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5 Ways People With ADHD Hit Rock Bottom

How do people with undiagnosed ADHD eventually get diagnosed? In some cases, by hitting rock bottom. The effects of their ADHD symptoms build to the point that mental health treatment becomes necessary. With a little bit of luck (specifically, a good doctor), that treatment leads to an ADHD diagnosis.

Rock BottomThe nice thing about hitting rock bottom is that there’s plenty of room for individuality. Everyone hits rock bottom in their own way. For some, it’s a dramatic collapse. For others, it’s a gradual sagging lower and lower.

There are some common ways that people with ADHD hit their lowest points. Some of these are:

  1. Drug abuse: People with untreated ADHD have higher rates of substance abuse. It’s not uncommon for the effects of ADHD to make themselves known through the effects of addiction. Stimulant abuse is one example that leads some people with ADHD into the ironic treatment of … being prescribed stimulants.
  2. Dropping out of school: Inattention, dysregulated motivation and disorganization are three ways ADHD can spell serious problems for your GPA. On the bright side, hitting your ADHD rock bottom by dropping out of your school means that you have a good chance of getting your ADHD diagnosed relatively young.
  3. Marriage meltdown: ADHD symptoms can take a toll not just on the person with ADHD, but on the people close to them as well. In a long-term relationship, those symptoms can nurture frustration, miscommunication and resentment.
  4. Bankruptcy: Impulsive spending and poor financial planning often go hand-in-hand with ADHD. Honestly, impulsive anything and poor anything planning can be part of ADHD. The result: you might hit your ADHD rock bottom at the same time as your credit score does.
  5. Losing a job: Without an ADHD diagnosis, it’s hard to take steps to cope with ADHD in the workplace. When your ADHD symptoms undermine your job performance, it can ultimately have a devastating effect on your career, which of course doesn’t help with the aforementioned financial problems.

Part of the point of hitting rock bottom is that you don’t go any lower. But the idea that you reach a defined point where you couldn’t possibly go any lower is an oversimplification.

In reality, whether your mental health keeps declining or starts trending upward depends on factors like whether you’ve gotten access to mental health treatment. What makes these five events common rock bottoms for people with ADHD is that they often cause people to seek mental health treatment, leading to an ADHD diagnosis.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for a catastrophic life event to seek mental health treatment. In fact, I’d advise against it! Not everyone who gets diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood has a defined rock bottom, and talking to a doctor sooner rather than later can make whatever rock bottom you do have both less low and less rocky.

Still, a significant number of people with ADHD diagnoses do have especially negative events that led them to seek mental health treatment and discover that they had ADHD. Sometimes we only realize the need for treatment when the effects of ADHD get so messy that we can’t put up with them anymore.

Image: Flickr/Rob Sinclair

5 Ways People With ADHD Hit Rock Bottom

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2018). 5 Ways People With ADHD Hit Rock Bottom. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 23, 2019, from


Last updated: 29 Oct 2018
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