Is ADHD a Disability?
When answering “is ADHD a disability?” there is not a direct answer. Being diagnosed with ADHD does not make someone disabled. Most people with it are self-sufficient adults and are not classified as disabled. Although some people with ADHD are classified as disabled, it is usually due to co-existing disorders being present, such as autism or hemophilia.
Unless you have a coexisting disorder in addition to ADHD, the odds of you being classified as disabled are near zero. In theory, if you had a severe form of ADHD without having a coexisting disorder, you might be classified as disabled, although this is uncommon.
This article will help you decide whether you or an adult you know with ADHD could be considered disabled according to the laws and policies of the U.S. government.
Know the Facts About Disability
To begin, take note of how the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) legally defines a disabled individual: “a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity.”
Major life activities include:
- Working and staying employed
- Preparing your own meals
- Walking or movement in general
As an example, if you had a medical condition that caused you to regularly go to the hospital, and thus be absent from work, that would qualify you for disability benefits.
The CDC states that 61 million adults in the U.S. live with a disability. That’s 26%, or one out of four Americans. About half of Americans ages 75 and older (49.8%) reported living with a disability in 2015, as did about a quarter (25.4%) of those 65 to 74. In contrast, just 6% of Americans ages 18 to 34 said they have a disability. And 13% of Americans aged 35 to 64 said they have a disability.
What this data implies is that the older you get, the more likely you are to become disabled. Americans under age 34 are least likely to be disabled.
Why Might Someone With ADHD Be Mistaken for Having a Disability?
Most people with ADHD can prepare their own meals, work, move around, and sleep. This means most people are not disabled as far as the government is concerned. Beyond that, there are people who have used their own case to become wealthy. While some people do want ADHD to be considered a disability, there is too much evidence suggesting the majority of people who have it are not disabled.
However, there is a minority among the adult ADHD population overwhelmed by their condition. For them, their ADHD is equivalent to a disability. In fact, there is a growing movement of people who believe it should be classified as a disability.
For now, ADHD does not meet the legal or government definitions of what a disability is. Despite this, it is true that the condition can limit someone on a scale similar to that of an actual, accepted disability.
For example, let’s talk about a Reddit post that discusses time management for people with ADHD. The post refers to how some people with ADHD have a big procrastination problem. As you can see, if someone with ADHD does not learn the right coping skills to prevent their ADHD from causing a procrastination problem, someone with ADHD can easily spend an entire day doing nothing productive or meaningful. If this extreme procrastination occurs multiple times throughout a week, it will be difficult for an adult to be self-sufficient.
To read firsthand accounts from people with ADHD who are overwhelmed by their condition, visit the ADHD subreddit. Reddit is a social media platform that brands itself as “the front page of the internet”. It’s like a community of different Facebook groups. Thus, the ADHD subreddit on Reddit is a collection of discussions held by people with ADHD, especially people overwhelmed by their symptoms.
If ADHD is Not a Disability, Then What is It?
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Neurodevelopmental means having to do with the way the brain grows and develops.
The brain of someone with ADHD develops differently from someone who has a “normal” brain. Many people with ADHD refer to those without ADHD as “neurotypical” because they have a “typical brain”.
ADHD is a hereditary disorder, which means it can only be inherited through genetics. It begins from birth; it is not something that would “pop up” once you reach the age of 40. This is why ADHD is usually diagnosed in childhood, especially once a child begins going to school.
How Do You Apply for Disability in the United States?
In the U.S., there are two disability programs. Both disability programs are administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
The first disability program is known as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The second disability program is known as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
Both programs provide benefits to people with disabilities, but each has different eligibility requirements. Both require you to have a medical condition that makes you disabled.
The Differences Between SSI and SSDI
SSI is based on financial need. To qualify for SSI benefits, your income must be less than $783 per month for an individual and $1,175 per month for a married couple, as of 2020. Additionally, you must have less than $2,000 in assets, for a single person, and $3,000 for a married couple.
You can qualify for SSI benefits even if you have never worked a day in your life. For example, someone who has been disabled from a young age who has just turned 18 would qualify for SSI benefits.
On the other hand, only individuals who have worked and paid their social security taxes can qualify for SSDI. You need to have worked for a minimum amount of time before becoming disabled. The time frame depends on your age. Your benefits could be higher or lower depending on your income history and time spent working.
How to Apply to SSI or SSDI
To start the application process for both SSI and SSDI, go to their website. Then click the “Apply for Disability” button.
You can also apply for disability benefits in-person at “field offices” located throughout the U.S. They have a tool to find a field office near you.
After you apply, the SSA will review your application, including the documents you submitted. The SSA will tell you whether you are approved or denied for benefits.
Takeaway: Should ADHD Be Considered a Disability?
Due to the unique nature of ADHD it is difficult to classify ADHD. Is it wrong to classify ADHD as a disorder in the first place, especially if ADHD is a genetic trait that has benefited humanity for millions of years?