Impact of ADHD on Life

Living with ADHD & Its Daily Struggles


Because of the types of symptoms involved, ADHD has an impact on the lives of people who are living with it, but also their parents, siblings, friends, teachers, and spouses.

Despite good intentions, people living with ADHD often have a difficult time behaving as expected. For example, one common ADHD symptom, impulsivity, can sometimes make it hard for people with ADHD to manage their reactions to social situations, and they can become frustrated and angry. Many adults also say their ADHD symptoms can lead to misunderstandings with others and difficulties in relationships with partners, family, friends, and colleagues.

Impact of ADHD on academic achievement

School performance can worry parents, who may be concerned for their child’s academic future.  Many of the ways academic performance is measured (i.e. standardised testing) make it difficult for children with ADHD to be successful.  Because of this, children living with ADHD can be perceived to be poor academic performers, regardless of intellect, skills, and individual competence.

It is common for children and adolescents living with ADHD to develop unhealthy behaviour patterns at school and have difficulty doing well in their studies.  Students may have a hard time understanding instructions, remembering what was learned, showing concern for others, sitting still in a classroom, and controlling impulse responses, among other challenges.

The most frequent classroom challenges for children with ADHD are:

  • Difficulty in reading and arithmetic
  • Repetition
  • Expulsion
  • Failing tests
  • Need for study aids, tutoring, and special education services (four to five times more often than in children without ADHD)

How can you reduce the impact of ADHD on school performance?

  • Detect ADHD early to reduce associated complications
  • Make teachers aware of the condition so they can help manage ADHD at school
  • Talk openly with teachers and include them in symptom monitoring and treatment strategies to help manage day to day impacts on schoolwork, and have monthly check-ins.

Impact of ADHD in social settings

ADHD has a significant impact on almost all areas of a person’s life, including social situations. Children, adolescents, and adults with this condition can present a more hostile and disruptive attitude, react angrily with high levels of frustration in situations, and often do not feel guilty doing so.

The impact of this hostility can vary based on the child, but some common consequences observed by parents include:

  • Not being invited to activities, such as birthday parties, by classmates
  • Being excluded or sitting out of after-school activities, because they do not want to play by the rules
  • Trouble building strong friendships with other children

These consequences can be emotionally difficult for both children and parents to experience.  It is important to consider how to support children when they experience feelings of isolation from other children.

Adolescents living with ADHD are more likely to have sex at an earlier-than-average age and have a higher number of partners due to symptoms of impulsivity.  This behaviour results in a high rate of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancies for adolescents with ADHD who are under 20 years of age. As such, it is important to discuss appropriate contraception methods, identify ways to ensure that adolescents are safe, and protect their health if they have these behavioural symptoms.

Adults with ADHD can have difficulty maintaining relationships, so it is important to talk openly about ADHD with the people close to you. While relationships are more challenging, it does not mean they are not possible. Support from family and friends can make managing ADHD easier.

Helping caregivers cope

Caring for someone living with ADHD is not easy, regardless of age. It is important to realise that a child living with ADHD is very different from a teenager or an adult. Children are naturally more curious and will test behavioural boundaries (and sometimes the patience of their parents) as a part of the process of understanding the world.

If you are the caregiver for a child, you have a challenging role. You should help them navigate their natural curiosity and manage their ADHD successfully. Like all children, a child living with ADHD needs structure.  You will need to help them make and keep appointments, establish routines, and set realistic goals. There are also many support groups that cater to those who are close to someone living with ADHD. It can be beneficial to hear other people’s stories about how they care for the people in their lives living with ADHD. Your ADHD specialist, or your GP, may have information about a support group in your area.