You have probably heard it at some time or another: Someone, who doesn’t have ADHD, but can’t find their keys or forgets an appointment jokes, “Oh, I am so ADD today” But jokes such as these are insulting because they minimize the impact of ADHD on people’s lives.
For many years, those with ADHD fought the misconception from many that “ADHD wasn’t a real disorder.” While there are still a few medical professionals and people who hold this view, their numbers have greatly decreased. Today, ADHD is an accepted medical diagnosis, and it is understood that symptoms can cause many problems in daily life and can sometimes be debilitating.
When someone without ADHD has an “off” day, and all have those from time to time (running late for work, forgetting appointments or losing items such as your keys or wallet) it usually signifies that the mind is otherwise occupied. You might be thinking about a problem at work, your sick child or simply the many tasks on your to-do list. It happens. It’s human. But to laugh it off to say, “I am so ADD today,” minimizes the very real struggles that adults with ADHD go through every day.It becomes much deeper than a joke in that It simplifies ADHD to a minor annoyance rather than a disorder that can impact every aspect of life.
Life with ADHD
Both children and adults with ADHD work hard each day to overcome forgetfulness, difficulty focusing, constant feelings of restlessness or hyperactivity, and problems associated with impulsivity. These added impulsivity problems can manifest as car accidents, speeding tickets or impulsive shopping.
Due to its effect on interpersonal matters, ADHD can cause problems in relationships and adults with ADHD often have moved from job to job throughout their lives. Many people with ADHD have problems with social skills, self-confidence and have a higher risk of developing other conditions such as depression or anxiety. Those living with ADHD may have spent their life feeling “less than” or inferior to classmates, friends, co-workers.
It’s important to keep in mind that those with ADHD don’t have “off” days where forgetfulness occurs. Instead forgetfulness is part of their daily life. ADHD isn’t something they deal with once in awhile, it is there every minute of every day.** But it’s just a joke**
Too often, when you, or someone with ADHD, gets offended by remarks such as these (or maybe the squirrel joke as well), is that the other person is likely to come back with “But, it is just a joke.” This means that you shouldn’t be offended because it wasn’t meant to be insulting. After all, it was...just a joke.
The problem with this rationale is that insulting remarks shouldn’t be used as jokes. Suppose you said to your neighbor, “Wow, that’s quite a large nose you have,” and then when they looked offended, you said, “Oh, it was just a joke.” Would that make it okay to have insulted this person? Similarly, making fun of ADHD and ignoring the big picture produces the same conclusion: It should not be okay, just because it is a joke.
A ripple effectEven within the ADHD community, there are different responses. Some people feel that the phrase, “cheapens the diagnosis of ADHD” and “** makes it harder for someone with legitimate problems and other illnesses to find help****.**” Others such as some within Facebook Communities have commented, “it only bothers me when people think we have a made up disease because so many people use it as a joke.” This Facebook member explains that she has met people who try to do too much, never succeed at anything and then say they have ADHD (even if they don’t) - to use it as an excuse for not meeting deadlines or neglecting their responsibilities.
As I was taught when I was young, “If even one person is offended, it isn’t a joke, it is an insult.” ADHD, like many other chronic conditions, causes daily struggles. It is a serious medical condition and should be treated as such. Those who seek to use it as a joke contribute to the negative stigma surrounding ADHD.
See more helpful articles on living with adult ADHD:
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of Idiot's Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot's Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love and Essential Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. She can be found on twitter @eileenmbaileyand on Facebook at eileenmbailey.