Can Adults Receive Disability Benefits For ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition suffered by children, teens, and even adults. Children suffering from ADHD may have uncontrollable impulses or difficulty paying attention in school. Adults suffering from ADHD typically have trouble managing time, staying organized, setting goals, and remaining employed. Further, adults with ADHD have relationship, self-esteem, and addiction problems.

Nearly 60% of all children who are diagnosed with ADHD continue to suffer from symptoms through to adulthood. Many ADHD symptoms are apparent in people who do not suffer from the condition, especially during periods of high stress or fatigue. This makes diagnosing adult ADHD difficult. Nonetheless, people with ADHD will have exhibited symptoms since childhood. When these symptoms are severe, they could impair an individual’s ability to earn a living.

Despite how debilitating ADHD can be for an adult, it is difficult to be approved for disability benefits through the Social Security Administration (SSA). Under the SSA’s listing of impairments, ADHD appears as a childhood condition. There is no similar listing for an adult. Therefore, you will have to demonstrate that you had ADHD as a child and are still experiencing severely impairing symptoms that render it impossible to work. Our Fayetteville disability attorneys have the expertise and experience to handle the most challenging cases. Call (479) 316-0438 if you suffer from adult ADHD and want to file for disability benefits.

What is considered adult ADHD?

While it is referred to as adult ADHD, the condition’s symptoms often begin in childhood and continue through to adulthood. In some situations, ADHD might not be diagnosed or recognized until a person is an adult. It is also difficult to diagnose ADHD in an adult because the symptoms are not as pronounced as they are when the individual is a child. For example, an adult will rarely demonstrate the same level of hyperactivity, though they still struggle with restless and impulsive behaviors. Furthermore, though an adult might compensate for it more effectively, they still have difficulty paying attention or retaining directions.

It is not uncommon for an adult person with ADHD to be unaware that they are suffering from the condition. For many, it is just a constant challenge to complete everyday tasks. For instance, an adult sufferer of ADHD might find it impossible to prioritize or focus. These issues could make working effectively difficult, if not impossible. Additionally, this same adult could find themselves easily frustrated and prone to impulsive outbursts.


Although ADHD is most commonly associated with children, ADHD may also continue into adulthood. Adults suffering from ADHD will usually have a history of behavioral problems, including disciplinary reports from both school and work environments. In many cases, these reports will indicate that the person failed to live up to their potential.

Adults who suffer from ADHD will often struggle with paying attention, are easily distracted, physically restless, have poor organizational skills, procrastinate, and have an inability to follow directions. If severe, many of these common symptoms could make it difficult to work in a cooperative environment. These limitations tend to result in the person feeling quickly overwhelmed or frustrated. Furthermore, an adult with ADHD will struggle with self-esteem or completing tasks in a timely manner.

Some other common symptoms of ADHD in Adults are as follows:

  • Impulsivity
  • Anger management issues
  • Sever emotional swings
  • Depression
  • Relationship problems
  • Trouble concentrating and reading
  • Lack of attentiveness
  • Anxiety
  • Self-esteem problems
  • Substance abuse/addiction problems
  • Chronic boredom
  • Sleep problems
  • Work-related issues

Approximately 4% of all adults are believed to have ADHD, although many go undiagnosed with the mental condition. Historically, adults with ADHD were not eligible to receive disability benefits through social security. Today, however, adults with symptoms of ADHD that are considered “disabling” may be eligible to receive social security disability benefits from the federal government.


For adults with some of the symptoms of ADHD listed above, this mental condition can result in severe employment difficulties and emotional problems. Typically, ADHD symptoms are not new; many adults living with ADHD suffered from the condition in grade school. Therefore, adults with ADHD typically are not as successful in their careers as the general population. Because of the difficulty of learning with ADHD, many adults even failed to graduate from high school because of their academic suffering.

With this limitation in academia and work-related problems, adults living with severe ADHD need help from somewhere. Disability benefits through social security allow these individuals to continue earning at least a small source of income.


Unfortunately, there are no specific tests to determine if someone suffers from ADHD. To diagnose the condition, a physical will piece together evidence of various symptoms, including how long these symptoms have been a limiting factor in a person’s life. In most cases, the symptoms must have been present since early childhood and serious enough to have negatively impacted two areas of the person’s life.

