As is unfortunately the case with many other mental health conditions, there are numerous misconceptions that surround ADHD.
These misunderstandings about the condition are harmful to the folks within the community. They can result in problems such as delays in diagnosis and accessing treatment, not to mention leaving people feeling judged or misunderstood.
Take my patient Vanessa. She spent years struggling at school, both in high school and college. During these years she was unable to retain information she had spent hours learning, and constantly felt anxious at the thought of the things she had to do.
It wasn’t until she sought the help of a psychiatrist while at college and was diagnosed with ADHD that she understood why this was happening to her.
Had Vanessa been diagnosed at an earlier age, she may have been given the appropriate tools to help her through school.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, about 9 percent of children have ADHD, while around 4 percent of adults have it. Chances are you know someone with the condition.
In light of May being Mental Health Awareness month, I’ve pulled together five myths about ADHD that need dispelling now, in hopes of shedding light on the reality of this condition.
Myth 1: Girls don’t get ADHD
In general, girls aren’t as hyperactive or display as many behavioral issues compared to boys, so people often don’t recognize ADHD in girls.
As a result, girls are
The problem with this myth is that, because girls with ADHD often go untreated, their condition can progress, increasing issues with mood, anxiety, antisocial personality, and other comorbid disorders in adulthood.
It’s for this reason that it’s really important to improve our ability to identify girls with ADHD and provide them with the support they need.
Myth 2: Poor parenting causes ADHD
Some of my adult patients with ADHD will bring their parents into their appointments. During these sessions, I often find that the parents will share their guilt of wishing they could’ve done more to help their kid succeed and control their symptoms.
This often stems from the myth that “poor parenting” causes ADHD.
But the fact is, this is not the case. For example, blurting out words, restlessness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are symptoms that can be problematic in quiet public settings. Though structure is important for a person with ADHD, constant punishing for these symptoms can be more detrimental in the long run.
But because many would view this type of behavior as the child simply being “poorly mannered,” parents often find themselves being judged for not being able to control their child.
This is why professional interventions such as psychotherapy and medications are often required.
Myth 3: People with ADHD are lazy
Many of my patients with ADHD explain that they’re often accused of being lazy, which leaves them feeling guilty for not being as productive and motivated as others expect them to be.
Folks 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.
The reality, however, is that people with ADHD truly want to succeed but struggle to initiate and complete what others may consider “simple” tasks.
Even sorting through mail or answering an email can be daunting because it requires a lot more sustained mental energy for someone with this condition.
This myth can be especially harmful as these judgments can leave people with a sense of failure, which can progress to poor self-esteem and lacking confidence to pursue ventures in life.
Myth 4: Having ADHD ‘isn’t that serious’
While ADHD isn’t life-threatening, it can have serious implications on a person’s overall quality of life. People with ADHD are more likely to have anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders compared to the general population.
Meanwhile, one common experience among my patients with ADHD is that it’s difficult to keep up with work responsibilities and they’re constantly monitored or on probation.
This means 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.
Folks with ADHD may require more time to complete tasks in order to thrive. Unfortunately, while these sorts of accommodations may be available in educational settings — think longer test-taking time or quiet exam rooms — employers may not be as willing to accommodate.
Myth 5: ADHD isn’t a real medical disorder
Research has demonstrated differences between a brain with ADHD and one without it, in addition to differences in how brain chemicals such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and glutamate operate.
The parts of the brain involved especially impact our “executive functions,” such as planning, organizing, and initiating tasks.
The bottom line
As it stands, individuals with ADHD are often judged and unfairly labelled. Moreover, they often find accommodations aren’t made in order for them to be successful, aren’t diagnosed early enough, and come up against those in society who don’t believe ADHD is even a condition.
For these reasons and more, the myths that surround ADHD need dispelling if we’re to raise awareness about this condition and provide folks within the community with what they need to succeed in all aspects of their lives.
If you or someone you know has ADHD, you can find more information and support here.
Dr. Vania Manipod, DO, is a board-certified psychiatrist, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Western University of Health Sciences, and currently in private practice in Ventura, California. She believes in a holistic approach to psychiatry that incorporates psychotherapeutic techniques, diet, and lifestyle, in addition to medication management when indicated. Dr. Manipod has built an international following on social media based on her work to reduce the stigma of mental health, particularly through her Instagram and blog, Freud & Fashion. Moreover, she has spoken nationwide on topics such as burnout, traumatic brain injury, and social media.