‘Undiagnosed ADHD saw me spiral into £20K debt buying holidays and clothes’

Suzi Payton, 47, found herself spiralling into debt, relying on her overdraft and maxing out credit cards. She even resorted to taking out bank loans to pay off her mounting debts.

After being made redundant from her role as a PE teacher in November 2011, Suzi used her £7,000 severance package to embark on a three-month trip to South East Asia. Little did she know that it would take her over a decade to clear her debt.

However, with the help of a charity and a formal ADHD diagnosis in November 2012, Suzi was able to pay off her debts in full.

ADHD is a behavioural condition which affects a person’s ability to concentrate and is often misdiagnosed in women as mental health conditions like anxiety. It can lead to impulsive behaviour and disorganisation.

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Suzi explained how her ADHD influenced her spending habits, saying: “I bought things impulsively, and for instant gratification – I had a real ‘I’ll deal with it later’ attitude, which can be common in people with ADHD.”

She added: “Credit was so easy to get, so I had lots of credit cards, and then I’d take out loans to pay them off. It all started to get on top of me.”

Suzi’s ADHD diagnosis allowed her to seek help from a debt charity, which put her back on track. She said: “My diagnosis enabled me to seek help from a debt charity, which put me back on track.”

Although she no longer takes medication, Suzi acknowledged its impact, saying: “I’m not on meds anymore – but when I was first diagnosed, they helped to slow my brain down and recognise I wasn’t looking after myself financially.”

Now, Suzi has learned to manage her finances more responsibly. She explained: “Nowadays, I only have one credit card and I don’t use it. I have a monthly and yearly budget I stick to – factoring in smaller things I’d usually buy on a whim – like haircuts.”

Reflecting on her journey, Suzi expressed relief, stating, “As soon as I found out I was no longer in debt, it was a massive weight off my shoulders. Not only was it a huge achievement, but it was also a lesson. I’ll never get into that much debt again – I was really proud.”

Suzi also shared her experience of living with undiagnosed ADHD, saying: “I grew up with undiagnosed ADHD and I didn’t know anything was going on until 15 years ago. There were things I was really good at – I was good at sports, so I became a PE teacher. I was also really good at words. But I struggled practically with forward-planning – my brain just couldn’t make sense of it at all.”

She added: “Elements of teaching were really hard. I’d try to pay attention in meetings and my mind would just go elsewhere – there was no way my brain could listen, I’d just end up doodling and drifting.”

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