What are the Side Effects of Not Getting Treatment for ADHD as an Adult?

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Between 30 and 50 percent of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) patients have symptoms as adults, according to H. Russell Searight, PhD, John M. Burke, PharmD, and Fred Rottnek, MD, authors of “Adult ADHD: Evaluation and Treatment in Family Medicine.” If patients received treatment during childhood, they may continue with the same treatments, such as medications or psychotherapy during later life.

But some patients may not have been diagnosed until they reached adulthood or they may not have received proper treatment in the past. As a result, they may develop certain problems due to the undiagnosed disorder. But what are the side effects of not getting treatment for ADHD as an adult?

Relationship Problems

During childhood, untreated ADHD may cause problems with interacting with peers and making friends. During adulthood, untreated ADHD may affect relationships. Helpguide.org points out that one side effect of not getting treatment for ADHD as an adult is strained relationships with family members, coworkers and romantic partners. For patients, they may become upset or irritated by other people telling them to get organized. If loved ones do not know that the person has adult ADHD, they may be upset at his or her irresponsibility. Women who have untreated adult ADHD have a risk of divorce, which may lead to raising a child as a single parent, according to Nicole Crawford, author of “ADHD: a woman’s issue.”

Health Issues

Some untreated adults with ADHD may develop psychological issues. Patients may deal with constant stress, especially if they do not know what is causing their problems with attention or behavior. Substance abuse may occur, involving alcohol, drugs or both. Crawford points out that women may also suffer from eating disorders, such as compulsive eating. Other issues that may arise include low self-esteem and anxiety. Helpguide.org adds that a side effect of not getting treatment for ADHD as an adult includes not getting proper medical care, such as forgetting to take medications or missing appointments.

Career Troubles

Not getting treatment for ADHD as an adult may also result in career troubles. The MayoClinic.com notes that untreated ADHD affects school performance in some patients, which can have ramifications when entering the job force. For example, Crawford notes that untreated adults may be underemployed. Adults with untreated ADHD may also have problems keeping a job.

Another serious side effect of not getting treatment for ADHD as an adult is legal troubles. For example, the MayoClinic.com points out that patients may have frequent accidents and problems with the law. Substance abuse may also lead to legal troubles, such as a car accident in which the patient was intoxicated. Helpguide.org adds that impulsive spending may result in debt for some patients.


Searight, H.R., Burke, J.M., Rottnek, F. (2000). Adult ADHD: Evaluation and Treatment in Family Medicine. American Family Physician, 62(9) 2077-2091


Crawford, N. (2003). ADHD: a women’s issue. Monitor on Psychology, 34(2) 28


Helpguide.org: Adult ADD/ADHD: Signs, Symptoms, Effects, and Treatment


MayoClinic.com: Adult ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder): Complications