Have you ever encountered the numerous myths surrounding ADHD since starting your journey with your child? How many false stories and fabricated news articles that exist about this condition is astounding. Regrettably, some individuals, who lack expertise on the subject but think they are the guru of it, tend to believe and repeat these misconceptions. They may even recite them to you at any given chance *insert eye roll. Therefore, I have compiled a list of the top 8 myths about ADHD that I have come across.
1. ADHD is not real
Oh, how adorably ignorant it is to claim that ADHD is not a real medical disorder. For our children who suffer from the condition, I’m always thrilled to hear someone dismiss their struggles as nothing more than a myth. However, multiple studies have confirmed the neurological underpinnings of ADHD and its impacts on an individual’s executive function. So, unless they fancy themselves as experts in neuroscience or simply enjoy peddling misinformation for kicks, it’s probably best they refrain from perpetuating this silly myth about ADHD being fake.
2. ADHD is due to bad parenting
Well, well, well – looks like we’re debunking another baseless myth! The whole “ADHD is due to bad parenting” notion is about as true as unicorns existing (spoiler alert: they don’t). Let’s just take a look at the facts here, folks. ADHD is a neurological disorder that affects brain development and chemical activity. That means it’s not caused by helicopter parents hovering over their kids or tiger mums pushing them too hard. Sure, parenting can play a role in managing symptoms, but it certainly isn’t the root cause of the disorder. In fact, overly strict, disciplinarian parenting can make the symptoms of ADHD worse. So let’s put this one to rest for good and focus on supporting those with ADHD instead of blaming their parents for something out of anyone’s control.
3. ADHD only affects boys
The age-old myth that ADHD only affects boys. I mean, come on people, did we fall asleep in biology class or what? ADHD doesn’t discriminate based on gender – it’s an equal-opportunity brain disorder. In fact, research has suggested that girls are just as likely to have ADHD as boys but often go undiagnosed. ADHD in girls can look different to boys as they tend to have less trouble with hyperactivity and impulse control than boys. They may be more inattentive. Obviously, this is not always the case, my daughter ‘presents like a boy’, which is probably why she got her diagnosis so easily. So, next time someone spews out this myth, kindly remind them that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is not a boy’s club and anyone can be affected. It’s time to ditch the stereotypes and acknowledge the realities of mental health.
4. ADHD is over-diagnosed
The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have had a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents with ADHD. I can honestly say I didn’t realise quite how bad my son’s ADHD was until I had to try and home-school him. He literally could not sit still. He’d answer one question and need a movement break. It was horrendous! I’m sure I’m not the only parent who had suspicions and then saw first-hand how their child was in lockdown! I pushed for a CAMH appointment as soon as I could.
There is also the raised awareness now. When people say, ‘ADHD wasn’t around in my day’, it was! It just wasn’t acknowledged. The children who had it were berated for something they could not control! The rise of social media platforms such as TikTok, where ADHD is the 7th highest trending hashtag, has raised awareness of the disorder. It doesn’t mean that people are being ‘influenced’ to have ADHD. It means that people are becoming aware of why they or their child behaves the way they do. Which is a huge positive! Add to this celebrities and influencers announcing their ADHD diagnoses this has also contributed to public awareness. Again, a great positive.
5. ADHD is over-medicated and dulls children
Soooooo untrue! It is a common misconception that children with ADHD are “drugged” into submission when taking medication. The majority of ADHD medications are actually stimulants, rather than sedatives. They work by increasing the transmission of dopamine signals in the brain, which ultimately leads to improved brain functioning and an increased ability to pay attention and control behaviour. Even non-stimulant medications work by improving signalling by norepinephrine and enhancing the brain’s ability to process signals. My son’s teacher was so impressed by how my son reacted to taking medication. She said that she still had the cheeky lil chappy he always was before but he can now sit still for longer periods of time and access the work. Win-Win for us.
As far as over-medicated, or that the large pharmaceutical companies have made up ADHD just to maximise their profits… seriously?! We don’t blame Specsavers for making children wear more glasses, do we?! We don’t suggest that people with vision issues have therapy or that their parents attend a parenting course to rectify their child’s vision. (I am not suggesting that therapy and parenting courses are not helpful, but they are not always enough). A large percentage of children with ADHD are helped by the use of medication. As are a large percentage of children with diabetes who require insulin. You wouldn’t expect them to try harder to not need insulin, would you?
6. Children grow out of ADHD
Oh, the infamous myth that children can simply “grow out” of ADHD! Let’s put an end to this zany notion once and for all. While it’s true that some symptoms of ADHD may lessen, this is hardly a guarantee. In fact, up to 60% of children with ADHD continue to exhibit symptoms into adulthood. So no, it’s not like they’ll sprout up taller and suddenly become masterful at time management or impulse control. We need to stop perpetuating this idea that ADHD isn’t a lifelong condition because it absolutely can be. The good news? With proper diagnosis, treatment, and support, individuals with ADHD can lead happy, productive lives regardless of their age.
7. Kids with ADHD can’t focus and are hyperactive
Oh, how wrong is the notion that all kids with ADHD are hyperactive and can’t focus? It’s like assuming that all cats love milk or that all dogs can fetch. There are three subtypes of ADHD: hyperactive-impulsive, inattentive, and combined type. While the first subtype may exhibit restless and impulsive behaviour, the second subtype struggles with maintaining attention and staying organized. The combined type includes both symptoms. So it’s not wise to box every child with ADHD under one category of “hyperactive.” My son and daughter display very differently and they both have the combined type.
8. Kids with ADHD just need to try harder
Ah, the classic misconception that kids with ADHD simply need to try harder. This is about as helpful as telling someone with a broken leg to just walk it off. ADHD being a neurobiological disorder means it affects how the brain functions. It’s not a matter of lack of effort or motivation, but rather a difficulty to focus on certain tasks, hyper-focus on others, and control impulses consistently. Asking someone with ADHD to “try harder” is like asking them to magically rewire their own brain, good luck with that! Children with ADHD are trying hard every single day just to keep up. They have to work twice as hard as everyone else just to accomplish certain tasks that most people take for granted. Children with ADHD need support and understanding instead of blame for things beyond their control.
So, those are my top 8 myths about ADHD, I would love to hear some of yours! Please comment below.