By Capital Blue Cross – THINK (Trusted Health Information, News, and Knowledge) is a community publication of Capital Blue Cross. Our mission is to provide education, resources, and news on the latest health and insurance issues.
Adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder suffer from a variety of symptoms that, left untreated, could be problematic in the workplace. The good news is that when diagnosed and treated, employees with the condition can cope well, even bringing unique perspectives and assets to their work.
The warning signs surrounded Marni Pasch, but she never considered she might have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
ADHD, after all, was something that afflicted grade-school boys, not a grown woman like Pasch – an older millennial who was pushing 40 and had a master’s degree and a good job as a high school counselor.
Or so Pasch thought, just as she thought she was to blame for the negative narrative others had so assigned to her.
“I was told that I wasn’t living up to my potential, and that I was lazy,” Pasch told ADDitude Magazine, which published her story along with others of adults with ADHD. “I had depression and anxiety, as well as eating disorders.”
To help her keep up with the flood of paperwork her fast-paced job required, she told the magazine, she wrote so many notes to herself that her “desk looked like a living Post-it note.”
Pasch loved her job, but the weekends and nights she worked to keep it were too much. The night she resigned, she told her husband – who had long suspected as much – that she thought she had ADHD. She was tested, and cried in relief when the doctor confirmed her suspicion.
“It was like watching the pieces of my life come together,” Pasch told ADDitude, “to make a clear picture.”
Suddenly her lifelong symptoms made sense.
“Attention deficit disorder, left undiagnosed, can be detrimental in multiple ways,” said Capital Blue Cross Senior Medical Director Denise Harr. “On a practical level, it makes it more difficult to focus, complete and remember routine tasks, and keep track of important items. It can also contribute to impulsivity and feelings of restlessness.
“On an emotional level, ADHD’s symptoms can lead to lower self-esteem, and adults with ADHD have a higher likelihood of comorbid conditions such as mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders.”
Among the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood, attention deficit disorder is increasingly an adult issue too. According to a Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) report, ADHD spiked 39% among millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) from 2014 to 2018.
Overall, according to BCBSA data, nearly 7% of millennials have ADHD. Given that millennials comprised roughly half the workforce as of 2020 and are projected to account for 75% of it by 2025, that means many people struggling with ADHD are doing so while simultaneously working.
As Pasch’s story shows, ADHD can make many jobs more challenging, since ADHD’s symptoms include difficulty with focus and attention to detail, and challenges with organization and quick task completion.
Left untreated, ADHD can be a significant hurdle not only for the employee, but for supervisors and coworkers.
How to Help
The good news is that ADHD can be diagnosed and treated, and that adults with the condition can bring distinct creativity, thinking, and higher risk-taking tolerance to their jobs.
Having healthcare that covers diagnostic screenings and medications, such as many Capital Blue Cross plans, is a great way to begin identifying and treating ADHD.
Coping mechanisms for those with ADHD include:
- Professional input and support. A primary care physician is the starting point for referrals and accurate diagnoses.
- Proper self-care such as healthy eating, exercise, and sleep.
- Improved organization. Planners and notebooks – physical or electronic – for tracking appointments, as well as for writing ideas and to-do lists, are ideal.
- Less clutter.
- Alarms or reminders to help manage time.
At More Peace
Pasch has proceeded to a happier place since her ADHD diagnosis. She is now an academic coach, and helps students master skills with which she once struggled so mightily: organization, time management, and studying.
“Now I know that those (past issues and challenges) … can be linked to ADHD, especially if it is undiagnosed,” Pasch said. “My diagnosis connected the dots in my life.”
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