Untreated attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, with or without hyperactivity) in the workplace has cost both employers and employees more than just a bad case of nerves.

According to veteran researcher Joseph Biederman, MD, the economic impact of the condition can reach into the billions of dollars. A poster presented by Biederman and colleague SV Faraone entitled “Economic impact of adult ADHD” presented at the 2005 American Psychiatric Association national conference estimated that costs of lost earnings due to adult ADHD ranged from $67 to $77 billion per year.

A 2008 online survey — the Adult ADHD Burden of Impairment Survey — conducted via Facebook polled slightly more than 1,000 ADHD adults and found that 62 percent of the respondents were diagnosed with a mood disorder as well, most with depression and/or anxiety.

Forty-seven percent of the respondents said they had not seen their health professional about their ADHD or mood disorder within the past two years. Of more concern, however, were the 33 percent who said their symptoms were not under control — and the nearly 60 percent who reported being unhappy with their inability to deal with stress. The survey was entitled the Adult ADHD Burden of Impairment Survey.

ADHD adults suffer tremendously both in the workplace and at home, constantly second-guessing themselves and forever wondering “what went wrong.” The issues of poor social skills development, disorganization, time management problems, staying on task, difficulty maintaining focus, disengaging, paying attention, impulsivity and low frustration tolerance all converge in one big nightmare when it becomes time to earn a living.

For the employer, of course, the nightmare is deciding whether that massive creative streak spotted during the interview is worth the constant aggravation that followed. More often than not, sadly, the answer is “No. No more.”