4 Myths

1. ADHD Is a “Made Up” Disorder

Because ADHD is a relatively new disorder, some people believe it simply isn’t real, or was invented by the pharmaceutical industry to generate more profit. Though ADHD was first defined in 1980 to describe individuals who were inattentive, healthcare professionals maintain that the disorder has been around for much longer.

Experts have also pointed to growing research that connects ADHD with other physical, mental, and lifestyle problems. Studies confirm that individuals diagnosed with ADHD are more likely to perform poorly in school, be unemployed as adults, and have strained peer relationships (Diamantopoulou, 2007). 

Those with ADHD, when compared with the general population, are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders (Biederman, 2004). They are also more likely to smoke and have more difficulty quitting smoking (McClernon, 2008). Those with untreated ADHD are more likely to abuse other substances as well, and also have significantly higher rates of arrest (Thompson, 1996). In short, ADHD is a real disorder, and if left untreated, it can have many serious consequences that affect a person’s quality of life.

2. People With ADHD Are Less Intelligent

Because children and adults with ADHD are forgetful, inattentive, or make careless mistakes, it can appear as though they are not intelligent. This simply isn’t true. In fact, studies show that most individuals with ADHD are of average intelligence. According to a Washington State University study on adults with ADHD, there is little difference in the intelligence of those with ADHD compared with that of other healthy individuals. They found that those with ADHD who scored lower on intelligence tests had other preexisting conditions, such as a learning disability or other cognitive impairment (Bridgett, 2006).

What is true is that those with ADHD often perform at a lower level than their peers academically. This is due to an inability to stay organized, a lack of attention to detail, and the tendency to leave tasks unfinished or incomplete. However, it is not due to a lack of intelligence. With proper management, it is possible for an individual with ADHD to achieve academic success.

3. People with ADHD Are Lazy and Unmotivated

Oftentimes, a person with ADHD might be perceived as lazy or unmotivated. Individuals with ADHD have trouble doing activities they do not enjoy, even if the tasks are necessary. For example, a child with ADHD may have trouble completing homework assignments in a subject that is of no interest, but is able to focus on a favorite video game. Adults with ADHD may make careless errors at work or avoid unpleasant tasks, which can increase the workload for their coworkers. 

Not completing work has nothing to do with ill intentions; ADHD is a neurologic disorder, and difficulty in completing tasks correctly is a hallmark symptom of the condition. With redirection, positive reinforcement, and proper management, a person with ADHD can successfully complete tasks, even ones that they find boring.

4. People with ADHD Are Irresponsible

A person with ADHD may often forget important items. Losing keys, forgetting appointments, and a general lack of organization makes it seem as though the person is intentionally irresponsible. Again, it is important to remember that an individual with ADHD has a neurological disorder that affects his or her ability to stay organized. Like all other ADHD symptoms, it needs to be managed.