7 Things You Shouldn't Say to Someone with ADHD

Eileen Bailey | Sep 15th 2015 Apr 10th 2017

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Chances are, you know someone with ADHD. It might be someone in your family, someone you work with or a friend. It’s also highly likely that this person has heard many different perspectives on ADHD since his or her diagnosis. Some comments might be supportive; others are well-meaning but ignorant of the facts. These types of comments, even when meant kindly, can hurt. The following are 7 things you shouldn’t say to someone with ADHD.

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“You have ADHD? At your age?”

It used to be thought that ADHD was a “childhood disorder.” We now know that children with ADHD grow up to be adults with ADHD - it doesn’t magically disappear. Some people with ADHD learn to compensate for and live with symptoms, some symptoms do mellow out so they aren’t so apparent. But many people with ADHD continue to struggle throughout their lives.

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“But you aren’t hyper.”

There are two reasons an adult with ADHD might not be hyperactive. One is that inattentive type ADHD doesn’t include hyperactivity - the main symptom is the inability to focus. The second reason is that hyperactivity is one of the symptoms that tends to change. In young children it might show up as always running around, jumping and never sitting still. In adults hyperactivity can show up as a general feeling of restlessness or being fidgety.

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“ADHD is just a way for big-pharma to make more money.”

ADHD is a documented disorder. Study after study has proved its existence and it is recognized around the world. It is true that pharmaceutical companies make money on medications for ADHD but it is just as true that many people with ADHD are helped by those medications. They help to provide a better quality of life for those who struggle with symptoms in their daily life.

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“Do you take medication? Can I try one?”

First, it isn’t anyone’s business whether someone chooses to take medication for ADHD. That is a decision made by the individual and his or her doctor. Second, you should never ask someone if you can have medication that hasn’t been prescribed to you just because you think it sounds like a good idea. Many medications for ADHD are controlled substances which means sharing them with others is a federal offense.

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“Everyone has a little ADHD.”

ADHD isn’t something you can have some days and not have other days. It is true that everyone is a little forgetful sometimes but that is completely different from ADHD. It is diagnosed based on having numerous symptoms, not just inattention or hyperactivity and whether these symptoms interfere with daily life. If someone is diagnosed with ADHD it means symptoms caused problems, not that he or she occasionally found it difficult to focus.

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“I think ADHD is overdiagnosed.”

There are probably some people (children and adults) who have been diagnosed with ADHD but don’t have it. This might occur because of misdiagnosis, for example, some might have a different disorder or illness. Overall, however, experts don’t believe thatADHD is overdiagnosed, in fact, some experts believe it is underdiagnosed.

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“ADHD is used as an excuse for bad behavior.”

This is the same as saying “you are lazy or you just don’t try hard enough.” Most people with ADHD do try and use a great deal of energy just trying to stay organized. One possible reason for this statement is that ADHD can be inconsistent. Those with ADHD might have a day where they are focused and then the next day they can’t seem to pay attention for more than a few minutes.