vocational counselor who will help you put together an Individual Plan for Employment (IPE). This plan is similar to the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) you might have had at school. The IPE describes your skills and strengths and how your ADHD gets in the way of you finding a job.

    Together, you and your counselor will set a career goal. Then your counselor will help you figure out which services you need to achieve that goal.

    Vocational rehab includes some or all of these services:

    Diagnostic tests. Even if you’ve gone through the full battery of ADHD tests already, the counselor may ask you to take some of them again. Psychological and psychoeducational tests confirm that you have ADHD, show your counselor how ADHD affects your ability to work, and identify what services you’ll need on the job.

    Vocational tests. Tests of your skills, abilities, experience, and interests help your counselor find the job that fits you best. The counselor will match you to a job based on the results of these tests, as well as your interests, where you want to work, and the type of transportation you have (car, city bus, etc.).

    Training. Once you have a job in mind, you may need more experience to get it. Vocational rehab can help if you need a degree from a college or trade school, or the job requires other kinds of training.

    Placement assistance. Your counselor will give you advice to help you land a job, including how to fill out the job application and the best way to respond to questions during an interview. Your counselor can also put you in touch with companies that are hiring.

    Tools and assistive technology. The program can help you pay for any tools and equipment you’ll need for the job. For example, you might need a uniform to work in the medical field, or a toolbox to work in the construction industry. There are also devices to help you manage ADHD symptoms, including apps to remind you of important meetings and ones that translate text to speech so you don’t have to type as much.

    Your counselor will be there for you at every stage of the program. They’ll help you settle into your job, offer advice once you start, and check your progress for a few months post-hire. Vocational rehab usually ends about 90 days after you get a job.

    How Do I Qualify for Vocational Rehab?

    ADHD counts as a disability, but that doesn’t mean you’ll definitely qualify for vocational rehab. What matters more to the vocational rehab agency is how much ADHD affects your ability to work.

    A counselor at the agency will do an evaluation to see if you qualify for rehab services. You’re more likely to qualify if you already get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

    To see if vocational rehab would be good for you, the counselor might:

    • Test your skills
    • Go over your work history
    • Watch you in a job situation
    • Ask questions about your skills and how well you performed in past jobs
    • Interview your family members, teachers, and bosses

    You’ll usually get an answer within 2 months after you turn in your application. Keep in mind that you may have to wait for services if your symptoms are mild. The law requires vocational rehab programs to work with people who have the most severe disabilities first.

    How Much Does It Cost?

    It’s free to apply for vocational rehab. The evaluation process is also free. If you do qualify, you won’t get billed for any diagnostic tests, counseling, or job placement services. Social Security pays your local agency to cover these costs.

    Other services may not be fully covered. How much you have to spend for vocational services depends on your ability to pay. Your counselor will ask about your income and expenses to figure out how much, if anything, you’ll need to contribute to the cost.

    How Do I Find a Vocational Rehab Program?

    To find a program, start by reaching out to your state’s vocational rehab agency. Every state has one.

    You can also contact an American Job Center (AJC). The U.S. Department of Labor funds the AJC, and there are about 2,400 of them nationwide.

    Ticket to Work is another organization to try. It helps people who receive Social Security for a disability find work and keep their benefits.

    If you’re a military veteran, Veterans ReEmployment offers help finding a job and training for it.

    Vocational Rehab for Adult ADHD

    The same ADHD symptoms that may have made school more challenging for you could also cause problems once you enter the workforce. Trouble with attention, memory, planning, and organization can make it harder for you to land the job you want – and keep it. But that’s where vocational rehabilitation comes in.

    You don’t need to give up on your dream of becoming a professional writer, investment banker, or whatever else it is you want to do. Career help is available for people with ADHD and other learning disabilities. Here’s what you need to know.

    What Is Vocational Rehabilitation?

    Vocational rehabilitation is a government-sponsored program designed for people who have physical and mental disabilities like ADHD. It can help you find a job that matches your skills and interests, often at little to no cost to you. Once you do find a job, this program will arm you with the skills you’ll need to succeed and stay employed.

    By guiding you through the job search process, a vocational rehab program can help you avoid some of the anxiety that often comes with finding and starting a new job. And it can help you land in a career where you find both satisfaction and success.

    How Can ADHD Affect My Career?

    ADHD affects many of the skills you need to succeed at work. The condition makes it harder to:

    • Stay focused
    • Get organized
    • Learn new things
    • Follow instructions
    • Finish tasks and meet deadlines

    You may not realize that these areas are affected unless someone tells you. ADHD also affects your ability to get along with other people, such as your co-workers. Good interpersonal skills are important when you work as part of a team.

    Research finds that people with ADHD are more likely to be unemployed and to earn less money than those without ADHD. And even if you do land a job, your symptoms could make it harder for you to meet your employer’s expectations and move up in the company.

    How Does Vocational Rehabilitation Work?

    A vocational rehab program can help with many parts of the job search and hiring process. It offers services like career counseling, psychological testing, and on-the-job training. The program itself is different for everybody because it’s personalized to your unique talents and job search needs.

    To start, you’ll meet with a vocational counselor who will help you put together an Individual Plan for Employment (IPE). This plan is similar to the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) you might have had at school. The IPE describes your skills and strengths and how your ADHD gets in the way of you finding a job.

    Together, you and your counselor will set a career goal. Then your counselor will help you figure out which services you need to achieve that goal.

