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What will happen if ADHD is not treated?

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a common neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. It often begins in childhood and can persist into adulthood. ADHD affects about 5% of children and 2.5% of adults.

If left untreated, ADHD can have wide-ranging effects on a person’s life. Some key areas that can be impacted include:

Academic and Career Difficulties

ADHD symptoms like inattention, disorganization and restlessness can make it very difficult for a child to succeed in school. Children with ADHD often have trouble focusing in class, completing homework, studying for tests and controlling impulsive behaviors. This leads to poor academic performance, frustration and low self-esteem. Adults with untreated ADHD may have trouble learning new skills at work, completing projects, meeting deadlines and getting along with coworkers and bosses. This can stunt career growth.

Interpersonal Struggles

The hyperactivity and impulsivity of ADHD can cause relationship difficulties. Children may act out and be disruptive at home and school. Adults may be impatient, interrupt frequently or act rashly during social situations. These behaviors can alienate friends and family. The inattention of ADHD makes it hard to be organized and remember obligations, which can put strain on relationships.

Increased Risky Behavior

Thrill-seeking behaviors and poor decision-making are more common in untreated ADHD. Children and teens with ADHD are more likely to engage in impulsive, dangerous activities, have accidental injuries and experiment with drugs and alcohol. Adults may drive recklessly, gamble or make unwise financial choices. This can lead to substance abuse issues, debt and legal problems.

Mental Health Issues

ADHD is linked to higher rates of co-occurring conditions like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. When ADHD is left unmanaged, the symptoms and challenges can contribute to the development of these other disorders. Struggles in school, work and relationships due to ADHD can also negatively impact self-esteem and lead to depression or anxiety.

Problems Following Rules and Laws

Those with untreated ADHD may have trouble adhering to rules and laws. Children often violate classroom rules and adolescents break laws by vandalizing, stealing or using illegal substances. Adults may have trouble managing finances responsibly, following safety regulations at work or controlling road rage while driving. This can lead to school suspension, arrests, fines and loss of driving privileges.

What are the signs that ADHD is not being properly managed?

There are several signs and symptoms that could indicate someone’s ADHD is not being properly treated and managed:

Persistent focus and attention difficulties

If someone is still having significant issues with being easily distracted, an inability to pay attention during tasks or activities, difficulty listening when spoken to directly, forgetfulness and disorganization, it may mean their ADHD treatment needs adjustment.


Frequent impulsive behavior like interrupting others, poor self-control and blurting things out without thinking indicate ADHD management is likely insufficient.


Excessive fidgeting, tapping hands or feet and an internal sense of restlessness point to untreated ADHD. The person may excessively switch between tasks out of boredom.

Time management problems

Difficulty getting to appointments on time, procrastination on projects and overall poor time management skills suggest medication and therapy may need review.

Relationship issues

Untreated ADHD can strain relationships. Ongoing conflicts with family, friends, classmates or coworkers due to ADHD-related behaviors indicate problems.

Work and school underperformance

If someone is still struggling academically or their job is suffering due to focus issues, disorganization and procrastination, their ADHD treatment requires adjustment.

Excessive emotions and outbursts

Frequent emotional volatility including mood swings, irritability and anger outbursts point to suboptimal ADHD management.

Seeing these symptoms consistently means an ADHD treatment plan needs reassessment for improved symptom control.

What are the potential risks of untreated ADHD in childhood?

Leaving ADHD untreated in childhood can put kids at risk for numerous problems, including:

Academic underachievement

Inattention, disorganization and hyperactivity make it very hard for kids with untreated ADHD to succeed at school. They often get poor grades, require tutoring or repeat grades.

Behavioral problems

The impulsivity and aggression of ADHD leads to higher rates of suspension, expulsion and classroom misconduct among kids who go untreated.

Rejection by peers

The hyperactive, impulsive behaviors of untreated ADHD make it hard for children to get along well with classmates. Many have few friends and get bullied or isolated.

Lower self-esteem

Academic and social struggles due to untreated ADHD cause poor self-image and low self-confidence in children.

Mental health disorders

Kids whose ADHD goes untreated are at higher risk for developing anxiety, depression, oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder.

