ADHD – Myths and Misunderstandings

ADHD – Still Misunderstood

There are a number of misconceptions and misunderstandings that surround ADHD. They can result in problems such as delays in diagnosis and accessing treatment, not to mention leaving individuals with the condition feeling misunderstood.

Evidence from research studies continue to dispel the myths and misunderstandings about ADHD. And, thanks to brain imaging studies and other research, we know a lot more about ADHD than we did just a decade ago. However, there are still many persistent myths that cause confusion and make it hard for people with ADHD to get the support they need in school, at work, and in their communities.

Common Myths About ADHD

Below are some of the most common myths about ADHD.

  • Myth 1: ADHD is Not a Real Disorder – Research has shown that ADHD is biologically based. Research shows that it’s a result of an imbalance of neurotransmitters, within the brain. Its primary symptoms are inattention, impulsiveness, and, sometimes, hyperactivity. It has been has been recognized as a legitimate diagnosis by major medical, psychological, and educational organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education and the American Psychiatric Association.
  • Myth 2: ADHD is Over-Diagnosed – The vast majority (9 out of 10) of children diagnosed with ADHD have been diagnosed by practitioners using best practice guidelines (according to recent studies. Possible explanations for increased diagnostic rates include improved awareness about ADHD among healthcare practitioners and parents, more screenings by pediatricians and other primary care givers, decreased stigma about ADHD and availability of better treatment options.
  • Myth 3: ADHD is a Disorder of Childhood – Long-term studies of children diagnosed with ADHD show that ADHD can span a lifetime. ADHD persists from childhood to adolescence in 50%–80% of cases, and into adulthood in 35%–65% of cases.
  • Myth 4: Only Boys Get ADHD – Girls are just as likely to have ADHD as are boys. Girls typically have the inattentive presentation of ADHD versus hyperacitivity. But because this myth persists, boys are more likely to be diagnosed than girls.
  • Myth 5: People With ADHD Are Lazy – Individuals with ADHD tend to need more structure and reminders to get things done — especially activities that require sustained mental effort. But because symptoms of ADHD may manifest as disinterest, disorganization, and a lack of motivation unless it’s related to an activity they truly enjoy, this may be mistaken for laziness. However, the reality is that people with ADHD truly want to succeed but may struggle to initiate and complete what others may consider “simple” tasks.
  • Myth 6: ADHD Isn’t That “Serious” – While ADHD isn’t life-threatening, the condition can have serious implications for a person’s overall quality of life. Compared to the general population, people with ADHD are more likely to have: anxiety, mood and substance use disorders. It can be difficult to keep up with work responsibilities, which can mean they live in continual fear of losing their jobs and not being able to keep up financially, which can take a toll on their personal life.
  • Myth 7: Children with ADHD are Over-medicated – Most evidence from research studies suggest that levels of treating ADHD with medication are either appropriate or that ADHD is under-treated. In fact, of the 5.1 million children with a current diagnosis of ADHD, only 69% were taking medication for ADHD.
  • Myth 8: Poor Parenting Causes ADHD – ADHD is caused by brain differences, not bad parenting. But some people see kids fidgeting, being impulsive, or not listening and assume it’s due to a lack of discipline. They don’t realize that what they’re seeing are signs of a medical condition, not the result of something parents or caregivers did or didn’t do.
  • Myth 9: Children Who Take ADHD Medications are More Likely to Abuse Drugs  – Actually, the opposite is true. Having untreated ADHD increases the risk that an individual will abuse drugs or alcohol. Appropriate treatment reduces this risk.
  • Myth 10: ADHD Is a Learning Disability – ADHD isn’t a learning disability. ADHD symptoms can interfere with learning, but they don’t cause difficulty in specific skills like reading, writing, and math. Some learning disabilities can co-occur with ADHD, however.

The myths that surround ADHD need to be dispelled if we are to raise awareness about this condition and provide individuals who have it what they need to succeed in all aspects of their lives.



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