    Vocational rehab includes some or all of these services:

    Diagnostic tests. Even if you’ve gone through the full battery of ADHD tests already, the counselor may ask you to take some of them again. Psychological and psychoeducational tests confirm that you have ADHD, show your counselor how ADHD affects your ability to work, and identify what services you’ll need on the job.

    Vocational tests. Tests of your skills, abilities, experience, and interests help your counselor find the job that fits you best. The counselor will match you to a job based on the results of these tests, as well as your interests, where you want to work, and the type of transportation you have (car, city bus, etc.).

    Training. Once you have a job in mind, you may need more experience to get it. Vocational rehab can help if you need a degree from a college or trade school, or the job requires other kinds of training.

    Placement assistance. Your counselor will give you advice to help you land a job, including how to fill out the job application and the best way to respond to questions during an interview. Your counselor can also put you in touch with companies that are hiring.

    Tools and assistive technology. The program can help you pay for any tools and equipment you’ll need for the job. For example, you might need a uniform to work in the medical field, or a toolbox to work in the construction industry. There are also devices to help you manage ADHD symptoms, including apps to remind you of important meetings and ones that translate text to speech so you don’t have to type as much.

    Your counselor will be there for you at every stage of the program. They’ll help you settle into your job, offer advice once you start, and check your progress for a few months post-hire. Vocational rehab usually ends about 90 days after you get a job.

    How Do I Qualify for Vocational Rehab?

    ADHD counts as a disability, but that doesn’t mean you’ll definitely qualify for vocational rehab. What matters more to the vocational rehab agency is how much ADHD affects your ability to work.

    A counselor at the agency will do an evaluation to see if you qualify for rehab services. You’re more likely to qualify if you already get Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

    To see if vocational rehab would be good for you, the counselor might:

    • Test your skills
    • Go over your work history
    • Watch you in a job situation
    • Ask questions about your skills and how well you performed in past jobs
    • Interview your family members, teachers, and bosses

    You’ll usually get an answer within 2 months after you turn in your application. Keep in mind that you may have to wait for services if your symptoms are mild. The law requires vocational rehab programs to work with people who have the most severe disabilities first.

    How Much Does It Cost?

    It’s free to apply for vocational rehab. The evaluation process is also free. If you do qualify, you won’t get billed for any diagnostic tests, counseling, or job placement services. Social Security pays your local agency to cover these costs.

    Other services may not be fully covered. How much you have to spend for vocational services depends on your ability to pay. Your counselor will ask about your income and expenses to figure out how much, if anything, you’ll need to contribute to the cost.

    How Do I Find a Vocational Rehab Program?

    To find a program, start by reaching out to your state’s vocational rehab agency. Every state has one.

    You can also contact an American Job Center (AJC). The U.S. Department of Labor funds the AJC, and there are about 2,400 of them nationwide.

    Ticket to Work is another organization to try. It helps people who receive Social Security for a disability find work and keep their benefits.

    If you’re a military veteran, Veterans ReEmployment offers help finding a job and training for it.

    Adult ADHD and Internet Addiction

    It’s possible to get addicted to all sorts of things, from shopping to tanning to gambling. Some people become addicted to the internet, too, including adults with ADHD.

    About 20% of young adults with the disorder have an internet addiction, and men and women are equally likely to have it, says the nonprofit group CHADD.

    Some research suggests that having severe ADHD is linked to higher odds of being addicted to the internet and to your addiction being worse. But treatment and lifestyle changes can help you take charge of both your ADHD and internet addiction.

    What Is Internet Addiction?

    An addictive behavior is anything you do over and over so much that it interferes with your life in ways that you or others around you notice, says David W. Goodman, MD. He’s the director of the Adult Attention Deficit Disorder Center of Maryland.

    If you have an internet addiction, you might spend way too much time using sites or apps for things like:

    • Gaming
    • Gambling
    • Social media
    • Shopping
    • Pornography

    Goodman says that if you have ADHD — especially if you’re not getting treatment for it — you’re prone to use the internet too much. Online gaming is a particular issue for people with ADHD, he says. That’s because it can be so engaging, and it gives you a chance to talk with people while you’re playing.

    What Are the Signs of Internet Addiction?

    Russell A. Barkley, PhD, is a retired clinical neuropsychologist and the author of Taking Charge of Adult ADHD. He says some signs of an internet addiction are:

    • You find it very hard to stop using the internet when it’s time to move on to more important demands, tasks, or commitments that are right around the corner.
    • You get irritated, hostile, or aggressive if you lose internet access or someone says they’re going to take it away from you.
    • You feel unhappy, uneasy, dissatisfied, sad, or even depressed when you’re not online.
    • Your favorite internet activities dominate your thoughts when you unplug.
    • You find ways to get out of doing other activities that are more appropriate or social in order to use the internet.
    • You hide your internet usage from other people, minimizing or denying that you’re online a lot.

    What’s the Link Between ADHD and Internet Addiction?

    People with untreated ADHD tend to spend a lot of time on things that engage them, Goodman says. If the activity has a lot of stimulation, they’ll stick with it. The internet, he says, is built on the fact that’s highly stimulating and that it keeps people engaged.

    Barkley also says the brains of people with ADHD appear to be governed by reward seeking and related behaviors. That might be due to having less dopamine (a chemical messenger in the brain), or neurons that are less sensitive to it, especially in the reward centers of your brain.

