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ADHD and Occupation

ADHD and Occupation

Depending on the degree of severity, ADHD can significantly affect every day working life and even lead to occupational disability in the case of particularly severe forms and comorbidities. As a rule, however, ADHD sufferers are eligible for all career paths; under favorable outside conditions for those affected and with good resilience, they can also provide outstanding professional achievements

Importance of the profession for adults with ADHD

For people with ADHD symptoms, work can be even more important than for those who are not, because of a regular job:

  • structures a large area of everyday life
  • requires a daily structure to be followed
  • allows for a sense of achievement and rewards
  • social contact with colleagues can be structured internally
  • can contribute to the improvement of social skills

Therefore, as an important contribution to the quality of life, it accelerates the inner, but also the external structuring of everyday life of those affected. On the other hand, completed vocational training or regular activity enables participation in social life and contributes, at best, to a consolidation of self-esteem, social identity and self-efficacy expectations.

The way to the dream job

Vocational training

Once the career choice has been made, a vocational training lasting several years follows. Here, too, the trainee is already subject to many conditions and expectations that are not always easy to meet or fulfill for those affected.

An important focus is the choice of a training company. Often, successful vocational training or practice depends largely on the operating conditions rather than the educational or professional content. Smaller companies tend to be preferable to larger ones. Small businesses allow a higher degree of appreciation of the individual and their achievements, and in a cleaner environment, more interpersonal tolerance and mutual respect are expected.

More strongly than comparable apprentices of their age, ADHD sufferers need a mentor who guides them in the sense of positive leadership, keeps motivating and praising them. Special importance is therefore attached to the instructor. An instructor who takes the victim, how he is - but nevertheless as constructive a criticism as possible - recognizes his abilities, absorbs his weaknesses and promotes his strengths is advantageous.

For ADHD sufferers a low frustration tolerance, as well as mostly bad stress management, is described. Overly strict, aversive manners in the enterprise can bring the training in a short time to failure, although the ADHD affected trainee in principle to good or very good achievements in the training company capable and actually would be willing to adapt to the circumstances in the enterprise. However, as sufferers quickly feel overwhelmed by psychosocial stress interactions and confrontation with in-house malady, they are particularly prone to premature abandonment. Constructive one-on-one discussions, in which the instructor shows understanding for the syndrome-typical problems of his trainee, are perceived by the person concerned as great esteem for his personality (also in an operational context) and probably help to relieve the situation in the short term.

In the long term, trainers and supervisors are advised to allow employees with ADHD - if known - a chance at rewards. By no means should it be monetary rewards, but clearly signaled praise and recognition of those affected as the most effective positive amplifier and often have unexpected peak performance result.

Higher education

More and more frequently, the path to the desired profession now leads - instead of via the training path - over a previously completed university degree. This usually takes three to seven years to take up employment. Studying for ADHD sufferers with a mild to a moderate degree can also be completed with good results if sufficient resources are available. For more detailed information on this topic, please visit the main article: ADHD and Studies.

Requirements and difficulties

All professions and activities necessarily require a certain amount of functional control and motivation. The two factors form an important foundation for training and work in the respective profession. However, ADHD sufferers typically have difficulty in activating voluntary activation of brain functions, and in particular voluntary effort activation ("I want because I should").  Permanent motivation is often difficult and possible via certain detours. This is particularly evident in less varied and monotonous, as well as activities that promise little rewards (rewards, praise).

Difficulties can lead to activities with more pronounced symptoms, in which:

  • Continuous concentration is required
  • must be worked properly and structured
  • working under deadline pressure
  • a high routine proportion is given
  • must be worked fine motor
  • The posture cannot be changed frequently.

Exemplary for e.g. Criteria are about

  • Occupations in finance and accounting
  • management occupations
  • archiving occupations
  • Activities with high data entry
  • laboratory work
  • Banking and Insurance
  • Occupations with low movement possibilities
  • Driver

  • Occupations in the monitoring and control service

However, this does not apply to individual cases. With appropriate interest and motivation, as well as above-average performance is possible.

Due to the lack of permanent motivation and/or perseverance, people are bored and distracted, or they seek distraction, to devote themselves to other activities, or to avoid current work or seek new tasks.

As a result of the lack of effort and the low quality of performance, conflicts with supervisors and colleagues quickly and frequently occur. Subsequent measures usually have the opposite effect and rather lead to further avoidance. Possible consequences may or may not be the cause of permanent or permanent termination.

Not only because of the problems described above, but there are also often layoffs by the employer or dismissals by the employee and close successive job changes. Often it is recurrent boredom that is difficult to tolerate for those affected. Some sufferers find in the biography even a variety of broken but also completed vocational training.

