Switch to Accessible Site

Myths About ADHD

It is not uncommon for people to misunderstand how ADHD affects people's lives. Many of society's judgments and beliefs are unfounded, yet persist, to the detriment of those who have to contend with ADHD-type challenges every day.

Here are some examples:


 ADHD is not a real medical condition.
ADHD requires a clinical diagnosis by a trained professional, based on self-reported symptoms and medical history. Because there is no blood test or X-ray that gives solid proof of its existence, some people may have a hard time believing that ADHD is a real disorder, or that there is a medical cause for many of the disorder's symptoms.

In fact, ADHD is recognized by the National Institute of Health, the US Department of Education, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychiatric Association as a neuro-biological condition, an issue of brain chemistry and wiring, that impairs the executive functions in the brain's management system.
 

♦  ADHD is caused by bad parenting and poor discipline.
ADHD is NOT caused by bad parenting. But parenting techniques can often improve some symptoms or make others worse. Positive parental involvement is a key to success for ADHD children.

 ADHD only affects boys.

There are gender differences in how the symptoms of ADHD manifest, but girls are just as likely to have ADHD as boys. Girls often go undiagnosed and untreated despite the need, as their symptoms are less notable (often less hyperactive).

 Only children have ADHD and they eventually grow out of it.
It is estimated that about 6% of the adult population has ADHD, many diagnosed only when they became adults and began to struggle with the increased responsibilities of adulthood. The vast majority of adults who may actually have ADHD remain undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed as having other disorders (e.g. depression); few seek treatment.

ADHD is a lifelong condition.  The symptoms may change as a child matures and learns how to manage their challenges, but that's not the same as outgrowing them.  As many as 80% of children will continue to have ADHD symptoms into adulthood.

♦  
ADHD is a problem of lack of will power. ADHDers are just lazy.
This couldn't be further from the truth. A child who finds it nearly impossible to stay focused in class, or to complete a lengthy (uninteresting, unstimulating) task, may look lazy or unmotivated, but the behavior stems from real difficulty in functioning.

Often people with ADHD experience what is called "brain freeze," shutting down under conditions which produce anxiety or pressure, which exacerbates ADHD symptoms. It's very frustrating to know exactly what you want to do/what is asked of you, but not be able to convey that information or do what is asked no matter how hard you try.

By contrast, when a person with ADHD is involved with something they are really passionate about, many of the ADHD symptoms (temporarily) disappear!   

 
♦  Stimulant medication encourages drug and alcohol abuse.

Appropriate treatment actually reduces the risk of substance abuse.  Those who go untreated have a higher risk of "self-medicating" with drugs and/or alcohol to reduce symptoms.

♦  
There is no effective treatment for ADHD.
While medication cannot alone cure the condition, it does help alleviate symptoms. Generally, properly adjusted medication for ADHD sharpens a person's focus and increases his or her ability to control behavior. The National Institute of Health found that behavioral interventions along with medication were the most effective approach. The medications used to treat ADHD have been proven safe and effective over 50 years of use.


Accommodations in school for ADHD give those children an unfair advantage.
Accommodations for children with learning differences simply level the playing field, giving them the opportunities to be as successful as their non-ADHD peers.

 
People with ADHD are less successful than those who don't have the condition.
Some people with ADHD are hugely popular; the funniest, most interesting people you'll ever know. Many have contributed greatly to our society. Many are outside-the-box thinkers.  Let them be an inspiration to you! 

  • Jim Carey - comedian
  • Paris Hilton - socialite/heiress/ reality show starlet
  • Bruce Jenner - Olympic athlete
  • James Carville, political consultant and Campaign Chair for Bill Clinton
  • Patricia Quinn - MD, author, founder of ADHD Aware
  • Pete Rose - major league baseball star
  • Justin Timberlake - Grammy-winning singer
  • David Neelman - Founder of JetBlue Airways
  • Howie Mandel - actor and game show host
  • Paul Orfalea - founder of Kinkos
  • Michael Phelps - the most decorated Olympian in history, winning 16 medals (14 gold) in swimming
  • Glenn Beck - conservative radio personality