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What Are the Psychological Effects Associated With ADHD?

By Lia Stannard ; Updated August 14, 2017

A disorder that starts during childhood, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) causes patients to have attention problems, impulsive behaviors and hyperactivity. Because the symptoms of ADHD can affect a patient's performance in school and personal relationships, a patient may deal with some psychological issues. The psychological effects associated with ADHD may last into adulthood.

Low Self-Esteem

Many patients with ADHD may suffer from low self-esteem as a result of the disorder's symptoms. Nicole Crawford, author of the article “ADHD: A Women's Issue,” points out that when women do not get their ADHD treated, they suffer from chronic low self-esteem. The low self-esteem can stem from problems in school, which can occur with all of the symptoms of ADHD. For example, with the inattention symptoms, the notes that patients have problems finishing work, make careless mistakes and are easily distracted. They may also have organizational problems and dislike schoolwork. With the impulsive and hyperactive symptoms, patients have problems staying still during class and may interrupt others. The problems in school can lead to failure in school, which may cause underachievement in patients. The underachievement can add to patients' low self-esteem.


Some ADHD patients may develop depression, which MedlinePlus notes that parents should alert the child's doctor if they see signs. With depression, patients have a noticeable change in mood, such as persistent sadness and feeling helpless. Patients may have unusual guilt, which can make patients feel worse. Depression can also affect a patient's behavior, which includes sleeping problems. Some of the symptoms of depression can worsen ADHD symptoms, such as problems concentrating.


The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign explains that some ADHD patients may develop anxiety secondary to the disorder. For example, patients can worry about specific ADHD symptoms, such as organizational problems. Performance in school may trigger anxiety in some patients. With the anxiety, patients have uncontrolled worry, which can affect their ability to think clearly. Patients may have physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heart, sweating and tremors.

Substance Abuse

MedlinePlus points out that if the ADHD does not get treated, patients may develop a substance abuse problem. With substance abuse, patients turn to alcohol or drugs for either a euphoric feeling or to cover up other issues, such as depression, anxiety or low self-esteem. ADHD patients who have impulsive symptoms may use substances more, because they cannot control their behaviors. Crawford adds that in women with ADHD, they may start smoking during middle school or high school. Using drugs or alcohol can also worsen ADHD symptoms like inattention.

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