ADHD: Fact and Fiction
October 2021 is ADHD awareness month. To support the movement and promote awareness, RMA presents to you a short summary of ADHD: fact and fiction.
Myth: ADHD does not exist
From time to time, it is said that ADHD is a myth. Nothing could be further from the truth. Going back as far as 1775, there have been articles (more than 100,000!) in science journals on ADHD (and its precursor labels).
To qualify as a disorder, a condition must meet the following criteria:
1. Consist of a failure or severe deficiency in the functioning of a mental ability and
2. This failure or deficiency is producing harm to the individual.
Research can show that ADHD meets both these standards, which means it is very real.
Myth: People with ADHD just cannot concentrate
While it is true that people with ADHD can be easily distracted and impulsive, someone with ADHD can focus intently on an activity. In fact, there is a state called “hyperfocus” in which the person focuses their attention so heavily on the task at hand that they lose track of their surroundings! People with ADHD have a different mental and emotional system of deciding what to do and when to do it. Mainly, they prioritize tasks according to their emotional importance. As a result, individuals with ADHD more easily concentrate on those things that are challenging, rewarding, and fast-moving.
Myth: Only boys have ADHD
While boys are diagnosed two to three times as often as girls, about 4.2% of girls have received a diagnosis of ADHD at some point in their life. That is a fairly big percentage. Boys are also more likely to be diagnosed early in life.
Researchers are currently investigating whether there is an actual difference in frequency of the condition between males and females or whether differences in rates of diagnoses are due to other factors, such as gender bias or variations in the types of symptoms that are seen. For example, girls may instead be diagnosed with the Predominantly Inattentive Presentation of the condition. Inattentive symptoms can easily be overlooked or misunderstood and are less likely to lead to the matter being referred to a doctor or psychiatrist. Inattentive symptoms, are less likely to cause a classroom disturbance that gets the teachers’ attention, so the teacher is not motivated to deal more aggressively with the problem.
Myth: ADHD is caused by bad parenting
Parents do not cause ADHD. Instead, the disorder results from a whole host of environmental and genetic risk factors. The perception that parents cause ADHD comes from the fact that many children with ADHD misbehave. Misbehaviour is often blamed on bad parenting, but when a child with ADHD is misbehaving it’s often because his or her condition is not being properly catered to in the classroom. Scientific studies have consistently discovered that the causes of ADHD symptoms stem from 1) the genes we inherit and 2) the adverse environments that we are exposed to.
Myth: All children grow out of ADHD
While some children may recover from ADHD by their late to early twenties, the symptoms and difficulties often continue into adulthood in 50 – 86% of cases. In the 1970s, ADHD was generally considered to be a disorder that is limited to childhood. This was simply because it was primarily identified by excess movement or hyperactivity. As we learn more about ADHD and its symptoms, it becomes clearer that these symptoms often follow people into adulthood.
Myth: Everyone has a little ADHD
Everyone does not have a physical difference in their brain. So, when someone says that everyone has a “little ADHD” in them, they more likely mean that everyone has moments of distraction. While the statement is not meant to be hurtful, it can end up being dismissive of the real struggles people with ADHD go through every day. The symptoms of ADHD exist within a spectrum of typical human behaviour. There can be many reasons for being late to class, losing keys, or dropping a difficult task for something more fun and stimulating. With ADHD, the reason is neurological. It is not a choice, a fluke, or a bad day.
People with ADHD need compassion and understanding, and educating ourselves on the condition is the first step to attaining that. Also, ADHD need not hold anyone back. There are several very successful figures that identify as having ADHD. That includes the likes of Will Smith, Stevie Wonder and Sir Richard Branson!