Is ADHD A Disability? | Workplace & Social Security Guide

Distressed Person

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects many people, making it difficult for them to concentrate and focus on tasks. ADHD affects people of all ages, from school-aged children to adults in the workplace. The inattention caused by this impairment can prevent children from doing well in school and adults from staying focused at work. With so many people affected by ADHD, you might wonder whether ADHD is considered a disability. There are somewhat different rules about disabilities in the context of work, school, and Social Security disability benefits. So, if you need to know whether ADHD is a disability, just keep reading. We will tell you everything you need to know about whether ADHD qualifies as a disability.


Is ADHD A Disability?

ADHD definitely has an effect on the people who suffer from the condition, but does ADHD count as a disability? The short answer is yes. That definition differs a little, though, depending on what type of benefits you are attempting to qualify for. A learning disability may be classified differently than a disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) at work. Similarly, you might need to meet a different standard to qualify for SSI benefits or SSDI benefits. Here is what you need to know when determining whether ADHD is a disability.


— ADHD & The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

So, does a diagnosis of ADHD meet the definition of a disability according to the ADA? Yes, ADHD is considered a disability under both the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The ADA provides provisions for mental impairments that substantially limit one’s ability to perform everyday activities. There are three types of ADHD that are commonly diagnosed – the inattentive type, the hyperactive-impulsive type, and a combination of the two. All three subtypes can meet the definition of a disability under the ADA, but whether or not your ADHD becomes a protected disability under the law depends on how much it impacts your daily activities.


— ADHD In The Workplace

Most ADHD diagnoses occur during childhood, but many people continue to have the impairment into adulthood. Impulsive behavior or inattention in the workplace can significantly affect one’s job performance, so how does an ADHD diagnosis affect your protections in the workplace? The ADA protects people with disabilities in the workplace, and these protections require employers with more than 15 employees to provide reasonable accommodations to those with disabilities.

You should know, however, that ADHD only becomes a protected disability in severe cases. The condition must significantly affect a person’s daily activities, and the accommodations required can vary from one person to the next. Accommodations could include more frequent breaks, a quieter work area, or other things that are reasonable and allow the affected person to perform his or her work successfully.


— Is ADHD A Learning Disability?

ADHD is not considered a learning disability on its own; however, many children diagnosed with ADHD also have learning disabilities. While ADHD is not considered a learning disability, the condition can make it extremely difficult for a child to learn – especially for those with severe ADHD. Even though ADHD is not technically considered a learning disability, the condition is considered a disability under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. Under this Act, a child with ADHD may qualify for accommodations at school, including shorter schoolwork assignments, more frequent breaks, and extra help completing tasks or tests.


— Is ADHD A Developmental Disability?

ADHD has been shown to affect the brain as it is developing, and ADHD is considered a neurodevelopmental disorder. Severe ADHD can be considered a developmental disability since this type of disability is one that occurs during childhood and impacts a child’s daily functioning. This type of neurological disorder can lead to impulsiveness, forgetfulness, excessive talking, squirming, fidgeting, and other symptoms that affect a child’s daily activities. These ADHD symptoms often affect the major life activities of a child, and this can lead to ADHD being classified as a developmental disability.


— ADHD And Social Security Disability

So, can you qualify for Social Security disability due to adult ADHD? Mental health conditions can absolutely qualify for SSDI benefits, but there are strict rules that must be met. Although the Social Security Administration (SSA) Blue Book lists ADHD as an impairment, the listing refers to ADHD in children. This listing might allow children to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, but it is more difficult for adults to qualify for benefits due to ADHD.

A diagnosis of ADHD alone will not be enough to qualify for SSDI benefits as an adult. However, if you can show medical documentation from your healthcare provider of an ADHD diagnosis as a child, your case gets stronger. You would need to provide evidence that the condition limited your daily activities as a child and continues to limit your ability to work as an adult. If your ADHD condition is combined with other mental disorders like bipolar disorder or autism, then you are more likely to be approved for disability benefits.

Unfortunately, it is also difficult to get short-term disability for mental health conditions. The requirements vary by plan provider, so you should check with your insurance company to determine whether mental health conditions will qualify under your policy.


How To Qualify For Social Security Benefits With ADHD

Application for disability insurance benefits, form SSA-16.

So, is ADHD a condition that qualifies for Social Security disability? The answer differs slightly depending on whether you are a child or an adult. It is easier for a child to get approved for SSI benefits due to ADHD than for an adult to get approved for SSDI benefits. The Social Security Blue Book provides a listing for ADHD in children, and your child can be approved for SSI benefits if they meet this listing. Even in children, a simple diagnosis of ADHD is not enough. There are other specific requirements that must be met. If you are wondering, “Can you get disability for ADHD?” the answer is yes, and here is what you must do.

