In my 15 years working to support, educate and counsel those touched by ADHD, we in the field have made some ground in de-bunking ADHD myths. But we still have a long way to go.
Below are common ADHD myths that I and many others, work hard to debunk:
1. Myth: ADHD is not a real disorder.
Fact: The American Psychiatric Society recognized AD/HD as a medical diagnosis in
1980. It is listed in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) which is the official mental health "bible" used by psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose psychiatric and other brain disorders.
2. Myth: Children outgrow their ADHD.
Fact: The great majority of children with ADHD continue to exhibit symptoms of ADHD into adulthood. More than 70% continue to have symptoms of ADHD into adolescence and at least 50% will continue to have it as adults, though many clinicians feel this estimate is low.
3. Myth: All people with ADHD are hyperactive and/or impulsive.
Fact: There are three subtypes of ADHD: a) hyperactivity/impulsivity
b) inattentive c) combined.
The inattentive subtype typically does not include hyperactivity/impulsivity.
4. Myth: Medications used for ADHD (stimulants) are highly addictive.
Fact: When used as directed, stimulants are very safe to use in both children and adults. In fact, studies are finding that those diagnosed with ADHD who are not being appropriately treated with medications, often self-medicate using substances that can be addicting.
5. Myth: ADHD is caused by poor or inconsistent parenting.
Fact: ADHD is a neurobiological condition, often inherited. Parenting children with ADHD can be very challenging, causing much guilt for parents who are unsure how to best handle children who are hyperactive and impulsive. But parenting styles do not cause ADHD.
6. Myth: Sugar causes hyperactivity.
Fact: Earlier studies have debunked that myth, showing that children who seem to become more hyperactive while consuming a lot of sugar are often at parties and at other activities that stimulate them and their activity level. However, there is a small sub-set of children, approximately 1-3% that do seem to have food additive sensitivities.
7. Myth: Children and adults with ADHD have lower IQs.
Fact: People with ADHD do not have lower (or higher) IQs than the general public.
8. Myth: Children with ADHD are over-medicated.
Fact: Though more children are taking stimulants for ADHD than before, researchers believe this is due to clinicians identifying more children with ADHD who have been missed in previous years. In addition, it's only been in recent years that more girls have been identified as having ADHD and thus receiving treatment for it.
9. Myth: There are fewer girls with ADHD and they are less impaired than boys with ADHD.
Fact: It's believed that there are as many girls with ADHD as boys, but that they are less frequently identified and treated. Studies show that in some areas, girls with ADHD are more impaired than their male counterparts, in that in addition to their ADHD, they also more likely to struggle with substance abuse, anxiety and panic. Compared to non-ADHD girls, they have an increase in mood and conduct disorders and are more impaired in family, social and school functioning.