12 Myths about ADHD

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Since I was diagnosed with ADHD in early 2019, I’ve seen and heard so many myths and misconceptions about ADHD.  I’m on a mission to try and combat some of the stigma, stereotypes and negativity that comes with having ADHD.  

To get started, here are 12 myths about ADHD.  

Myth #1: ADHD isn’t a real condition

Since the 1970s there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the existence of ADHD.  However, today it is now widely recognised as a brain-disorder with symptoms including inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness, to name a few.  

With an estimated 1.5 million adults in the UK living with the condition, it’s far from made-up!

Myth #2: ADHD is a childhood disorder

It’s a common misconception that ADHD only affects children. 

Although symptoms are often noticed during childhood, ADHD can continue into adulthood.  ADHD wasn’t recognised as an adult condition until 2008, which means many adults haven’t been on the radar and haven’t received any treatment or care.  

It’s estimated that ADHD affects 5% of children and 3% of adults in the UK (Source: ADHD Action).  Some people believe that the lower percentage of adults with ADHD actually reflects that some adults with ADHD are “masking” their symptoms, rather than growing out of the condition.

Myth #3: ADHD only affects boys

ADHD doesn’t discriminate against gender.  

Boys with ADHD can sometimes stand out more with their symptoms, showing classic signs of hyperactive and ‘misbehaving’, whereas girls often (not always!) demonstrate more subtle signs of ADHD where they’ve often ‘daydreaming’, ‘ditzy’ or don’t stop talking.  

Evidence suggests that girls may be better at  masking their symptoms too.

It can also be down to those around them and how they ‘tolerate’ the symptoms shown.

Myth #4: ADHD is down to bad parenting

It’s easy for people looking from the outside to think that ADHD behaviour is down to bad parenting.  However, ADHD is a brain-based biological disorder.  

Research has been carried out looking at brain imagery.  There are also studies looking into the genetics of the condition. These show that a child with ADHD is four times more likely to have a relative also living with the condition.  There is absolutely no evidence that indicates ADHD behaviour is down to bad parenting!

Myth #5: People with ADHD just need to try harder

At some point in our lives, most of us have been told we need to ‘just try harder’.  It’s such a damaging thing to say to someone with ADHD, making us feel like we’re failing.  As Albert Einstein once wrote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  

The differences in the brain in someone with ADHD make it fundamentally more difficult to achieve certain tasks.  We could liken it to someone asking a person who is short sighted to look harder. 

Myth #6: Everyone with ADHD is hyperactive

When it comes to ADHD, no symptoms,diagnosis, or even treatment is the same for each person.  Where one person with ADHD might be fidgety, can’t sit still, always on the go, another might struggle to pay attention, be forgetful or find it difficult to follow instructions.  

Some ADHDers can suffer with other cofactors, one in particular being Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) with the persistent state of feeling tired and having no energy.

Myth #7: People with ADHD can’t focus

Whilst lack of focus can be a tell-tale sign of ADHD, it doesn’t mean that people living with ADHD can’t focus on anything…

It can be difficult to focus on certain tasks or situations. However, at some point most ADHDers experience hyperfocus where they have a deep and intense concentration for something that interests them.  

ADHDers also tend to prioritise using an interest-based attention system rather than what might needs to be done.  So, whilst dull mundane tasks can be difficult to avoid distractions and get the job done, working on projects that spark their interest is difficult to get them away from!  

Myth #8: ADHD is diagnosed in childhood

Unfortunately, many adults living with ADHD are either undiagnosed or aren’t diagnosed until later in life.  It’s estimated there are approximately 1.5 million adults in the UK living with the condition, but according to ADHD Action, only 120,000 are formally diagnosed.

I’ve been there myself.  I’ve lived with ADHD all my life but wasn’t diagnosed until the age of 43.

This can be partly due to the condition not being officially recognised as an adulthood condition until 2008, but also the lack of awareness and process in trying to get a formal diagnosis.

Myth #9: Everyone with ADHD faces the same symptoms and struggles

Whilst some ADHDers may at some point have similar symptoms to another, each person is unique and their personality traits and experiences entirely different.  Symptoms can differ, our individual circumstances are different, how we react to things is different, as well as cofactors and individual responses to treatment and therapy. 

Myth #10: ADHD can be cured

As far as we know, there is no such cure for ADHD, and even if there were, many of us would not want to give up the advantages that come with the downsides of the condition.  It’s about finding tranquillity and acceptance to improve your quality of life.

Myth #11: People with ADHD are stupid and will never amount to anything

This is a far cry from the truth.  In fact, many of the brilliant and creative minds in our history were thought to have been living with ADHD. These include the likes of Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Picasso, Shakespeare and Mozart.

Myth #12: Medication is the only way to treat ADHD

In some cases, medication can be enough to help with symptoms of ADHD.  However, it’s not for everyone and doesn’t always help with symptoms or cofactors associated with the condition.  Each person responds differently to treatment so it’s important to find a method that works for you. 

What other myths have you heard during your journey?  I’d love to hear from you.