    So people with ADHD look for more immediate rewards and do other forms of sensation seeking in order to stimulate those parts of their brain, he says. Smart technology, social media, and gaming apps offer those types of instant rewards.

    Along with looking for quick satisfaction, there’s also an issue with the executive parts of your brain that control your self-regulation, Barkley says. That’s a skill that lets you manage your emotions, behavior, and body movements during a tough situation while also allowing you to stay focused and pay attention.

    The parts of your brain that control self-regulation are less mature or well developed in people with ADHD, Barkley says. That leaves you more likely to have impulsive behavior that can be harmful.

    Can Using the Internet Too Much Cause ADHD?

    No. That’s a myth.

    Experts don’t know the exact causes of ADHD. But they think that your genes play a key role.

    Along with genetics, scientists are also looking into possible causes and risk factors like:

    • Brain injury
    • Being exposed to lead, alcohol, or tobacco while you’re in the womb before you’re born
    • Being born premature
    • Low birth weight

    How Do You Take Charge of Internet Addiction?

    These tips can help you power down an internet addiction if you have adult ADHD:

    Get treatment for ADHD. If you’re already getting treatment, tell your doctor or mental health specialist that you’re struggling to keep your internet use in check. If you haven’t gotten treatment yet, find an ADHD professional in your area.

    It helps to take ADHD medications that lessen your impulsivity and reward seeking and boost your ability to self-regulate, Barkley says.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy (also called CBT or talk therapy) and a mindfulness practice might help you, too.

    Also let your doctor or specialist know if you’ve been feeling sad or anxious. Emotions like these that don’t go away or keep coming back could be symptoms of mood disorders like depression and anxiety. People with ADHD and internet addiction are more likely to have one of these mental health conditions. Doctors have treatments for both.

    Cut back on internet games with help from an app. Some apps let you set a certain amount of time to play online games before they shut the game off and block your access, Goodman says. This also helps you schedule times you’ll use the internet, rather than getting lost in a rabbit hole of free time.

    Use two computers if you can afford it. You could use one computer for work and the other for play, Barkley says. That way, the apps you’re hooked on are less likely to get in the way of your job.

    Set a bedtime and stick to it. Lots of people get sucked into the internet at night, Goodman says. Set an alarm or timer to go off at a reasonable bedtime. If you’re using the net when the timer goes off, unglue yourself from the screen and get ready for bed.

    Swap in healthy habits. For example, instead of gaming online when you come home from work, go out for a 30-minute walk. That way you get some exercise and your urge to play the game may pass, Goodman says.

    Reach out for support. Ask a friend or relative to help you embrace healthy habits by holding you accountable, Barkley says.

    Think about hiring an ADHD coachThis is a trained professional who can show you ways to take charge of your ADHD. They might also be able to help you recover from internet addiction.

    Can ADHD Get Worse?

    Age itself doesn’t necessarily make ADHD worse. The way your symptoms show up depends on several factors. The good news is that most adults are able to manage their lives well with therapy and medications. Here’s what you need to know.

    How Does ADHD Affect Adults?

    The symptoms of ADHD show up a little differently in adults than they do in kids. Adults may deal with:

    Inattention symptoms such as:

    • Difficulty paying attention or staying focused
    • Trouble following instructions or completing tasks, especially at work
    • A lack of organizational and time-management skills
    • Losing things such as wallets, keys, and smartphones
    • Being easily distracted and forgetful

    Hyperactivity symptoms such as:

    • Extremely restless and unable to sit still
    • Fidgeting, squirming while seated, or tapping hands or feet
    • Talking excessively
    • Being always on the go

    Impulsivity symptoms such as:

    • Acting without thinking
    • Blurting out inappropriate remarks
    • Trouble waiting in line
    • Interrupting others
    • Intruding on others

    Adults usually have at least five symptoms of inattention and/or five symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity. These symptoms can get worse if ADHD is untreated.

    You may not have gotten an ADHD diagnosis until you were an adult because:

    • No one recognized you had the disorder as a kid
    • It was mild
    • You were able to get by with your symptoms

    Some people discover they have ADHD as they grow older and are thrown into the demands of adulthood and work.

    Research shows that getting treatment earlier in life can often lead to better functioning and less intense symptoms for people as they age. But treatment at any age can make a huge difference in quality of life.

    What Can Worsen Your ADHD Symptoms?

    ADHD symptoms can change over time. Some people can even outgrow their ADHD. Many things can be involved in these changes and in how severe your symptoms seem to you. Your symptoms may shift because of:

    • Life experiences
    • Support structure (or lack of support structure)
    • Physiological changes
    • Grief

    Other things that can make ADHD symptoms more difficult as you get older include:

    Stress. A busy schedule and feeling overwhelmed can trigger an episode of ADHD symptoms. But it’s a circular relationship: Your ADHD itself may also cause stress because it’s harder to filter out stressors around you. If you deal with anxiety (which you’re more likely to do if you have ADHD), this can make stress worse, too.

    Poor sleep. Just like ADHD and stress, sleep and ADHD have a circular relationship. Having ADHD makes you more likely to sleep for a shorter amount of time, have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, and increases your risk of developing a sleep disorder. When you don’t sleep enough or well, your brain can become foggy and worsen ADHD symptoms such as inattention and carelessness. Sleep problems tend to get worse as you get older.

