If you suffer from attention deficit disorder (ADD), particularly as an adult, you may be wondering if attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is considered a disability in a legal sense. Adults with ADHD often have substantial difficulties performing the essential functions of their jobs. The same difficulties which they manifested as children in school can haunt them later, the disorders persisting in adulthood. Adults with ADD may need to apply even more time and effort into their jobs to accomplish the same tasks as others – only to be told by their superiors they are underperforming. They often carry the stigma of being labeled as lazy, slow, careless, forgetful and stupid. Since the disorder doesn’t manifest physical signs and symptoms, people assume that they are normal – and punish them as if they were. Many adults with ADD lose pay and even their jobs because of their disorder.
So, can you make a legal disability claim if you have ADD / ADHD?
The answer is sadly more complicated than you might think. The rights for people with disabilities in the United States are pretty fuzzy. Psychiatry and the law interact on unstable ground. Disabled people are supposedly protected under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). The ADA doesn’t list a set of specific health conditions which qualify as disabilities though. Instead, the ADA states that that the physical or mental impairment of an individual must significantly impact their ability to do “major life activities” with which a “non-disabled” person would have no difficulty.
What types of activities does the ADA define as “major life activities?”
Most of them are things like walking, seeing, speaking, breathing, hearing, lifting, standing, etc. Basic sensory and motor functions like this obviously would not qualify ADD as a disability. There are some other vaguer life activities which may count though, such as learning, reading, caring for oneself and performing manual tasks. If an ADD patient does not show significant difficulty with a task like this, they will not be considered “disabled” by the law, however real their difficulties are. Fortunately one may be able to illustrate that one has a “learning disability” as part of one’s ADD and therefore cannot adequately perform a basic life task. This may be the best bet at proving to the government that you are a disability case.
It is unfortunate that applying for disability as someone with ADD can be extremely challenging. The attitude of Congress is largely that something which isn’t visible isn’t real. That doesn’t mean you should give up though. You should have the same rights as any other person, regardless of your mental health. If you have trouble getting disability benefits, make sure you have been diagnosed by a physician to help prove your case. Carefully document issues you have had at work and reference those issues when you apply. Get a physician or psychiatrist to lend their word to yours that it is your ADD which is causing these persistent and continuing issues, and that these issues involve basic tasks like learning or reading. Whatever you do, don’t accept your situation – find a way to prove the truth and secure your basic rights as a disabled person.