Hyperactivity and attention deficit

The danger of not diagnosing ADHD in children as soon as possible


Although the diagnosis of ADHD is increasingly accepted by society and families today, there are still cases that resist receiving this diagnosis for various reasons. But, have you ever wondered what are the consequences of not diagnosing ADHD in children as soon as possible? We look at some of the more common dangers we incur by delaying this diagnosis.

We analyze one by one each of the possible consequences that a lack of diagnosis could cause in children.

1. Decreased academic performance or school failure

Children with ADHD usually present specific characteristics, at a neurological level, such as attention deficit, impulsivity or even hyperactivity. These difficulties affect both the personal and academic spheres.

For example, they are children who take a long time to do homework because they are constantly confused or, on the contrary, do not do them because they forget to take their books home. This also affects them when taking exams. They are usually children who do not have time to finish the exam in the stipulated time or on the contrary, they finish first because due to their impulsiveness, they skip a section without realizing it. All this makes the notes begin to drop and as a consequence, begin to decrease your interest and motivation for studying.

Therefore, one of the consequences that we observe the most in consultation is that these children lower their grades, but not due to a lack of capacity of the child, but to a lack of measures within the classroom that can compensate for the needs of these children. So, it goes without saying, but a good early diagnosis will allow us to take the appropriate measures, both in the classroom and at home, to improve the child's school planning and performance.

2. Difficulties in social relationships

Due to their impulsiveness, children with ADHD often do not respect their turn to speak or their turn in games or even cheat in order to achieve the goal of the game (or the reward) as soon as possible.

These behaviors are not understood by other children and sometimes they tend to reject them in games. Therefore, other consequences of not having a diagnosis of ADHD in the case of suffering it, is the difficulty they have maintaining ties of friendship with other children or that other classmates can understand that their friend's behaviors are part of their difficulties as well as learn certain ways to help him.

3. Low self-esteem

Their impulsivity and hyperactivity cause these children to be punished and reprimanded for their behavior more often. For example, a child with ADHD who has to wait in the doctor's waiting room for a long time may start to run or move excessively around the room. The mother or father will continually draw attention to him, get angry with him or even punish him.

In some cases, they may end up expressing this discomfort through some symptoms related to depression or through disruptive and conflictive behaviors (defiance of authority, disobedience, etc.).

4. Risk of alcohol and drug abuse

These children work very well with contingent (automatic) rewards, since one of their difficulties is impulsiveness and they have a hard time waiting to get what they want. Therefore, another of the consequences of not receiving an early diagnosis and treatment is that, in adolescence, many of them resort to substance abuse as a form of self-regulation.

This is a way to quickly and automatically relieve discomfort and therefore a bad strategy of emotional regulation. For example, an important piece of information about the relationship between ADHD and substance use can be observed in the study by Isorna et al. (2018). This study reveals that the percentage of adolescent smokers was more than double among those with ADHD than among those without the disorder (13.3% vs. 6.3%).

5. Undervaluation in the workplace

People with ADHD not only have difficulties in childhood and adolescence, but are also present in adulthood. An adult with ADHD who was not diagnosed in his childhood and therefore was not treated either, tends to access more precarious jobs, they tend to change jobs more frequently or even, they commit to tasks that they later fail to accomplish, either due to inattention or impulsiveness derived from poor planning.

In summary, it is proven that an early diagnosis and treatment of ADHD reduces these 'dangers', providing benefits in all areas of your life (emotional, social and work).

Bibliographic references

  • Spanish Federation of Associations for Assistance to Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity (FEAADAH).
  • Isorna, M., Golpe, S., Otero, M., Ayesta, J. & Gómez, P. Tobacco use and self-esteem in adolescents with and without Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): proposals for better prevention . Spanish Journal of Drug Dependence, 43 (4) 69-82.

Written by Melina Núñez Martín. General Health Psychologist

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