    Certain foods. There’s no clear scientific evidence that ADHD is caused or worsened by what you eat. But everyone benefits from foods low in fat, sodium, and sugar. Some additives may be problematic, too. These include:

    • Sodium benzoate
    • MSG
    • Red and yellow dyes

    One study linked some dyes and sodium benzoate to greater hyperactivity.

    Overstimulation. Certain environments such as concert venues, amusement parks, or other crowded, noisy spaces with bright lights can be hard to deal with when you have ADHD. This is called “sensory overload.” Often this triggers symptoms, especially trouble paying attention to conversations and the ability to focus.

    Technology. Some technology can be helpful for ADHD. For example, keeping lists on your smartphone or setting alarms and reminders can help you stay on task during the day. But some technology can be distracting, especially if you are constantly getting notifications that compete for your already short attention span.

    Can Alcohol Impact ADHD?

    A long-term effect of ADHD is a higher risk of drug and alcohol use. This might be because of:

    • Impulsivity that leads to poor judgment and decision making
    • A genetic link between ADHD and vulnerability to substance use disorder
    • A desire to self-medicate

    You’re less likely to have these problems if you get treatment for ADHD earlier in life. Treating other mental health issues can decrease your chances, too.

    Can Other Mental Disorders Impact ADHD?

    More than two-thirds of people with ADHD also have at least one other disorder, including:

    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Eating disorders
    • Bipolar disorder

    Your doctor will help you make decisions about what needs treatment first and work with you to manage symptoms.

    Adult ADHD and PTSD: What’s the Link?

    PTSD and ADHD can have serious impacts on your health and well-being. We’re learning these conditions may have more in common than previously known — if you have one, your chances are much higher for having the other one too.

    They have a “bidirectional” relationship, meaning each one can impact the other.

    Some studies found that when you have ADHD, you’re four times more likely to also have PTSD. And you’re twice as likely to develop ADHD when you have PTSD.

    Their symptoms can look the same, and they can cause similar changes in your brain. As a result, researchers are studying connections between ADHD and PTSD. They’re also looking at whether some of the same treatments can help both conditions.

    The Link: A Closer Look

    You might develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after disturbing or harmful events happen to you, or after you witness them or learn about them happening to someone else. Some examples include violent environments, severe neglect, child abuse, accidents, sexual assault, or natural disasters.

    If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may have trouble with focus, hyperactivity, and impulsive behavior. Symptoms usually start in your childhood, but they can continue into your adulthood.

    Because military veterans are more likely to have PTSD than civilians are, researchers are studying them in hopes they’ll learn more about the links between PTSD and ADHD. About 30% of veterans who served in a war zone have PTSD. But since most of them don’t develop it, scientists think there are other factors that also figure into who develops PTSD.

    They’ve found that those with another mental disorder– such as ADHD — are more likely also to have PTSD. But adult ADHD is not often picked up in military entrance exams, so service members who have it may be at even greater risk for ADHD.

    Also, it’s estimated that 70% of all adults, whether military or non-military, have had at least one traumatic event in their lives. But only 20% go on to have PTSD. And only half of those will reach out for help.

    Experts also know that people with both ADHD and PTSD have a higher chance of depression, behavior disorders, social phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.

    Shared Symptoms and Other Similarities

    Among the similarities of ADHD and PTSD, we know they both can cause:

    • Irritability
    • Restlessness
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Impulsive behavior
    • A heightened response to being startled
    • Distractibility
    • Depression
    • Sleep problems
    • Memory issues

    Scientists have also found that both cause changes to your prefrontal cortex, an area of your brain responsible for attention, impulse, planning, and other behaviors. PTSD and ADHD can trigger abnormal levels of hormones that set off your “fight-or-flight” response. Some studies suggest there’s a genetic link between the two conditions.

    Diagnosing ADHD and PTSD

    When you have mental disorders with similar symptoms, it can be hard to get a clear diagnosis.

    Look for an expert who diagnoses and treats ADHD and PTSD. They might be a doctor, mental health counselor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or other professional. They’ll help rule out any other illnesses that may be causing your symptoms.

    They’ll also ask about your medical history, including current or past trauma. It’s important to talk about this with them, even if it’s uncomfortable to do so. They’ll ask you about your school, work, drug or alcohol use, family, and social life. This info helps them to pick up on patterns that can be common in ADHD. If they’re examining you for PTSD, they’ll also ask you about any trauma that may be causing your symptoms.

    Treating ADHD and PTSD

    Treatment for PTSD usually involves psychotherapy, which can help you learn how to cope with your symptoms and how to treat your other problems like depression, anxiety, or drug and alcohol misuse. Your doctor may also prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to ease your PTSD symptoms.

    Researchers want to know if treating your ADHD could also help improve your PTSD. Some studies have found that stimulant drugs used to treat ADHD, such as methylphenidate, may improve PTSD symptoms in some people. In one small study, participants had fewer PTSD symptoms early on, and their improvements lasted throughout the 12-week treatment. But not enough research has been done to prove ADHD meds help with PTSD, and more research is needed.

    How ADHD May Lead to Trouble With the Law

    ADHD affects parts of your brain that control your emotions, behaviors, and impulses. That’s why you might have issues with paying attention, staying organized, and sitting still. But it can also lead to more serious problems, like trouble with the law.

    As many as 1 in 4 people in prison have been diagnosed with ADHD – more than eight times the rate in the general population. The rate of ADHD is five times higher in youth prisons and 10 times higher in adult prisons than it is in people who aren’t in prison.

