In a recent government survey, 1 in 10 kids was said to have ADHD, a sizable increase from a few years earlier that researchers think might be explained by growing awareness and better screening.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been the subject of scrutiny in recent years due to the perception that it’s a faux disorder. A patient isn’t diagnosed after an X-ray or blood test, but rather with a behavioral evaluation that considers his or her unique situation. The lack of physical evidence fuels the skeptics despite the fact that many of them lack experience in dealing with the disorder. Just ask a parent of a child or an adult who suffers from ADHD, and they’ll tell you that it’s more than just the occasional loss of concentration — it hinders their ability to function to their potential, in school and social situations. The following myths have been perpetuated by people who don’t understand ADHD but have been debunked by doctors, mental health professionals and people who live with the disorder.
- ADHD isn’t a real problem: It’s a common opinion that disorders like ADHD were devised by drug companies in order to make a few extra bucks, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it’s a recognized disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American Medical Association (AMA), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a majority of national psychiatric and psychological organizations. Acknowledgment of ADHD is almost unanimous by mental health professionals and researchers who have studied it.
- ADHD is an excuse: As previously mentioned, ADHD is a legitimate disorder, and one that can hinder a person’s ability to reach their full academic and personal potential. Symptoms include: difficulty focusing on one thing, difficulty learning something new or completing a task, listening problems, general confusion and disorganization, the inability to sit still, the constant desire to be in motion, excessive talking, the inability to remain quiet for even short periods of time, and poor impulse control. A comprehensive list of symptoms is available by clicking the link.
- Strict discipline can solve childhood ADHD-caused problems: Many people claim that strict discipline can solve a child’s behavioral problems caused by ADHD. Some skeptics tend to view it as a generational problem, asserting that children are spoiled and need to be more harshly punished for their actions. The truth of the matter is that children with ADHD lack sufficient impulse control and excessive punishment can prove damaging to their mental health. And while it’s important to set clear expectations and establish structure, it’s also essential that parents remain patient with their children.
- All ADHD sufferers are hyperactive: Although constant hyperactivity is the primary problem associated with ADHD, it’s not the only symptom. Inattentive-type ADHD, or ADHD without the “H,” has become more recognized by the medical community in recent years. A person can control their impulses while being inattentive, which can lead to substandard academic performance. Even shyness is characteristic of inattentive-type ADHD sufferers; children with the disorder require positive attention, as low self-esteem may become an issue.
- ADHD indicates a lack of intelligence: A Yale report published in 2009 showed that about three of four people with ADHD and an IQ score of more than 120 experienced difficulties with memory and cognitive tests. On the other hand, people without ADHD with similar IQ scores didn’t have as many problems. ADHD doesn’t discriminate based on IQ score. People of all intelligence levels have it; many just need assistance in harnessing their capabilities.
- ADHD medication causes a drugged feeling: A doctor or mental health specialist will determine the appropriate treatment for ADHD based on the unique needs of the patient. Side effects are closely monitored and if a medication has an adverse effect, the dosage will be lowered or it will be changed to something more suitable. The stimulant that’s typically prescribed comes in different forms, including capsule, pill, patch and liquid. Some have short-term effects while others have long-term effects. In short, there’s not one treatment that’s applied to everyone.
- ADHD can be diagnosed through a medication trial: Psychostimulants have the same effect on people without ADHD as they do on people with ADHD, so a noticeable difference in behavior subsequent to taking a medication isn’t a true indicator that a person has the disorder. A person who thinks they may have ADHD should consult a doctor or mental health specialist, and he or she will make an assessment with the assistance of diagnostic criteria established by the American Psychiatric Association, or the American Academy of Pediatrics if a child is being examined.
- ADHD diagnoses have become too common: According to the CDC, just three to seven percent of school-aged children had ADHD in 2006. Between 1997 and 2006, diagnoses of ADHD increased by an average of just three percent each year. A 2005 report by the CDC indicated that 4.4 million children aged four to 17 were diagnosed with the disorder, and just 2.5 million of them were prescribed medication. What’s more, many medical professionals and researchers assert that girls and minorities are underdiagnosed.
- ADHD is limited to children: Many children who endure ADHD still battle it well into adulthood, and many adults will be diagnosed for the first time years after they’ve entered the real word. Instead of forgetting homework assignments, failing to complete in-class assignments and inefficiently studying, they may forget an appointment, produce at a slower rate than their peers, and exhibit a general lack of preparation. In many cases, the result is job instability and a lack of career fulfillment, which can affect their overall quality of life. Adults who think they may have ADHD shouldn’t hesitate to visit a doctor or mental health specialist.
- People with ADHD can’t succeed: The lengthy list of talented people who have ADHD includes 14-time gold medalist Michael Phelps, four-time Super Bowl champion Terry Bradshaw, Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea, and Virgin Group founder and billionaire Richard Branson. Additionally, great innovators, thinkers and leaders from the past are said to have shown symptoms of the disorder, like Albert Einstein, Beethoven, Charles Schwab and John Lennon. Given the sheer amount of people who have overcome ADHD to achieve their dreams, it’s clear that it doesn’t have to be an impediment to success.
Contributor: Jasmine Hall
CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is the nation’s leading non-profit organization serving individuals with AD/HD and their families. In Jacksonville, you can contact your local chapter for more information. Click here.
Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier teens.