ADHD Accountants. No, it’s true.


Here’s a story of an accountant with Attention Deficit Disorder, who got diagnosed, and tells how he dealt with it.

I have often suggested that you wouldn’t find many accountants with Attention Deficit Disorder. I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

That being said, I now personally know 5 8 10 20 accountants with ADHD.

ADHD is a problem at work when you’re doing something that you find boring or repetitive. It’s not that much of a problem when you’re doing things you find stimulating or exciting. Thankfully we all find different things exciting otherwise we’d all be competing for the same job.

It show’s how diagnosis and treatment of attention deficit disorder can make a real difference in someone’s life.

One thing I like is the title of the article “Adult attention deficit disorder is not an excuse — it’s a diagnosis.” They also give some practical ideas for dealing with Adult attention deficit disorder.

Some doctors and others have rejected ADD as a fad diagnosis.

“I feel badly about that,” Bulten said. “They are misinformed. There are pediatricians out there who don’t think it’s real, that it’s just an excuse. You wouldn’t say that about someone with polio because they limp.”

The treatment for both categories of ADD is the same: medication and coaching. The most common medication is Ritalin, which stimulates the neurotransmitters in the brain. Bill VanWoerkom, a social worker in Mason’s and Bulten’s office, helps the patients organize their lives.

“They leave here after every coaching session with a written plan,” said VanWoerkom, who, himself, has been diagnosed with ADD.

Brailey, since he was diagnosed, has taken steps to organize his life. In his home office, he keeps a large, three-month calendar on the wall with appointments color-coded.


22 thoughts on “ADHD Accountants. No, it’s true.”

  1. It’s been shown that within certain fields (think finance, RE state, and tax managers) ADD is not a crutch but actually an advantage for people who have multiple responsibilities throughout the day. Self-help gurus and doctors try to provide a helping hand that’s primarily open for your $$$, not your sanity.

    The smart ones know this, and we just nod our head when doctors scold us out of politeness, though it’s unfortunate they won’t be able to put their children through boarding school like ours due to their lack of ambition by not having the ADD “crutch.”

  2. In some fields ADHD can definitely be a competitive edge. That being said ADHD can be a gift and a problem at the same time. Not everyone who helps others does so only because they’re financial mercenaries.

    If someone with ADHD doesn’t have a problem with the symptoms of the condition, no need to get any help. That being said, many ADDers are in denial or minimization about how their condition impacts their life or their family life.

  3. And another! I Have an undergrad in accounting, an MBA and I just passed the CPA exam. Then about 6 weeks after I passed I got pulled into my bosses office and was told that I was being put on a performance review for poor work. I’m a mess. I subsequently got diagnosed with ADHD and I am very concerned about my career choice. This is just an awful thing. i have worked in public accounting both as a tax preparer and as an auditor and now I am in corp. finance at a manufacturing company and I am bored as hell. When I search for accounting jobs all of the descriptions make my stomach turn. I’m 35, I have three very small children and I’m lost.

  4. Hi Paul,
    stomach churn= boredom=kryptonite for adders. sounds like you could use a career counsellor to help you either find an accounting job you enjoy or a job where you can apply those skills in another area. also find some ways to manage ADHD

  5. Thanks Pete, I’m getting there. I have some therapy sessions coming up and going to set up a trial for some meds too. Overall I’m positive, but I have my reservations. Great site!

  6. Denise Hill

    Don’t give up! I am an accountant and when I worked in manufacturing I was extremely bored as well. I am finding that working for small companies are great for me because I am challenged on a daily basis. As long as I am stimulating my mind, I am happy. The minute I get bored it is torture. I think we have an advantage because we are never content. I know I am always pushing for the next level.

  7. I also have my undergrad and grad degree in accounting and passed all 4 parts of the CPA in three months. Now I am at a Big 4 firm and struggling to focus. I can complete any difficult task but struggle with the minute details. I think I am going to need to find some help here.