ADHD does not develop in adulthood; it is a childhood condition that continues through to adulthood. However, in many cases, the condition might not have been diagnosed or treated. In some cases, there might be a genetic link that could be inferred by examining the person’s family history, especially if one of the individual’s parents exhibited signs of mood disorders, learning disabilities, or substance abuse.

To adequately diagnosis adult ADHD, a doctor will often supplement a person’s medical history with a neuropsychiatric evaluation. This evaluation could include WURS, BADDS, or WAIS tests. By applying these tests, the doctor is looking to find objective evidence that their patient has ADHD. There are also helpful in ruling out other possible underlying causes of many of the symptoms, such as hyperthyroidism, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.

It is unclear what causes ADHD. Some possible causes include genetic factors, prenatal smoking or drinking, brain injuries, or exposure to high levels of lead or sugar. Treatment of the condition usually includes a combination of cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, medication, and executive skills training.


ADHD is a very subjective diagnosis without a single test to confirm someone has the condition. Because of this, the Social Security Administration will require strong medical evidence to support your disability claim. There is a broad range of evidence our Bella Vista disability lawyers will compile.

  • Gather medical and treatment records from a psychiatrist or psychologist with your ADHD diagnosis and descriptions of your symptoms. These records should be coupled with a detailed medical source statement in which your psychiatrist or psychologist ties the evidence together and offers an opinion on how your condition limits your ability to perform ordinary tasks.
  • Compile evidence of the medical treatments, medication, or therapy you have undergone. These documents should indicate if the treatments were effective.
  • Collect statements from your former employers or supervisors explaining how your condition and symptoms prevented you from performing the tasks necessary to do your job. In addition to poor work performance, these records could also contain reports of poor or detrimental conduct.
  • Locate academic records from when you were younger. These records could include notes regarding behavioral problems in addition to your grades indicating your poor performance.

One of the primary reasons Social Security Disability claims are denied is a lack of sufficient medical evidence. When submitting an application based on adult ADHD, you should include as much information as possible to demonstrate how the condition impacts your life. Typically, the SSA is looking for more relevant and contemporary evidence. However, with ADHD, you want your evidence to reach back to your childhood school days. Additionally, if your condition made it impossible to work in other jobs, you want to provide details of every position you lost because of your symptoms.

Additionally, it is not uncommon for people with adult ADHD to suffer from other conditions. For example, ADHD is often coupled with depression, anxiety disorder, or bipolar disorder. It might be possible to meet the criteria of one of these psychological conditions that are listed in the SSA’s “Blue Book.”


Although there is no diagnostic exam for adults living with ADHD, this mental condition can be diagnosed by a physician, psychiatrist, or psychologist. Typically, medical personnel diagnose someone with ADHD after they exhibit multiple symptoms over an elongated period of time. Inattention and hyperactivity are the two base symptoms for diagnosing ADHD.

An official ADHD diagnosis follows after multiple interviews with the patient – Typically, doctors like to rule out other physical conditions before jumping to the conclusion of ADHD, just in case. After a diagnosis of ADHD, in order to qualify for social security disability benefits, an applicant must prove that he or she is unable to sustain any type of work or employment.

The Social security Administration is not necessarily concerned with an official diagnosis of ADHD and where it comes from, but rather the functionality point of your mental condition, which in other words means how your disability affects your everyday functioning. If you are living with ADHD and are completely unable to work because of your condition, then you are more likely to receive disability benefits. However, if you are diagnosed as having ADHD but the symptoms do not affect how you perform your work, then you will most likely not be eligible for benefits.

Section 112.11 of the social security disability evaluation code covers ADHD. Although this is under childhood disorders, when the Social Security Administration assesses an applicant, it is important that an applicant satisfy these requirements:

112.11 Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Manifested by developmentally inappropriate degrees of inattention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity.

The required level of severity for these disorders is met when the requirements in both A and B are satisfied.

  1. Medically documented findings of all three of the following:
    1. Marked inattention; and
    2. Marked impulsiveness; and
    3. Marked hyperactivity;
  2. For older infants and toddlers (age 1 to attainment of age 3), resulting in at least one of the appropriate age-group criteria in paragraph B1 of 112.02; or, for children (age 3 to attainment of age 18), resulting in at least two of the appropriate age-group criteria in paragraph B2 of 112.02.

