15 Things People with ADHD Want You to Know

5 minute read

By Christopher Brown

These days, it’s next to impossible to make it through the primary school system without encountering children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Fortunately, you can learn everything you need to know about ADHD with a search online.

Although we’ve all crossed paths with it at one point or another, the masses remain largely ignorant of its symptoms and impact. Sure, we know it affects an individual’s ability to pay attention. But as with all things, there’s way more to the story.

It’s a Real Medical Condition

For one reason or another, people just don’t believe that ADHD is an authentic medical condition, but it is. The National Institute of Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the American Psychiatric Association all agree on that. It’s a behavioral condition that affects an individual’s ability to focus, maintain a routine, organize, and adapt to change. So yes, ADHD is a real thing.

If You’ve Seen One…

There’s this belief that ADHD symptoms present themselves consistently across all patients. Also not true. ADHD diagnoses can actually be divided into three distinct subtypes. There’s the predominantly inattentive type that affects attention. There’s the predominantly hyperactive impulsive type that affects impulse and behavior. And then there’s the combined type which affects both attention and impulse control.

Not Everyone Can Outgrow It

The symptoms of ADHD tend to shine very bright in the classroom setting. But in the workplace? Not so much. It leads many people to assume that kids always out grow the disorder. It’s simply not true. By the numbers, 29% of children with ADHD still had symptoms as adults, with nearly 81% of those adults having at least one other psychiatric disorder, including substance abuse, antisocial personality disorder and more.

ADHD Affects Girls Too

Sure, ADHD is much more common in males — nearly two thirds of all cases reported are in boys — but that’s not to say that young females are in the clear. What makes things even more confusing for most people is that ADHD in females actually presents itself quite differently. Females don’t act out as much, but some researchers suggest that their attention is affected much more dramatically.

It Has Nothing to Do With Parenting

Those ignorant of the facts often focus the blame on the child’s parents. The fact remains that ADHD has more to do with genetics and neurological factors than social upbringing. Multiple twin studies on the effects of ADHD have corroborated that fact. This one in particular discovered “a strong heritable component” of up to 80%. So give the parents a break. They’re trying their best.

It’s Not Over-Diagnosed

It’s just very, very common. As with anything involving medicine, there have been a few misdiagnoses, but the numbers don’t lie. Up to 11% of children show symptoms and have been diagnosed with the disorder. In fact, of those diagnosed, 17.5% of them were not receiving treatment. So, in actuality, ADHD is properly diagnosed but undertreated.

Children Are Not Over Medicated

There’s this belief that prescribing stimulants to children suffering from ADHD is a problem. It’s not. Sure, more kids are being prescribed more medication than ever before, but multiple studies and multiple news outlets have chalked the phenomena up to better doctors. Simply put, doctors these days are just better at catching and treating the disorder than ever before. It’s a good thing, really.

It Has Nothing To Do With TV and Junk Food

The increased reliance on visual forms of entertainment and the prominence of crappy food has led many to erroneously play doctors. But there has never been any evidence that links watching too much television or playing too many video games to ADHD in children. It’s the same deal with increased exposure to sugar and junk food. It’s a baseless claim touted by individuals that think they’re doctors. It’s a belief that does way more harm than good.

ADHD Stimulant Medication Doesn’t Lead To Substance Abuse

It’s easy to sympathize with parents on this one. I mean, it can’t feel all that great loading your child up with stimulants and sending them on their merry way. But are the pills used to treat ADHD a gateway to substance abuse later in life?

No they are not. Not only has there been no evidence linking stimulant medication to addiction later in life, those that actually take their medication as prescribed exhibit lower rates of substance abuse than their non-medication taking counterparts. In fact, those that don’t take their medication tend to self-medicate with other alcohol and illicit drugs later in life.

It Has Nothing to Do With Laziness

Another common misconception is the belief that children with ADHD just need to try harder. I repeat, ADHD is a real, medically recognized disorder that affects cognitive function and behavior. It has nothing to do with a child’s work ethic. In fact, living with ADHD requires much more effort than not having it at all.

For most sufferers, functioning in a world built for those without a disorder like ADHD is a constant battle. They’ve been swimming against the current for the majority of their life.

It Has Nothing to Do With A Lack Of Intelligence

Piggybacking on the previous point, ADHD has nothing to do with a lack of intelligence either. There’s never been a scientific link between an ADHD diagnosis and one’s IQ. They just learn, work, and interact differently. So please, let the doctors be doctors.

Just Because You Can’t Focus, Doesn’t Mean You Have ADHD

We all have trouble concentrating sometimes. Relatively speaking, of course. Stress, anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, poor diet, and even boredom can all contribute to that. In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, an individual must present “at least 6 inattentive and/or 6 hyperactive/impulsive symptoms for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level.” So breathe easy, you probably don’t have ADHD.

Treating It Takes More Than Just Meds

If only treating ADHD were so simple. Sure, stimulants and non-stimulants have been shown to aid ADHD’s symptoms, but treatment of the disorder can be multi-faceted. Behavioral Therapy, counseling, and leaving written notes for reminders of daily tasks are just some of the ways in which patients combat the negative symptoms. It’s a real lifestyle changer.

It Can’t Be Cured

Some people genuinely believe that a firm parental hand can cure a child of a diagnosed mental disorder. Clearly those people have never tried to raise a child with ADHD. There are no magic words or even a magic pill that can completely erase the symptoms of ADHD in those that suffer from it. Sometimes the children outgrow the disorder and sometimes they learn to live with it as adults.

It’s Not New

There’s this belief that ADHD is a new phenomena, caused by an increased reliance on technology and a society that over-prescribes medication. Not so. ADHD was actually first described back in the mid 1800’s by author and German physician Dr. Heinrich Hoffman. Further, medical science first documented the disorder back in 1902, referring to it as minimal brain dysfunction, hyperkinetic disorder and ADD.

We may call it ADHD today, but the symptoms have never changed.

Christopher Brown