  8. Add another ADHD accountant to your list! I have both my undergrad and master’s in accounting and passed all four parts of the CPA exam, like Bill above, in 3 months. I get bored, at times, too in my public accounting job. However, I think self awareness has been really helpful. I know when I need a break and/or stimulation. Sometimes just reading an article in one of the many publications I’m required to keep up to date with is enough of a minute distraction to satisfy my craving for something more interesting than ticking and tying workpapers 🙂 Other times, I take a quick trip to the nearest store and grab a drink or some candy. I guess I know that my ADHD is mine to manage and in most cases, my managing it does not interfere with my work.

  9. I’m currently a college student in an accounting program. When I was at a loss for career choices, the college’s counsellor thought I might find accounting’s set procedures and formats to be really helpful, seeing as numbers and such logic makes sense to me. Huge tasks in accounting are already broken down – there’s no large research projects on any old topic; I just follow the rules and put the numbers in the right place and voila! a balance sheet. It makes living with ADD a little less daunting.
    Now, if only I could make it to the bus stop in time to catch the right bus to class… 😉

  10. Hi all, +1 another ADHD accountant/ auditor here
    (sorry this is a long post I just kept writing and pouring my heart out)

    As a youngster sitting still in school, staying focused and not letting my hyperactivity get the best of me was a daily battle.

    I believe my ADHD helped me in being tenacious when the road of life seemed hard and long. From 6th grade on I told my family where I was going to college for accounting like my uncle did, they didn’t believe me so I had to prove them wrong ;). Right after graduating high school, I went to that university and after 4 years of struggling to maintain B and C grades I obtained my BBA in accounting/pre-law at age 21. Luckily is was a good liberal arts school that had a great business school, accounting program and most of the professors really cared about their students; the class sizes where small which helped me to be a person rather then a number to my professors. It then took a few years, some failed attempts and taking the Becker CPA Review course to finally pass all 4 parts of the CPA exam at age 30. After passing the CPA exam, a mental block lifted I for the first time in my life realized I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. It led to realization that I learn by using both visual cues (flowcharts, diagrams, written notes) and kinesthetic means (being hands on, actually doing the work) versus being an audio learner which is ideal for learning in the more traditional school settings.

    After getting bored with most of the jobs in my twenties and early 30’s. Looking at my resume one can tell the jobs I liked (where I stayed a few years) versus the ones I didn’t. In 2003 at age 35, after my 4 year marriage fell apart I was diagnosed by a local psychiatrist who specializes in ADD/ ADHD. I went to this psychiatrist after a close work colleague told me she’d bet her house I was ADHD since she had two sons diagnosed with ADHD. I joke with friends and family about thriving in chaos and get bored with the mundane, self awareness of what motivates me is half the battle of my ADHD. For me I know that when I respect my boss, work in a team environment, have at least ones person I can confide about my ADHD to at work and I’m able to mentor others I enjoy my job.

    In regards to medication, I was amazed how quite my mind was after I took the Adderall XR meds the doctor prescribed. The best way to describe it is the medication acts as if a filter was put up in place blocking out most of the external noise and distractions that I had not realized I was being bombarded with all my life. Another way to put it is think of it is that an individual with ADD or ADHD is like a battleship with it’s defense shields down taking in constant enemy fire, noise and distractions that overwhelms your senses. When I take my medication I am able to filter out the distractions, focus my thoughts and tone down my impulsiveness so I am able to complete deadlines, focus on what others are saying and do the boring, mundane tasks at both work and home.

    Do I somethings fall back into old patterns or habits you bet but I do pull myselef out of them much quicker as I’ve learned more about what are the triggers for my ADHD symptoms.

    If a job description does not interest me I do not apply since I know I will be constantly struggling to motivate myself if I was to get that job.

