6 Common Myths about ADHD

There are many widely-held beliefs about ADHD that can lead people to dismiss a diagnosis. In reality, ADHD is not only real, but it is also highly researched. Our understanding of the disorder is evolving, but there are some common myths that we can dispel with confidence.

Here are six reasons why people might dismiss a diagnosis, based on common myths about ADHD:

1) Doesn't everybody have ADHD these days?

Sure, most people occasionally have trouble focusing. And yes, the distractions of the modern age have exacerbated our issues with this. But, with ADHD, these challenges are above and beyond what is considered typical. With ADHD, it's that much harder to sustain attention in certain situations, despite best efforts otherwise.

Think of depression. Yes, everybody gets sad sometimes. But, clinical depression is more than simple sadness. The severity and frequency of symptoms are significant enough that it causes impairment in a person's life. The same applies with attention disorders.

2) But you're an adult, ADHD is a childhood disorder!

Most of the early research on ADHD focused on children, but the fact is, ADHD is a lifespan disorder. This is a different way your brain works, which is not something most people grow out of.

At our clinic, we see more adults than children coming in. In fact, many adults who had signs and symptoms of ADHD growing up may not get identified or diagnosed until later in life. As adults we generally have far more responsibility and far less external support. This can lead to increased difficulty managing ADHD symptoms.

3) But you're smart and successful; you can't have ADHD!

First of all, ADHD is a disorder that can impact anyone - it doesn't discriminate. There are many bright, and even gifted, individuals out there who have an ADHD diagnosis.

There are several potential scenarios to consider here. For one, a successful person with ADHD might still be struggling behind the scenes. The outcome of their professional or personal efforts might be positive, but the energy expended to get there can be overwhelming and exhausting. Second, although there are challenges with ADHD, there are also many strengths that can help individuals thrive. Lastly, with the right tools and strategies, symptoms of ADHD don't have to impair a person's life!

4) If you have ADHD, why can you focus on ______?

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a misleading name. Having ADHD doesn't actually mean you have a deficit in your attention. What ADHD actually looks like is a dysregulation of attention. When something is engaging or stimulating (like a video game), individuals with ADHD can focus, and focus well! In fact, they can often 'hyper-focus' when engaged - they zero-in on what they're doing and focus on that and only that for a long time. But, if something isn't engaging, or there's no sense of urgency, yes, it can be difficult to focus.

5) Maybe you aren't trying hard enough.

"Why don't you try harder?" This is a damaging phrase for both children and adults with ADHD. It implies laziness or negative intentions. In reality, individuals with ADHD tend to work harder than others trying to sustain their attention.

With ADHD, good intentions are often present, but the follow through is what is most challenging. As we mentioned, it's that much harder for individuals with ADHD to sustain their attention and start and finish tasks without an immediate sense of urgency or interest. If "trying harder" or "focusing more" were that easy, don't you think we would be doing it already?

6) But you're so quiet; you don't act like you have ADHD

Popular culture and generic public perception tends to portray the image of a hyperactive child when referring to ADHD. This child is usually a boy, and they're usually jumping off the walls and/or wreaking havoc in a classroom. In reality, ADHD looks different for different people.

There are many symptoms of ADHD, like inattention, that are internal and not obvious to others. And, many people with ADHD have those inattention symptoms and no others. They don't have any of the hyperactivity or impulsivity we assume comes with a diagnosis. Also, many adults who have hyperactive/impulsive symptoms tend to keep them under wraps. They might not look restless, but internally they feel like they're jumping off the walls!

As you can see, there are many myths and misunderstandings about ADHD that persist. If you have ADHD or know somebody who does, take the time to dig a bit deeper about what it looks like. You might be surprised by what you learn!

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