At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice.Gore Vital
As in my last post, I would like to preface my mental illness blog series with another informational post about ADHD myths. There are a lot of false beliefs and misinformation about ADHD (and ADHD medications) that float around in our world. I believed many of them before I learned more about ADHD, first with my daughter and then with myself. I will talk about what I’ve learned about what ADHD is in my next post, but I want to make sure that we’re all on the same page when it comes to the facts.
Without further ado…
ADHD Myth: ADHD isn’t real.
We’ve all heard it. ADHD isn’t real. It’s just a myth created by drug companies. It’s just an excuse for lazy parents. If it were *their* kid, they wouldn’t ever do x, y, z. “I had ADHD, too, until my dad’s belt came off!” Regardless of reasoning, some people don’t believe ADHD is a real thing.
Fact: ADHD is very real.
ADHD is a biologically based brain disorder. It affects nearly 15 million people, 11% of children and 5% of adults. It is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, The National Institutes on Health, and The Centers for Disease Control. It is believed to have some link to heredity; 1 in 4 people with ADHD have a parent with ADHD.
Research suggests that it is a result of an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain and studies suggest you can see brain differences in imaging scans, but scientists still don’t ultimately know what the biological causes are. The earliest recorded reports of ADHD-like symptoms in children appeared in the 1700’s.
Myth: Only boys have ADHD.
Fact: Both boys and girls can have ADHD.
Though boys are twice as likely than girls to be diagnosed, girls are more likely to go undiagnosed or be misdiagnosed. Girls with ADHD tend to present differently and develop different coping mechanisms than boys. Without many of the “outward” signs of ADHD, their struggles are often missed by the adults in their life.
I started seeing my first therapist for behavioral problems in 1991, at the age of 9 years old. I was in therapy again just a couple of years later, again for behavioral issues. As an adult, I saw dozens of providers over time, often begging for answers. They *all* missed my ADHD. They missed it until I was 38 years old. Now that I understand ADHD, it’s *super* obvious that I have it and they *all* missed it.
Myth: All people with ADHD are hyper.
Fact: Not all people with ADHD are hyper and some experience the opposite effect.
While hyperactivity is certainly a symptom for a lot of people with ADHD, it is not for all of us. In fact, for a lot of people, hyperactivity tends to decrease with age. ADHD-Inattentive doesn’t have any effect on activity levels at all and often results in the opposite, chronic fatigue. This misconception can be held even within the ADHD community.
Myth: People with ADHD can’t focus on anything, ever.
Fact: People with ADHD don’t have a deficit of attention, so much as issues regulating their attention.
As I mentioned in my hobbies post and my glossary post, people with ADHD often have an abundance of focus. We often have trouble stopping focus to take care of our other responsibilities and needs. While we do get distracted easily, especially when trying to do tasks that are not stimulating to our brains, once we reach hyperfocus mode there is little that can pull us away from the task at hand.
Myth: Kids with ADHD will outgrow it.
Fact: It is unlikely that kids with ADHD will outgrow it.
As children grow into adults, they develop coping skills (some healthy and some not) that will make their ADHD symptoms more manageable and less apparent. However, recent research seems to suggest that nearly 85% of children will still struggle with some or all of their ADHD symptoms into adulthood, if left untreated.
This was one of the myths that I believed, before I found out about my own ADHD. From the time she was 2 or 3 years old, I watched my child struggle *every day.* At home, at school, to follow the rules, to follow any kind of directions. Before she was on medication, there were days that she struggled for any ounce of control over herself and her impulses. It was heartbreaking.
I held out hope that she would be one of the lucky ones that “grow out of it.” I know now that she can still live a happy and productive life, I just have to help her learn the tools that she needs to adjust in this world with what will likely be a life-long disorder.
Myth: ADHD is the result of bad parenting and can be “disciplined” away.
Fact: ADHD is caused by brain differences, not bad parenting.
You cannot discipline the ADHD out of a child’s brain. It is not possible and it is only more damaging to the child. Impulse control is a real issue and they often cannot control themselves, especially before they are old enough to develop useful coping skills and learn deeper emotional regulation. If a parent is too strict on their child, it can cause ADHD symptoms to get worse, creating a vicious cycle for the child.
Myth: Children who take medication are more likely to be drug addict.
Fact: Children with untreated ADHD are more likely to have substance abuse issues into adulthood.
ADHD medications and treatment have been used for over 50 years and have been proven to be safe and effective.
Myth: ADHD is over-diagnosed.
Fact: While there is a slight increase in cases each year, the average in each world region remains around 5-6% of the population around the board.
This is likely due to increased awareness and education, decreased stigma, and better diagnostic tools. ADHD is not new, being recorded back to the 1700s, and it is not a purely American or Western disorder. It appears in all age groups, in all countries around the world.
Check back for more updates!
I promised 8 busted ADHD Myths and I hope that I delivered and enlightened. That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope that you learned something new about ADHD today and I hope that you keep checking back for the next blog in the series. Next up: ADHD: What is it really?
Love and light. Keep fighting the good fight!