First, you must provide medical documentation that proves all three of the following conditions: marked inattentiveness, marked hyperactivity, and marked impulsiveness. These conditions can be proven through doctor’s notes, test results, or other methods. In addition, you must prove that you have at least two of the following conditions: marked impairment in age-appropriate social functioning, marked impairment in age-appropriate cognitive/communication functioning, or marked impairment in age-appropriate personal functioning. If your ADHD is severe enough to meet these criteria, then you should likely go ahead and apply for disability as you are likely to get approved for benefits.

As an adult, there is no listing for ADHD in the Blue Book. However, you must show that your condition presents a significant impairment that prevents you from performing a substantial gainful activity. Generally, you will need to meet at least the same conditions as those described above for children. If you can prove through medical evidence that your ADHD disability is so severe that it prevents you from working, you likely have a strong case. Inability to work due to your impairment is one of the signs that you will be approved for disability benefits.


Symptoms Of ADHD

Woman Trying to Focus on The Computer

You might be wondering whether you or your child has ADHD. What symptoms do you need to look for that could signal a potential ADHD diagnosis? Some people often confuse Attention Deficit Disorder with ADHD. While the two are similar, there are also some differences. Here are some of the most common symptoms you might see with ADHD.

  • Getting easily distracted
  • Losing personal items
  • Forgetfulness
  • Failure to complete tasks after starting them
  • Being unorganized
  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Excessive talking
  • Squirming or fidgeting

Notice that the symptoms include both inattentive and impulsive behaviors. A diagnosis will need to be performed by your child’s doctor, and most ADHD diagnoses occur before the age of 6. Your pediatrician might make the diagnosis through observation of a consistent display of these types of behaviors. There is no single test that you can take for an ADHD diagnosis.


Managing Your ADHD

A man looking online for information about ADHD.

The two main ways that people manage their ADHD are through medication and behavioral therapy. Some methods work better for certain people, while other methods may be more beneficial for others. Many people use medication to help manage ADHD, both in children and adults. Adderall is a popular medication used to help manage ADHD symptoms. Medications can include both stimulants and non-stimulants, as well as antidepressants in some cases.

Another technique that works well for some people is behavioral therapy. This type of therapy might include individual therapy, group therapy, or other forms of therapy. Most of the time, it is best to talk to your doctor to discuss the best way to manage your ADHD. You and your doctor can determine the best plan for managing your condition. Many people with ADHD are able to successfully manage their symptoms and live mostly normal lives.


The Bottom Line

ADHD is considered a disability in most cases, although qualifying for disability benefits can depend on the scenario. Federal law protects employees with ADHD through the Americans with Disabilities Act, but ADHD is not considered a learning disability. Most students with ADHD are protected by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and those students may be afforded reasonable accommodations in the classroom. Finally, qualifying for disability benefits through Social Security can be difficult as a diagnosis of ADHD alone is not enough. You must show a substantial impairment and effect on your daily activities to qualify for those benefits.


Frequently Asked Questions


Is ADHD a mental illness or disability?

ADHD is generally considered both a mental illness and a disability. ADHD is a neurological disorder that prevents the proper development of the brain. It is classified as a disability in many situations, although it must be a severe case of ADHD to qualify for cash benefits through Social Security. Although ADHD does not specifically qualify as a learning disability, it is estimated that about half of children with ADHD also have a concurrent learning disability that prevents them from easily comprehending written or spoken words.


Is ADHD considered a disability for Social Security?

So, does ADHD qualify as a disability? ADHD in adults is not specifically considered a disability for Social Security purposes. The Social Security Blue Book includes childhood ADHD as a disability in children, although the symptoms must be quite severe to qualify for SSI payments. In adults, a Social Security applicant will generally need to display a diagnosis of ADHD dating back to childhood. They will also need to show that the condition is so severe that they cannot perform any type of work. Complete medical evidence will be required, and the burden of proving that ADHD in an adult is a disability for Social Security can be quite heavy.


Is ADHD a disability at work?

Yes, the Americans with Disabilities Act classifies ADHD as a disability in the workplace. This federal law protects employees and requires employers with more than 15 employees to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations depend on the specific impairment of the employee, and the accommodation must not present an undue burden on the employer.


What are the disability laws for ADHD?

The disability laws for ADHD differ depending on the situation. The laws concerning ADHD are different when pertaining to the classroom as opposed to the workplace. Similarly, getting approved for Social Security disability with ADHD follows a different set of criteria. Generally speaking, ADHD is considered a disability. However, it is not always considered a protected disability. To get protection under the law, your ADHD must severely limit your daily activities.