Attention Deficit-Hyperactive Disorder, typically referred to as “ADHD,” is a common mental health challenge that affects many children and adults. It is also one of the least understood. Most knowledge people have about ADHD comes from word of mouth and the way people talk about the condition, and that has led to many myths and confusions over what ADHD actually is and how it affects people.
As therapists that help children that are struggling with ADHD and related mental health conditions, like executive function disorder, one of our initial goals is to reduce some of the stigma around ADHD and help people gain a better understanding of what attention deficit disorder actually is and how it can affect children and adults.
The following are some common myths about ADHD.
- Myth: ADHD is not a real medical condition. ADHD absolutely is a real medical condition, considered a neurodevelopmental disorder. It can often (although not always) be seen using neuroimaging techniques, and responds not only to therapy, but to medication as well.
- Myth: ADHD only affects children and is outgrown in adulthood. ADHD affects many adults, right now, some of whom were never diagnosed with ADHD. Some children do grow out of ADHD by adulthood, but many do not, and many others still experience some of the symptoms even if they have grown out of some of the most debilitating.
- Myth: ADHD is caused by bad parenting or lack of discipline. Parent coaching is a fantastic way to start addressing ADHD, but it cannot be cured or prevented with parenting a specific way. Being “Harsher” on children with ADHD tends to have not only no effect on their symptoms, but can actually make other issues, like ADHD burnout and behavioral disorders, even worse.
- Myth: People with ADHD are always hyperactive and cannot focus. People’s ADHD manifests in different ways. Some people are hyperactive. Some have inattentiveness. Some struggle with executive functions. ADHD is not a condition that shows itself in any one specific way, but rather an umbrella term for a host of different (but related) symptoms that each child and adult shows differently.
- Myth: Medication is the only effective treatment for ADHD. Medication can be a great tool for helping children manage ADHD, but it is not the only one, nor is it always effective by itself. Children with ADHD may also struggle with anxiety, depression, executive function issues, and more, and these can be supported through therapy, coaching, and other treatment options.
- Myth: ADHD is overdiagnosed, and it is just an excuse for behavioral problems. Has ADHD been misdiagnosed when someone displayed behavioral problems? Yes. Is it overdiagnosed? Absolutely not. In fact, it is frequently underdiagnosed in women and girls, and missed in a large percentage of boys.
- Myth: ADHD is a result of too much screen time or technology use. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Screen time may be linked to some inattentiveness, but is not a “Cause” of ADHD as a condition.
- Myth: People with ADHD are less intelligent or capable than others. ADHD has no relationship with intelligence or ability, and many of those with ADHD are brilliant and go on to lead extraordinarily successful lives.
- Myth: People with ADHD can’t succeed in competitive or high-pressure environments. The challenges presented by ADHD do not preclude people from succeeding in competitive or high pressure situations, and many of the world’s best musicians, athletes, and more are those that have or used to have ADHD>
- Myth: People with ADHD are simply not trying hard enough. ADHD is not something you “will” yourself out of. It takes comprehensive skill building, training, learning, and sometimes medication to manage ADHD. It also takes time and guidance.
- Myth: ADHD is caused by consuming too much sugar or certain foods. Diets have little to no effect on the development of ADHD, and no specific foods can suddenly trigger ADHD symptoms. This belief stems from a misunderstanding of what ADHD actually is.
- Myth: Only boys can have ADHD; it doesn’t affect girls. Not only does ADHD affect girls, but most experts believe that ADHD affects girls at exactly the same rate as it affects boys. The problem is that ADHD can go underdiagnosed in girls and young women because it manifests differently, often through thoughts, which makes it harder to notice.
These are only some of the myths about ADHD, but they are persistent ones that continue to not go away. If you or someone you love has or is suspected to have ADHD, the best thing you can do is talk to a therapist, counselor, or coach that understands and works with those that have ADHD.