Just-released government statistics confirm that ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is more prevalent than ever before, increasing over the past decade from 6.9% to 9% among children ages 5 to 17. With nearly 1 in 10 kids being diagnosed with ADHD, and more adults learning they have it, too, it’s become commonplace to blame it for everything from bad behavior to a messy house. Everyone, from friends and neighbors to Hollywood celebrities, has something to say about it, much of it with no basis in science. Here to help you get your facts straight, the top 10 misconceptions about ADHD:
Myth #1: Only kids have ADHD
Although about 10% of kids 5 to 17 years old have been diagnosed with ADHD, at least 4% of adults have it, too — and probably many more, since adult ADHD is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. That’s partly because people think only kids get it.
Myth #2: All kids «outgrow» ADHD
Not nearly always. Up to 70% of children with ADHD continue to have trouble with it in adulthood, which can create relationship problems, money troubles, work strife, and a rocky family life.
Myth #3: Medication is the only treatment for ADHD
Medication can be useful in managing ADHD symptoms, but it’s not a cure. And it’s not the only treatment. Lifestyle changes, counseling, and behavior modification can significantly improve symptoms as well. Several studies suggest that a combination of ADHD treatments works best.
Myth #4: People who have ADHD are lazy and lack intelligence and willpower
This is totally not true. In fact, ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence or determination. It’s a neurobehavioral disorder caused by changes in brain chemicals and the way the brain works. It presents unique challenges, but they can be overcome — which many successful people have done. Even Albert Einstein is said to have had symptoms of ADHD.
Myth #5: ADHD isn’t a real disorder
Not so. Doctors and mental-health professionals agree that ADHD is a biological disorder that can significantly impair functioning. An imbalance in brain chemicals affects brain areas that regulate behavior and emotion. This is what produces ADHD symptoms.
Myth #6: Bad parenting causes ADHD
Absolutely not! ADHD symptoms are caused by brain-chemical imbalances (see #4 and #5) that make it hard to pay attention and control impulses. Good parenting skills help children deal with their symptoms.
Myth #7: Kids with ADHD are always hyper
Not always. ADHD comes in three «flavors»: predominantly inattentive; predominantly hyperactive-impulsive; and combined, which is a mix of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms. Although kids with hyperactive-impulsive or combined ADHD may be fidgety and restless, kids with inattentive ADHD are not hyper.
Myth #8: Too much TV time causes ADHD
Not really. But spending excessive amounts of time watching TV or playing video games could trigger the condition in susceptible individuals. And in kids and teens who already have ADHD, spending hours staring at electronic screens may make symptoms worse.
Myth #9: If you can focus on certain things, you don’t have ADHD
It’s not that simple. Although it’s true that people with ADHD have trouble focusing on things that don’t interest them, there’s a flip side to the disorder. Some people with ADHD get overly absorbed in activities they enjoy. This symptom is called hyperfocus. It can help you be more productive in activities that you like, but you can become so focused that you ignore responsibilities you don’t like.
Myth #10: ADHD is overdiagnosed
Nope. If anything, ADHD is underdiagnosed and undertreated. Many children with ADHD grow up to be adults with ADHD. The pressures and responsibilities of adulthood often exacerbate ADHD symptoms, leading adults to seek evaluation and help for the first time. Also, parents who have children with ADHD may seek treatment only after recognizing similar symptoms in themselves.