  11. oops wish there was an edit button, I see typos and tranposed letters in my previous post

  12. I think I have ADD. All of the symptoms fit. I’m a student in the CGA program (Canada) and have this incredibly simple Cost-Value-Profit exercise in front of me and yet cannot concentrate, like there are explosions going on around me (Jenny seemed to describe it best above). Reading these stories above, and reading how the symptoms include my ability to say incredibly inappropriate things because I talk before thinking, gives me hope. I love accounting. I love understanding GAAP and IFRS and how information translates through my work (it’s like weaving), and I love the sense of accomplishment I get when I do something that wows people I work with. So I’d never give it up for another job, because I suck at sales because I have a hard time dealing with customers.

    I’m still hesitant to seek medication for this problem, however. Everyone is all-too-eager to dole out drugs (especially here), but if it can help, I’ll take it. I need something to stop this scatterbrained nonsense (like not paying attention to where I parked, which happens most of the time), and the fact that my desk is covered in unfinished work and just thinking about the unfinished work is stressing me out.


  13. Lisa Goldman

    Whats the best way for someone with ADHD to study for the CPA exam? I have already failed all sections of the exam. But after spending a year and a half of considering other career options, I’ve decided that I am committed to passing the CPA exam. I spent a ton of money for Becker before, and unfortunately, my funds are limited this time around. And naturally, the materials are outdated and practically null and void with all the changes since January 2011. Any input would be greatly appreciated.


  14. I would like to know where to view the article you mention above entitled adult attention deficit disorder it’s not an excuse it’s a diagnosis.. Thanks

  15. Hello all, ADHD CPA auditor at a big 4 firm. I have been workinghere for almost 2 years, and can say I truly do not like the work I do on a daily basis. The dryness of the work you perform everyday, and the amount of work to do during busy times can be quite overwhelming. I find that I have to work 2-3 hours extra each day to finish the my daily work compared to my peers. Working with relaxing music, taking 5 minute medication breaks, and unfortunately working extra are the ways I cope with it. Unfortunately auditing type jobs are just not meant for our kind. Working on for a business where you feel you are making more of a difference each day I think will bring the best out of us in regards to working in the business field.

    Wish you all the best. We all struggle in certain areas but really excel in others, its just a matter of finding those spots.

  16. Thanks Chris. You might consider getting into a less dry & more interesting area of accounting, or use the some of the accounting background to get into a more interesting job. Boredom is death for adders no matter what the job. Maybe see if you could work in a start up or a more entrepreneurial position

  17. Hi everyone, you can add another one to the list of auditors who just found out that they have ADHD.

    The thing im struggling with at the moment is finishing whats in front of me.
    At first, my hyperfocus really helps to drown out the noise and do work soo efficiently….. But just this part…..the end…when all I have to do is pull from the various parts of my brain that information has been stored and to finalise these working papers and reports…..that’s what I struggle with……its soo hard now to motivate myself….even though I know its soo easy to do once I get started…….I normally cope with work by struggling like this through the week days….and then wait till I hit hyperfocus again… that I can finish whats pending….many times that means im going to have to work through the weekend and pull extra hours (as if we don’t work late hours anyway).

    Sorry – just commiserations here. No real solutions yet.

    But with the awareness that i have now of what my tendencies are – i have a better understanding of what things/actions/thoughts to avoid that would send me on this spiraling path……

    It doesn’t look that great from this vantage point…..but its not bleak yet.

  18. Big4 manager

    Another Big 4 auditor/cpa here who was diagnosed with ADD about two years ago. It’s been a struggle right from the start as an associate. Bad performance reviews for taking a real long time to complete work. Completely unable to focus. I struggled as a senior as well but this time for just “signing off” and not really reviewing detailed info..really bad at times when I had to do the work and didn’t have many associates under yelled at for not being able to get much work done. Whatever work I did had careless errors all over the place. After scratching and crawling my way and using my charisma to offset weakness, finally promoted me to audit manager! So less people yelling at me but same problems with getting things done and careless errors exist. I just can’t get motivated to focus so whatever review I do is just on a superficial level. I dream of moving on but reading the job descriptions scare the crap out of me. I dream of finding a more meaningful job everyday to stop suffering. No one at work knows so it’s a big load I’ve been carrying

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