If the Social Security Administration determines that your ADHD condition is severe, then it will administer a mental residual capacity assessment, which will show what level of work you can perform. The social security administration then uses the information from the assessment to determine if you are able to work. If the Social Security Administration determines that you are unable to perform everyday functions and your residual capacity assessment comes back with an “unable to work” assessment, then you are eligible for social security disability benefits.

How can you qualify for disability with ADHD based on SSA’s listing?

One way to qualify for Social Security benefits is to match the required criteria listed in the SSA’s Blue Book. However, while there is a listing for childhood ADHD, there is no listing for the same impairment for adults.

Many people believe that ADHD is only a psychiatric disorder that affects children – people grow out of it. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Evidence suggests that nearly sixty percent of children who suffer from ADHD continue to exhibit symptoms into adulthood.

There is a common belief that when applying for disability benefits as an adult suffering from ADHD, the applicant should try and meet the listing requirements of childhood ADHD. However, your application is more likely to be approved if you satisfy the criteria of other mental impairments whose symptoms are similar to adult ADHD.

Nonetheless, the majority of adults who are approved for disability benefits based on an ADHD diagnosis are approved based on their medical documentation and work history. It is crucial to demonstrate that your condition prevented you from concentrating on certain tasks, remembering instructions, completing assignments, and co-existing with your fellow workers or your employer.

Our Bentonville disability lawyers will collect medical evidence and your work records to see if you could qualify for disability based on a medical-vocational allowance.

To qualify for benefits under a medical-vocational allowance, an applicant will have to complete a series of medical examinations to determine their residual functional capacity (RFC). The RFC rating will be a determining factor whether the applicant qualifies for disability. The Social Security Administration will review your RFC rating to determine if you are capable of performing the necessary tasks for your job and if you have the ability to perform the tasks required for another job. If the evidence provided establishes that your impairment prohibits you from doing either, you could qualify for Social Security benefits under a medical-vocational allowance. Talk to our Farmington disability lawyers about completing an RFC and the steps required to obtain the benefits you need.


The Social Security Administration will want to have written documentation of your symptoms from any medical personnel. Employment letters, psychological exams, treatment methods, and academic records may all be useful. Having significant documented limitations will increase the chance that your benefits application is approved.

Applying for disability is frustrating and overwhelming under the best of circumstances. Trying to establish that your ADHD is debilitating is very challenging. Over 60% of all disability claims filed in Arkansas are denied. Some are rejected for clerkly mistakes or missed deadlines. Many others lack enough supporting evidence. One of the best ways to improve your chances of obtaining the benefits you need is to retain our experienced Greenland disability lawyers.

Individuals can apply for disability with adult ADHD by contacting the Social Security Administration or visiting your local administration office.

How to apply for disability benefits for adult ADHD

The fastest and easiest way to apply for SSDI if you suffer from adult ADHD is by filing your claim online on the SSA’s website. However, in most cases, a claimant cannot complete the entire application process online. Before beginning the process, you should contact our Harris disability lawyers to assist you with the process. An honest mistake or simple omission could result in the SSA denying your application.

When completing your application, you want to ensure to include information and documentation regarding the cognitive and physical problems you are experiencing. Many adults who suffer from ADHD also have other medical conditions that impact their lives, such as anxiety disorders, depression, personality disorders, or substance abuse problems. Coupled with your ADHD, these physical or psychological conditions could contribute to your inability to work. In many cases, the SSA will consider the combined effects of your impairments when rendering a decision. The more thorough your application is, the more likely the SSA will approve your disability benefits.

Applying for Social Security Disability is not intuitive, easy, or straightforward. Our experienced Johnson disability lawyers are available to help you through this difficult process. If you and your family need disability benefits, you want to make sure you do not leave any part of the process to chance.


For more than 20 years, our Arkansas disability lawyers have worked to secure benefits for the people who need it most. Being approved for disability often seems like a herculean undertaking, especially if you suffer from adult ADHD. Our experienced lawyers are here for you. If you or a loved one has a medical condition and cannot work, it is important to speak to a disability attorney about benefits. You can arrange for a free legal consultation by calling (479) 316-0438.