Substance abuse

Impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors create a susceptibility to trying alcohol, nicotine and illicit drugs if ADHD is not properly treated.

Car accidents

Teenagers with uncontrolled ADHD symptoms like inattention and poor impulse control have a markedly higher rate of car crashes.

Criminal behavior

Antisocial behaviors, defiance of authority, substance abuse and impulsivity put kids with untreated ADHD at greater risk for juvenile delinquency.

What are the potential consequences of undiagnosed ADHD in adults?

Adults who remain undiagnosed and untreated for ADHD can face many challenges, such as:

Relationship problems

The inattention, disorganization, emotional volatility and impulsivity of adult ADHD leads to communication issues, lack of dependability and relationship discord or failure.

Parenting difficulties

Untreated ADHD impairs parenting skills like consistency, patience, remembering appointments and giving children required supervision.

Underachievement at work

Poor focus, getting distracted, disorganization and difficulty managing time cause workplace underperformance and lost opportunities for advancement.

Problematic driving behaviors

Impulsiveness, aggression and inattention linked to untreated adult ADHD lead to speeding, road rage and a markedly increased risk of car accidents.

Financial hardship

Adults with undiagnosed ADHD often make impulsive, unwise financial choices that lead to debt, bankruptcy, gambling losses or investment mistakes.

Substance abuse and addiction

Seeking stimulation and pleasure through impulsive behaviors creates a higher risk of alcoholism, drug abuse and addiction in adults who do not get ADHD treatment.

Legal problems

High-risk and criminal behaviors related to untreated ADHD like dangerous driving, interpersonal violence and stealing result in higher rates of arrest and incarceration.

Depression and anxiety

The underachievement, emotional issues and relationship struggles caused by undiagnosed adult ADHD frequently lead to or worsen depression and anxiety.

What treatment options help manage ADHD?

Effective ADHD treatment incorporates medication, psychotherapy, education, skills training and lifestyle adjustments:


Stimulant drugs like methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamine-dextroamphetamine (Adderall) are very effective for relieving ADHD symptoms. Non-stimulants like atomoxetine (Strattera) and antidepressants can also be used.


Counseling provides support, helps improve social skills, teaches coping strategies and addresses any co-occurring conditions like depression or anxiety.


Learning about ADHD helps patients and families better understand the disorder’s causes and developmental impact.

Skills training

Programs teaching organizational skills, social behaviors, time management and emotional regulation help manage ADHD impairment.

Lifestyle adjustments

Routine exercise, a healthy diet, regular sleep schedule, and reduced screen time also help control ADHD symptoms.

Using a combination of these treatments tailored to individual needs gives patients the best chance of getting their ADHD under control.

What are the benefits of seeking treatment for ADHD?

Getting effective treatment for ADHD provides many advantages, such as:

Better academic and career performance

Treating ADHD helps students improve grades, outlook and likelihood of pursuing higher education. Adults have better job performance, production, focus and advancement.

Improved relationships

ADHD treatment allows patients to have better communication skills, greater dependability and healthier personal relationships.

Reduced risky behaviors

Impulsiveness, substance abuse, reckless driving and criminal behaviors are decreased when ADHD is properly treated.

Increased self-esteem

School and career success, better relationships and making wiser choices results in improved self-confidence and esteem.

Management of co-occurring disorders

Getting ADHD under control makes treatment of any accompanying mood, anxiety and behavioral disorders more effective.

Better daily functioning

Proper ADHD management equips patients with organizational skills and consistency to successfully handle responsibilities like household chores and paying bills.

Overall, ADHD treatment allows patients to live up to their full potential, have less stress and dysfunction, and find greater success and satisfaction in all areas of life.


ADHD can lead to major impairment without proper identification and management. Signs like inattention, impulsiveness, hyperactivity and disorganization indicate suboptimal treatment. Untreated ADHD substantially increases risks for mental health problems, academic and career underachievement, accidents and injuries, financial instability, strained relationships, substance abuse and run-ins with the law.

Seeking medication, psychotherapy, education and skills training allows those with ADHD to improve focus, decrease impulsive behaviors, build skills and experience greater personal and professional success. Getting appropriate treatment provides a tremendous opportunity to overcome difficulties and live a fulfilling life.