    Having ADHD doesn’t make you a bad person. It also doesn’t mean you’re destined to end up in prison, even if you struggle to control your behaviors and emotions. Getting diagnosed and starting on treatment as early as possible could help you avoid legal problems and other issues ADHD causes.

    Why Do Some People With ADHD Get Into Trouble With the Law?

    ADHD affects the parts of your brain that help you plan, manage behavior, and control your emotions and impulses. When those areas don’t work like they should, it’s easier to give in to urges that could get you into a jam – like driving drunk, getting into a fight, or breaking into a neighbor’s house.

    Certain symptoms of ADHD are more likely to get you into legal trouble than others. Research has linked ADHD symptoms like inattention, impulsive behavior, and a lack of emotional control to the kinds of thoughts that cause people to commit crimes. Hyperactivity doesn’t seem to have the same link to legal problems.

    ADHD causes a few problem behaviors in the teen years and adulthood that increase the risk of legal consequences:

    • Doing poorly in school, skipping school, or dropping out
    • Hanging out with the “wrong” crowd
    • Being defiant or aggressive
    • Being unemployed
    • Having substance use issues

    There is a direct link between these problems and unlawful behavior. If you didn’t finish school, you’ll have fewer job opportunities. When it’s hard to find work, you may be more likely to get involved in illegal activities like stealing or selling drugs to get money.

    ADHD also makes it harder to understand the consequences of your actions. People who do things like steal or sell drugs may not realize what effects these actions could have on others, or that they can lead to punishments like jail time.

    What’s the Link Between ADHD, ODD, and CD?

    When you have ADHD, you’re more likely to have other conditions that can also get you into trouble, including disruptive behavior disorders like oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) or conduct disorder (CD).

    ODD is the most common behavior disorder that occurs with ADHD. Often ODD starts in childhood, but the symptoms can continue or get worse in adulthood. ADHD may share some of the same genes with ODD and CD.

    ODD causes symptoms like anger, hostility, and disobedience. People with ODD don’t respect authority figures such as their parents, teachers, and police officers. They do things like lying and stealing that go against society’s norms and laws.

    Adults with ODD may:

    • Argue a lot
    • Lose their temper often
    • Blame other people for their behaviors or mistakes
    • Refuse to follow the law or do what other adults tell them to do
    • Annoy people on purpose
    • Get easily annoyed themselves
    • Be angry, spiteful, or out for revenge

    Conduct disorder (CD) affects about 25% of children and 45% of teens with ADHD. It can lead to antisocial behavior, and sometimes jail time, in adults. People with CD have little to no regard for other people and refuse to follow society’s rules.

    Having ADHD plus ODD or CD is a dangerous mix that further raises your risk of legal trouble.

    How Does Crime Affect People With ADHD?

    ADHD is linked to both minor and serious illegal activities. People with ADHD are more likely to:

    • Get speeding tickets and commit other traffic violations
    • Steal
    • Buy or sell illegal drugs
    • Carry a concealed weapon

    People with ADHD tend to get into trouble more than usual, often at an early age. They’re two to three times more likely to be arrested, convicted, and put into prison than those without ADHD.

    Prison is a risky place when you have ADHD. The criminal justice system often doesn’t diagnose or treat people with this condition. That may be why prison inmates with ADHD are more impaired in their day-to-day life than those who aren’t in prison.

    When you have ADHD, you’re more likely to also have a mood disorder. Untreated depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder in prison leads to a high risk of suicide, especially in the first few weeks after someone goes to jail.

    The lack of treatment in prison could lead to more legal problems ahead. People with ADHD who are released from prison are more likely to commit another crime, which is called recidivism.

    Being in jail can have ripple effects on the rest of your life. Most people who’ve been in prison have a hard time finding work when they get out. When you can’t work, you can’t earn a living wage and you’re more likely to end up back in prison.

    ADHD symptoms also make it harder to navigate the complex legal system. People who don’t have access to the legal aid, services, and treatments they need can easily get stuck in the revolving door of the United States prison system.

    How Do I Stop the Cycle?

    Getting the right diagnosis and starting ADHD treatment as soon as possible are the first steps.

    Treatment for ADHD usually involves a combination of stimulant medicines, counseling, and lifestyle changes. ODD treatment includes medicine plus behavioral techniques like parent training and family therapy.

    Social skills training can be helpful because it teaches you skills you need to prevent situations from getting out of control. In this program, you learn how to:

    • Resolve conflicts
    • Calm yourself down when you get angry or upset
    • Listen and respond in the right way to people in authority

    Outside influences are important, too. Kids whose friends have behavior problems are more likely to get into trouble themselves.

    Reach Out for Support

    Getting the right help is important to prevent the kinds of behaviors that could get you into trouble. See a mental health provider for advice. You might also join a support group to learn some of the techniques that help with impulsivity and other challenging behaviors.

    Adult ADHD and Childhood Trauma: Is There a Link?

    If you’re an adult with ADHD, you’re among millions of other grownups who also live with it. Scientists know your genes play a major role in your chances of having it. They also know there’s a strong association between having trauma when you’re a child and then having ADHD in your adulthood.

    Here’s a deeper look at that connection.

    What Is Childhood Trauma?

    These are scary, violent, dangerous, or life-threatening events that happen to a child (someone younger than 18). These are also sometimes called adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) or early life stress.

