When I talk about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD for short, invariably I get all kinds of comments. Many times, those beliefs are incorrect. Unfortunately, people continue to harbor many inaccurate beliefs and so we need to address these myths and instead offer facts to you.
- ADHD isn’t a real medical disorder.
ADHD has been recognized as a legitimate diagnosis by major medical, psychological, and educational organizations, including the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education. The American Psychiatric Association recognizes ADHD as a medical disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the official mental health “bible” used by psychologists and psychiatrists.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (formerly known as just attention deficit disorder) is biologically based. Research shows that it’s a result of an imbalance of chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, within the brain. Its primary symptoms are inattention, impulsiveness, and, sometimes, hyperactivity.
- Don’t all kids have ADHD?
The diagnosis itself actually focuses in on specifically the problems in school, work, relationships, and self-esteem that could result due to inattentiveness and hyperactivity. Yes, children do get hyper and many times are unable to concentrate for long periods of time.
But ADHD is more severe.
This goes towards a lack of restraint, unable to sit through a whole television show, and be distracted easily with small noises or events when given tasks that require significant focus. hyperactivity is most notable as getting up frequently to walk or run around, talking excessively, running and climbing when not appropriate, and significant difficulty doing activities quietly. This is more than a little energy or distractibility.
- ADHD is a kid’s diagnosis
More than 70 percent of the individuals who have ADHD in childhood continue to have it in adolescence. Up to 50 percent will continue to have it in adulthood.
Further, although it’s been estimated that 6 percent of the adult population has ADHD, the majority of those adults remain undiagnosed, and only one in four who are diagnosed actually seek treatment. Thankfully, as stigmas of mental health are addressed, more and more people are getting the treatment they need.
- I don’t have ADHD, just ADD.
ADD became a diagnosis in 1980 but was revised as ADHD as the symptoms for inattentiveness and hyperactivity were seen to come from one possible disorder. As of today, the diagnosis of ADD does not exist, instead they are referring to ADHD. The diagnosis itself has three types: inattentiveness, hyperactivity, or mixed types.
- I can’t keep my thoughts slow, I must have ADHD.
One big component of Psychology is the need to differentiate. Something may look like ADHD in one area of life, but after further investigation, it could actually be something else. Many people who cannot focus believe it is ADHD, but the source of those racing thoughts are actually anxiety or trauma symptoms. Finding yourself unable to finish projects may seem to present as hyperactivity but manic symptoms may fit better with decreased need for sleep or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with obsessive thinking that takes away from what you are working on.
Further, substance dependency or Oppositional Defient Disorder also can present with both inattentiveness and hyperactivity.
Make sure you get a clinical diagnosis and avoid self diagnosis. Always seek a professional that can help fully differentiate and rule out all possibilities.
- You think you have ADHD, but it’s actually anxiety.
The diagnosis of ADHD is regularly given, but many ties is misdiagnosed. Do you have trouble concentrating and are you restless? Sure. But look at the source of these symptoms? If it is due to stress and anxiety, you are more likely to be struggling with an anxiety disorder. Find yourself with decreased need for sleep, recklessness, and excessive levels of energy? You may actually be having a manic episode, part of a bipolar disorder.
- ADHD medication is bad, makes you a zombie.
Most evidence from research studies suggest that levels of treating ADHD with medication are either appropriate or that ADHD is under treated (Connor 2015). According to the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) 2003–2011, of the 5.1 million children with a current diagnosis of ADHD, 69% (or 3.5 million) were taking medication for ADHD. Data from the National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement, which included over 10,000 adolescents aged 13–18, found that only 20.4% of those with ADHD received stimulants. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey report a 7.8% prevalence rate of ADHD among the 3,042 participants aged 8–15, but only about 48% of them were receiving treatment in the past 12 months. (CHADD)
- I only struggle with ADHD.
With ADHD, it is possible to have something referred to as a comorbid diagnosis or dual diagnosis. This indicates you actually have two or more diagnosis. For ADHD, it is quite comment to struggle with ADHD, Anxiety, and Depressive symptoms all at once, the later two brought on due to the ADHD symptoms.
- ADHD is the result of bad parenting.
Many mental health diagnosis have both a genetic and environmental disposition. People who struggle with ADHD actually have a significantly higher genetic component than many other diagnosis leaning away from bad parenting and more to a chemical I’m balance.
As previously stated, do not confuse Oppositional Defient Disorder or a bad attitude with ADHD. This goes well beyond learned behaviors. When a child with ADHD blurts things out or gets out of his seat in class, it’s not because he hasn’t been taught that these behaviors are wrong. It’s because he cannot control his impulses. The problem is rooted in brain chemistry, not discipline. In fact, overly strict parenting — which may involve punishing a child for things he can’t control — can actually make ADHD symptoms worse. Professional interventions, such as drug therapy, psychotherapy, and behavior modification therapy, are usually required.
- Children who take ADHD medication are more likely to abuse drugs when they become teenagers.
Actually, it’s just the opposite. Having untreated ADHD increases the risk that an individual will abuse drugs or alcohol. Appropriate treatment reduces this risk.
The medications used to treat ADHD have been proven safe and effective over more than 50 years of use. These drugs don’t cure ADHD, but they are highly effective at easing symptoms of the disorder.
What other questions or myths did we miss? Sound off in the comments below.