The ADHD issue is often experienced by colleagues and the employer, who are unaware of the colleague's diagnosis, as incompetence, unwillingness or disruptive or anti-social behavior. This impression is compounded in its ambivalence by the often fluctuating symptoms, or in the face of sufficient intellectual resources and at times high concentration levels of those affected, which seem contradictory in the face of poor work performance. This ambiguous external image is further underpinned by parallel giftedness. Thus, in the context of psych education, the involvement of the employer is also recommended, which in turn presupposes its readiness and also the acceptance of the diagnosis causing the suffering.

Suitable occupations for ADHD sufferers

Certain occupational groups for ADHD sufferers cannot be called general since the career choice should be based on personal interests and inclinations. If those concerned are capable of sufficient self-motivation in their profession, if they have sufficient basic skills and if the interest is sufficiently high to maintain adequate continuous attention in more than half of the working time, there are - with a few exceptions - no limitations in terms of career choice. For example, safety-relevant occupations that require a permanently high level of attention and stress tolerance are indispensable, but these cannot be provided - for example, the profession of air traffic controller, for which a Class 3 medical certificate is required. Given the intolerable cognitive limitations in these occupations, this classification can at best be achievable for those with mild symptoms. In the literature, however, there are often job profiles or occupational areas that should be recommended in the face of moderate to severe ADHD symptoms.

For example,

  • possibly self-employed occupations
  • Political professions
  • Journalistic professions
  • Creative professions
  • Performing professions
  • Service workers
  • Creative professions
  • Research professions
  • Helping professions
  • Occupations with a high proportion of movement
  • Occupations exercised outdoors

However, such proposals are not relevant for the individual case, since the professional suitability, at least for symptomatology that is to be managed, is hardly aimed at the ADHD, but rather at the individual competencies, inclinations, and interest of the person. Ultimately, in the case of a severe severity, the focus is not directly on choosing a career, but rather on the treatment, which may have good chances of consolidating the symptoms, which may also offer the patient new career prospects.

Resources of those affected

Various ADHD-specific resources are discussed in the literature: See Strengths.

Important not only for professional success but also for the professional existence, are social resources. If these are inadequate or conflicts frequently occur in the narrower social sphere, this can jeopardize one's career path, since those affected can hardly compensate for stressors.

Tips for everyday work with ADHD

Below you will find some tips and advice for those working in the field of ADHD, which may be incorporated into therapy or coaching as objectives.

  • Working in stages: Tasks should be completed in due time before the next task is dedicated
  • Perfectionism should not be lived out.
  • If possible, ask for the assignment of a workspace in which creative processes are possible
  • Pay attention to adequate breaks
  • Pay attention to a regular sleep
  • Modulating the work environment: For example, working in a confined space often leads to * distractions and decreased concentration, and can be asked to move to a quieter workplace.
  • However, when teamwork is difficult, a one-to-one job can be requested
  • Avoid Procrastination: Electronic timers can help with reminder functions
  • Reward yourself for lack of extrinsic rewards (see: token system)
  • If necessary inform the supervisor and colleagues about their own concern with ADHD (but do not apologize for their own misconduct by ADHD)
  • Use structured work plans with priorities.

ADHD is not a notifiable disease according to laws and does not have to be communicated to the employer.

Disability insurance

If it comes to disability due to the severity of the symptoms, the occupational disability insurance (DI) can come into play. However, completing a DI can be difficult if there has been ADHD treatment with psychotropic drugs over the past five to 10 years, as pre-existing conditions are documented in life insurers' central risk file.

If the conclusion of a DI is no longer possible, a so-called Dread Disease Special Policy may be an alternative , whereby it must be considered whether ADHD is included in the respective policy.


Anyone who is unable to work for at least three hours per day for the foreseeable future due to illness or disability for the foreseeable future is considered to be reduced in earning capacity according to the legal definition. This includes disabled people working in sheltered or blind workshops.

An application is required to grant a reduced earning capacity.  At the latest four months before the expiry of the retirement pension, an (informal) application for further payment should be made.

Special protection against dismissal

If severely affected persons have the status of "severely disabled person" they have extended dismissal protection in addition to the general dismissal protection, which is the case if the so-called degree of disability  amounts to at least 50 percent the notice of termination must be obtained from the Integration Office, without which the dismissal will be legally ineffective, with the background that a distinction should be made as to whether the dismissal should be due to the employee's severe disability.

Upon termination after approval by the Integration Office, dismissal protection can be filed with the responsible labor court within three weeks of the date of termination.


Economic Impact

The annual economic loss caused by ADHD in adulthood is estimated by scientists at $ 77 billion in the US.

Professionally successful celebrities with ADHD

Numerous, sometimes highly successful personalities with ADHD diagnosis are known worldwide. These are most successful in artistic, but also in entrepreneurial professions

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