    Childhood trauma can come from things that happen to you or that you see happen or hear about happening to someone else. Anyone can go through trauma. But certain groups are more likely to experience ACEs, including women and youths who are Black, Hispanic, or Latinx.

    Examples of traumatic events include:

    • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and neglect
    • Seeing someone hurt your mother
    • Being around drug use or mental illness at home
    • Losing a parent to death or divorce
    • Having a family member in jail or prison

    It can also include:

    • Growing up poor
    • Living in a violent area
    • Experiencing systemic racism or discrimination
    • Being in a bad car accident
    • Having a life-threatening illness

    ADHD vs. Trauma Response in Adults

    ADHD is a brain development disorder. Trauma, or traumatic stress, is an emotional response to an alarming or painful event. Both can cause ongoing behavior and attention problems.

    Studies show adults diagnosed with ADHD are more likely than those without ADHD to also have posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. That’s a mood disorder you might develop after a traumatic event. People with PTSD can have ongoing trauma symptoms, or ones that come and go.

    It’s hard to untangle adult ADHD from PTSD. That’s because the two disorders share symptoms, such as:

    • Concentration problems
    • A strong reaction to small events
    • Restlessness
    • Angry outbursts
    • A hard time sleeping
    • Zoning out when stressed (also called dissociation)

    Some researchers think ADHD boosts your odds of developing PTSD after you go through something traumatic. Others think it might go the other way. More research is needed to understand this connection better.

    Can Childhood Trauma Cause Adult ADHD?

    Your genes, environment, and lifestyle all shape who you are. And certain things have to fall in place for you to develop ADHD.

    But childhood trauma seems to be a big predictor of long-lasting ADHD symptoms.

    Scientists think early and ongoing exposure to ACEs raise your “toxic levels of stress.” That’s bad for anyone’s physical or mental health. But it seems to also raise your chances of having moderate to severe ADHD.

    The number and types of ACEs you have also seem to matter. There’s evidence that ADHD is more likely in adults who experienced two or more of these during their childhood:

    • Low household income
    • Divorce
    • Family mental illness
    • Neighborhood violence
    • Family member in jail or prison

    When it comes to ADHD, here’s what research says about childhood trauma and the following:

    Early brain development. Younger brains are constantly learning and adapting to the outside world. Research shows that childhood trauma can shape how certain areas of your brain form. That includes stress-sensitive structures and connections that control how you think, feel, and act.

    Early life stress may result in changes that cause you to have common ADHD symptoms, including:

    • An ongoing sense of fear
    • Heightened response to stress that doesn’t go away easily
    • Difficulty regulating your emotions
    • Trouble planning or paying attention
    • Lack of impulse control
    Negative memory bias. Early life stress can affect how you view your place in the world. You may dwell on bad memories more than good ones. These thoughts may interfere with your thinking. That can increase your odds of ADHD symptoms like inattention or hyperactivity.

    Lack of social support. Childhood trauma doesn’t cause ADHD-related brain changes in everyone. It may be more likely to happen to people who feel helpless. It may be easier for kids to bounce back from traumatic stress when they feel safe and supported by parents, friends, or other loved ones.

    Genetic factors. You’re more likely to develop ADHD if someone in your family has it. And some studies show your genes may influence how trauma affects your brain.

    Can ADHD Raise Your Risk of Childhood Trauma?

    Many of us had hardships growing up. But if you had ADHD symptoms as a child, they increase the odds you experienced childhood traumas like accidental injuries, car crashes, and emotional or physical abuse. Those traumas may then set you up for having ADHD in your adulthood.

    This may happen because:

    Kids with ADHD get in trouble. It’s hard for kids with ADHD to control how they act and feel. Adults may think they’re misbehaving on purpose. This may lead to ongoing punishment that includes physical violence.

    ADHD symptoms may get missed. There’s some evidence that kids who go through trauma are less likely to be hyperactive. But adults may not know inattentive symptoms are related to ADHD. Without treatment, life with ADHD can strain relationships at school or home. In turn, this may increase the odds of ACEs.

    Parental mental health. Parents of kids with ADHD have high rates of depression and anxiety. They’re also more likely to have ADHD themselves. Mental health problems or stress at home may lead to a harsh parenting style.

    Hot to Get Help

    If you had childhood trauma, tell your doctor. They might not think to ask you about it first. Ask them to refer you to a therapist who specializes in traumatic stress disorders. They’ll help make a treatment plan that’s right for you.

    A mental health professional can help you spot and manage symptoms of traumatic stress and ADHD. You may need medication, talk therapy, or a mix of both.

    Some examples of treatment for childhood trauma include:

    • Antidepressants
    • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
    • Mindfulness-based treatments
    • Neurofeedback training
    • Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

    Other supportive therapies may include:

    • Art or music therapy
    • Yoga
    • Exercise
    • Support groups

    Find more information about ADHD treatment through the websites of Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) or the National Institute of Mental Health.

    How ADHD Can Affect Your Marriage

    If you are married to someone with ADHD, your relationship may have a lot of challenges. In fact, research has found that relationships are twice as likely to fail when one of the partners has ADHD than those in which the partners don’t have it.

    A big part of the reason for this is that people with this condition often may be:

    • Easily distracted
    • Forgetful
    • Impulsive
    • Restless

    All of these characteristics can make it hard for a person with ADHD to be in a successful relationship. It’s not just that the burden falls on their partner, either: Research suggests that adults with the condition report that they’re more dissatisfied with their marriages than even their partners.

