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Disorder Or Disability

ADHD is many things
… but is it a disorder?

ADHD is a disorder. It says so in the name. Attention Deficit Hyperactive DISORDER.

But is it a disability?

Disability: A physical or mental condition that significantly limits a person’s motor, sensory, or cognitive abilities. The condition of being unable to perform a task or function because of a physical or mental impairment.

By the strictest definition of the word, no. There is nothing we cannot do.

And yet …

While we are capable of doing anything, there are many things we cannot sustain without resultant calamity.

All those times I was told I just need to pay attention, the unspoken part of that instruction was that I needed to pay attention to something specific, something that was painful for me to focus on with consistency.

And if I forced myself to do that, there would come a time when my focus broke, my concentration would collapse, my attention would redirect.

And the longer I had maintained focus on the thing by brute strength and force, the more spectacular the break would be.

Consider this

I have some heart health issues. I’ve apparently had two heart attacks, and I’ve had stents put in to cardiac arteries. And yet, I can bicycle. I can run. I can swim and engage in work that requires strength and effort.

I cannot over do it. I cannot run for more than a couple hundred yards before I feel ill.

So, there is nothing I can’t do, but there are things I cannot maintain for any length of time. That seems like a negative effect, a definite problem.


So, is a disability being unable to perform a task? Or is it a limited ability to sustain a performance?

There is a clue to what we might look at as a definitive characteristic of a disability in the definition of ADHD itself.

The DSM says that in order for a diagnosis of ADHD to be valid, the ADHD symptoms identified must have a negative impact on ones life. That does not mean we cannot do a thing, only that our doing of certain things is restricted or limited.

Now we’re getting somewhere

I do not have the authority to state that ADHD is a disability.

But I have the wherewithal to recognize that it affects my life negatively, that it is not going away, and that there is little more that can be done to help beyond medication and coping strategies, and they are neither foolproof nor consistent.

Is ADHD a disability?

In the strictest sense of the word, it most assuredly is.

Whether or not that assessment matters to anyone else, I cannot say.

Disorder Or Disability

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or more generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about having ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2020). Disorder Or Disability. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 3 Jun 2020
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