How Are ADHD and Homelessness Connected?
While some people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are wildly successful, a recent study has shown that there could be a connection between ADHD and homelessness. I am fortunate to have friends, family, and other resources to keep a roof over my head, if necessary. Still, I have a faint fear about ending up in a state of destitution. A large part of it is the sense of panic that comes with having ADHD, a creeping fear that, one day, your life will collapse around you. Because of that, it does not surprise me that some people with ADHD become homeless.
The Connection Between ADHD and Homelessness
There are a number of ways that ADHDers could end up on the streets. For one, it can be hard to find a job. Searching for work often involves self-directed networking and applying for jobs, which can be repetitive and tedious. It also requires a great attention to detail because some companies automatically reject cover letters and resumes with type-os.
Once they get work, people with ADHD can find it difficult to keep a job. They might miss deadlines and arrive at work late due to a kind of “time blindness,” developing a reputation for unreliability. They might feel restless in a dull position and under-perform. In addition, the inability to prioritize can cause problems for ADHDers both at work and at home, especially if they prioritize less important projects over essential tasks.
Another problem looms in the tedium of everyday life. Like anybody else, people with ADHD must keep track of bills, insurance, and other expenditures. It is all too easy to misplace paper bills or forget about paying monthly loans and rent. In addition, many with ADHD struggle with impulsivity and the desire for immediate gratification, which can lead to overspending and costly addictions. Because of all this, ADHDers sometimes slip into debilitating debt.
Research on ADHD and Homelessness
There have been few studies about ADHD and homelessness, and those that exist use a small sample size. However, numerous studies show that the homeless have a high rate of mental illness, which contributes to or results from their state of homelessness. One survey in Spain found that homeless people frequently have ADHD alongside other disorders, particularly personality disorders.1
The most relevant study followed 134 males over 33 years.2 Researchers selected white males from the same medical center who were of similar ages and socioeconomic status. They did not study males who seemed particularly aggressive because they wanted to focus on symptoms of ADHD instead of those potentially caused by other problems. Decades later, researchers asked the grown subjects whether they had ever been homeless for a week or more. Twenty-four percent answered yes, which was more than five times that of a comparison group.
This information demonstrates how important it is to recognize and treat ADHD. There are many ways to manage the condition, but ignorance about the disorder or reluctance to address it due to shame and stigma can lead to serious consequences for those with ADHD, including homelessness.
- BMC Research Notes. Carlos Salavera et al. Comorbidity of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with personality disorders in homeless people.
- Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. García Murillo et al. Childhood Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Homelessness: A 33-Year Follow-Up Study.
Pacific Standard. Tom Jacobs. ADHD Kids, Homeless Adults?
Matteson, N. (2017, December 12). How Are ADHD and Homelessness Connected?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, October 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingwithadultadhd/2017/12/are-adhd-and-homelessness-connected
Author: Noelle Matteson
Housing and Urban Development: each state links to a page where you should be able to find "Homelessness Resources" for that state.
Housing for the Mentally Ill: Where to Find It
Mental Health Hotline Numbers and Referral Resources
Thank you for reaching out, Terri. I hope you find support and housing soon.