    Unfortunately, it’s a problem faced by many couples. The American Psychological Association estimates that more than 4% of all American adults have ADHD.

    The good news is there are things you can do as a couple to help ensure your marriage or relationship gets through some of these rough patches. Here’s a look at some of the most common challenges, and ways to support your relationship so it can thrive.

    The Biggest Challenges for Couples With ADHD

    Here are some reasons it can be hard to maintain a relationship when one partner has ADHD:

    The non-ADHD partner feels like the caretaker. You’ve probably heard the expression that opposites attract. This is often the case when it comes to long-term relationships and ADHD. Sometimes a person with this condition instinctively seeks out a partner who’s super organized and detail-oriented. As a result, they end up in charge of not only the house and the kids, but also of their partner. The non-ADHD partner may have to get up earlier to help their partner get ready for work, for example. This is known as “overhelping.”

    While overhelping works in the short term, over the long term it can cause big problems. When one person repeatedly steps in to help their partner, that person can’t learn the skills they need to manage their ADHD. As a result, symptoms get worse. Both people start to resent each other.

    It’s also quite overwhelming for the non-ADHD partner. They may feel like they constantly have to check in and micromanage the other person to make sure they’re on top of things. This leaves them with feelings of exhaustion and anxiety.

    One study found that 96% of all spouses of adults with ADHD reported that their partner’s symptoms make it harder for them to manage their household and raise kids. More than 90% said they had to do more to make up for their spouse’s difficulties in these areas.

    When one partner in a relationship is forced to take over as caretaker, there’s another bad side effect: learned helplessness. The partner with ADHD begins to believe that they truly can’t do it themselves. When their partner begins to feel overburdened and complains, their partner is surprised, because they’ve honestly come to believe that their partner is just faster and better at it. This worsens the resentment the couple may have for one another.

    You have a “parent/child” relationship. When one partner has ADHD, the other may start to talk to them as if they were their parent. For example, the person without ADHD may yell at the partner who has it if they forget to pick up the kids from their softball game and accuse them of simply not caring. The truth is, the ADHD partner does care, but the condition makes it hard for them to register and hold onto what’s important. As a result, they forget things more easily, unless they have systems in place to help remind them.

    If the partner with ADHD feels attacked and misunderstood, they may respond in a childlike way. For example, they may put their hands on their hips, tap their feet, or roll their eyes. This can escalate the “parent and child” pattern.

    You lack intimacy. If one partner has ADHD, problems may spill over into the bedroom, including a sexless relationship. Part of this is the continuation of a parent/child like relationship. But people with ADHD are more likely to have sexual problems, too, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. There are a few reasons why:

    • People with ADHD may find it harder to be intimate with someone due to symptoms such as impulsiveness and being easily distracted.
    • Sex may be less enjoyable for both partners. For the partner with ADHD, they aren’t able to fully focus on either the physical or emotional aspects of sex. The person without ADHD may feel hurt if their partner is inattentive during lovemaking.
    • People with ADHD may have a higher sex drive than their partner. This may lead to tension between them. Some medications for the condition can also lower sex drive.
    • The partner with ADHD may be impulsive. This can lead to risky sexual behaviors such as cheating on their partner with unprotected sex.

    How to Stay Connected

    Here are some things couples with ADHD can do:

    Practice self-care. This is especially important for the partner without ADHD. There are many things you can do for yourself:

    • Get enough sleep
    • Eat well
    • Exercise
    • Take time for yourself. That may seem too hard. But it’s OK to put your kids and significant other second for 10 to 15 minutes each day to do something you enjoy. For example, ask your partner to take the kids on an errand so you can have some alone time.
    • Keep a journal. It’s a good idea to keep a “venting book” where you write down your thoughts. This helps you express emotions and move past something that angers you.

    Set boundaries. Boundaries are very important if you are part of a couple with ADHD. Since the person who has this condition can be very easily distracted, it may seem like they’re being disrespectful to their partner. Or they may say or do something impulsive that hurts their partner’s feelings. That’s why it’s a good idea for the non-ADHD partner to make a “will do/won’t do” list. If the partner with ADHD is forgetful and blames it on the other person, for example, the other partner may write down that they won’t respond defensively. But they may do other things, such as:

    • Listen calmly.
    • Show empathy.
    • Don’t step in to “rescue” the ADHD partner from the consequences.
    • Disengage and walk away if they need to.

    Work together as a team. Figure out what each of your strengths are, and delegate accordingly. If one of you is a great cook, then that person can make dinner every night while the other gets the groceries. If you’re both weak in a certain area, then outsource it as much as possible. If you both struggle with paying bills and managing finances, find a good money management app. Keep a running list of chores and responsibilities to make sure you both shoulder an equal burden. If you have kids, have them pitch in, too.

    Take ADHD medications. It’s very important that the partner with ADHD takes their medication as prescribed to keep symptoms in check. If they do find that it’s impacting their sex drive, they can talk to their doctor about another drug option. They may also find that they can tweak the timing: For example, take it in the morning so they can be sexually active at night.

    Make things visible. If you’re the partner of a person with ADHD, there are things you can do to make life easier for both of you. Put sticky notes on mirrors with a list of tasks. Label drawers and cabinets. Create a shared online calendar so you each know who is responsible for what.

