ADHD, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as ADHD, is a developmental disorder that is most commonly diagnosed in small children, either in the preschool or earlier years, though it is now being diagnosed more and more in adults. It is said that it affects around 3-5 percent of the world's population under 19 years of age, affecting nearly 2 million children in the United States.

ADHD is still not entirely understood though it is thought that it is highly heritable. It has also been estimated that nearly one-fifth of ADHD cases have been caused by toxic exposure or trauma. Around 60 percent of children who are diagnosed with ADHD have symptoms into adulthood. So far, three forms of the disease have been diagnosed: ADHD-PI (primarily inattentive), ADHD-PH/I (primarily hyperactive/impulsive) and ADHD-C (a combined form of the condition).

The most common symptoms of ADHD are hyperactivity, impulsivity and distractibility. Those with the condition lack impulse control, have difficulty concentrating and have an overabundance of energy. They may either appear withdrawn because of their lack of social connection or 'out of control' because of their hyperactivity. Due to the different types of the disease, there can be many more symptoms, from short term memory loss and problems organizing belongings, ideas and thoughts, to weak planning and execution, inability to focus and tardiness. Since small children do not have to plan, meet deadlines, have intimate relationships, work or be socially active, many of the symptoms are not present until a later development stage.

ADHD is not usually diagnosed alone. There are many other conditions that can be present along with ADHD from Conduct Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Anxiety Disorders, to Bipolar Disorder. It is currently thought that nearly 25 percent of children with ADHD also exhibit Bipolar Disorder symptoms.

Parents usually notice that something is 'not quite right' if their child is either disinterested or super hyperactive. While many children will exhibit a delay in brain development around 3-5 years behind their peers, they may also develop certain motor skills faster than normal. The only way to diagnose the disorder is to take the child to a psychiatrist specializing in ADHD for diagnostic tests. They will look at their inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity and make sure that certain signs are present. There must be an evident impairment before the age of seven, in more than one setting (school, home, etc.) and it must be very evident that there are social, occupational or academic impairments in functioning. This is a short list and there are many, many criteria to determine ADHD is present. ADHD is not life threatening and can be treated with success. While not all symptoms will go away, ADHD can be treated with some success.

The most common treatment for ADHD is psychostimulant medication. Oftentimes non-stimulant medication, antidepressants and mood stabilizer medications will help show signs of improvement. Treatment usually involves a variety of medications and adjustments, from behavior therapy and counseling to lifestyle and diet changes. Removing sugar, caffeine, chocolate and highly processed foods is recommended by most doctors.

About the Author: Tim Moore is a former Social Security Disability Examiner in North Carolina, has been interviewed by the NY Times and the LA Times on the disability system, and is an Accredited Disability Representative (ADR) in North Carolina. For assistance on a disability application or Appeal in NC, click here.

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