    Finally, you both should remember to say, “I love you and I’m in this with you.” Repeat this as needed whenever you both feel frustrated and upset. Stop for a minute and remember that you’re both in this together. Yes, there will be rough spots, but if you follow the two “Cs” (communication and commitment) your relationship can go a long way.

    Managing Your Finances With ADHD

    Many people have difficulty managing their finances, and ADHD doesn’t make this task any easier. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone: 4% of adults have ADHD. Luckily, there are many ways you can protect and save your hard-earned cash.

    ADHD and Your Wallet

    Research shows that young adults with ADHD often struggle to manage money. That’s because ADHD can cause procrastination, disorganization, and impulsivity. These traits aren’t harmful in themselves, but they can make it difficult to manage money. Here are some tips to help with each one as they impact your finances.

    Nipping Procrastination in the Bud

    Break finances into smaller tasks. Large projects can feel especially overwhelming for people with ADHD. Make a list of all the finance-related tasks you need to complete. When possible, break them into smaller tasks, like checking a balance and then paying a bill. Cross each item off your to-do list as you finish it. You can color code each item to remember its priority.

    Prioritize important payments. If you can, pay credit cards, rent, student loans, car loans, and housing expenses at the beginning of the month. If not, schedule a second bill review date later in the month. If you use paper copies, write “PAID” and the date on the bill itself to help keep track of which bills you’ve taken care of.

    Set up auto-pay. Most companies let you pay your bills electronically with automatic monthly payments. Schedule these payments for times when you know you’ll have money in the bank, like payday. Sign up to receive phone or email notifications whenever a bill is paid. Use these notifications as reminders to review the bill and make sure the charges are accurate.

    Stick to a schedule. Choose one day and time each week to work on your finances. Making finances a regular part of your schedule can help you avoid procrastination.

    Plan ahead by starting small. Open a savings account. Use a setting in your bank account to automatically set aside a few dollars from each paycheck. If you set the amount deposited as a percentage, the amount will increase as your income does. Just $25 per 2-week paycheck adds up to $650 in annual savings before interest.

    Dealing With Disorganization

    Keep track of your spending habits. Write down everything you buy and its cost in a notebook or log it in a smartphone app. Set up regular reminders on your phone to log your purchases. You also can set up purchase notifications on your credit card app, which will help you remember to log those items too. Compare your notes with someone you trust, like a spouse or close friend, to make sure you’re not missing anything. Look for patterns to see where you’re spending the most money and where you can save.

    Visualize your budget. Use a free budgeting tool like Mint.com to track your budget visually. First, you’ll input your financial information. Then, the app will divide your spending into preset categories and self-set categories that you create, such as dining. You can then see if you’re getting close to going over your budget overall and spending in colorful charts.

    Other ways to visualize your budget are to set reminders for payments and spending in calendars and create a financial goals collage. The collage would include pictures of items you’d like to save for such as a home, car, or vacation. Fill in a thermometer-style graph to keep track of your progress.

    Simplify your bills. You will receive a bill each month for every credit card you own. Consider canceling all but one card. That way, you don’t have to juggle so many bills each month.

    Do your bills in a quiet place. Kids, pets, and social media can create irresistible distractions for people with ADHD. Set up a private space for working on your finances. Keep your desk clean and free of distractions, including your cell phone. Strategies like using a white noise machine, playing soft music, or fidgeting with a pen or other small object can help you stay focused.

    Cut back on paper. For some people with ADHD, managing paper files can be difficult. To avoid paper clutter, try signing up for online bills. Save bills into folders that you can easily search by keyword. Try organizing your finances with apps or online programs instead of folders or binders. Online banking and direct deposit also can be helpful.

    Give everything its own space. Pick a shoebox, filing cabinet, or folder on your password-protected computer to store all your financial documents. Wherever the place is, make sure it is safe and secure. Keeping files organized will help you when it’s time to review them or pay your taxes.

    Get a money manager. Credit unions generally offer free financial counseling. Counselors offer help with everything from daily and weekly budgets to setting long-term savings and investment goals. Employers also might offer financial wellness programs. If possible, find an advisor who has experience with clients who have ADHD.

    Managing Impulsivity

    Avoid the impulse. Try to avoid situations where you’re likely to buy things on impulse, whether that’s the mall, flea market, or your favorite online retailer. Think about whether you are more likely to give in to impulse buys online or in the store, and choose the shopping style that best protects your wallet. Unsubscribe from email lists for stores you tend to overspend in.

    Plan for the impulse. When you need to buy something, plan ahead by making a shopping list. You can use an online price guide to help with budgeting. Share your shopping list with a trusted friend or family member, and ask them to check in with you during or after your shopping trip. When you go to the store, take only the money you need for the items on your list. You also can try taking a budget-conscious friend on your shopping trip.

    Limit the impulse. Credit cards make it easy to spend money impulsively. If you have access to cash, use that instead of relying on your credit card. Try withdrawing a set amount of cash for weekly spending. Meanwhile, you can store your credit cards in a safe, difficult-to-reach place. You might consider asking a trusted partner or friend to hold onto them.

    Put a sticker or write a savings goal on your credit card. This sticker will remind you of your financial goals – vacation, a new wardrobe, a special gift – every time you use your credit card. Stopping to think about this goal might help you to manage impulsivity in the moment.

    Another way to fight the urge to spend quickly is to give yourself a “cooling off” period. Before making a big purchase, set a timer for 24 hours. When the timer goes off, you can decide whether you still want the item.

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