7 Common Myths About ADHD
- Published on Thursday, 19 July 2012 00:39
You would have to have been living on top of a mountain peak in the Himalayas for the past 30 years to not know about ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). It is in the newspapers, on the news, featured in television shows, and often is the punch line in comedy acts. If you have school-age children, chances are they have 1-3 students in their classroom with the disorder. In fact, few psychological conditions have generated the attention that ADHD has received in the past few years. But for all of the discussion ADHD has generated, many myths still exist regarding the disorder, causing a great deal of grief and even harm to those who must deal with it everyday.
Myth #1: ADHD isn’t a real medical disorder. ADHD is recognized by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education, and the American Psychiatric Society. ADHD is a biological based disorder which is the result of an imbalance of neurotransmitters within the brain, causing inattention, impulsivity, and sometimes hyperactivity. Recent research has linked ADHD to a lack of dopamine and/or norepinephrine, which is important to brain function. People who have it may have difficulty with memory, organization, social interaction, time management, and recall.
Myth #2: ADHD is the result of bad parenting/ bad kids. When a child with ADHD acts out, cannot sit still, speaks out of turn, or any other of the many behaviors seen in such cases, it is not because the child wasn’t taught that these behaviors were wrong. He does these things because he cannot control his impulses. ADHD kids function on a “ready, shoot, aim’ process as a result of a delay in executive functioning. Other executive functioning delays are often mistaken for laziness, lack of motivation, or lying. The problem is chemical, not behavioral, and overly strict parenting, which may involve punishing a child for doing things he cannot control, can actually make ADHD symptoms worse, and may lead to anger, depression, demoralization, and even suicide.
Myth #3: ADHD affects only boys. Girls are just as likely to have ADHD as boys. But because boys tend to react differently to the symptoms (boys would rather ignore the problem while girls will find ways to compensate) they are generally discovered at an earlier age.
Myth #4: Children with ADHD eventually outgrow it. More than 70% of the children with ADHD continue to have it in adolescence. Up to 50% will have it in adulthood. Although it’s been estimated that 6% of the adult population has ADHD, the majority of them remain undiagnosed. Yet, without help they are highly vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. They often experience problems with their career, finances, and personal relationships.
Myth #5: Children who are given special accommodations because of their ADHD are getting an unfair advantage. The Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that public schools address the special needs of all children with disabilities, including ADHD. These accommodations ‘level the playing field’ so that kids with ADHD have the same opportunity as their classmates to learn successfully. Accommodations are assigned by the parent and teacher team and are based on the child’s individual needs in the areas where the child is struggling because of his disability.
Myth #6: People who have ADHD are stupid or lazy and they are using it as an excuse. They never amount to anything. ADHD is not a disorder of ‘knowing’; it is a disorder of ‘doing’. In fact, recent studies show that people with ADHD are of above-average intelligence. They certainly aren’t lazy. Many well-known high-achieving individuals from the past are thought to have had ADHD, including Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, George Bernard Shaw, and Salvador Dali. The list of high-achieving ADDers in business today includes David Neeleman, founder of Jetblue Airways, and Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko’s.
Myth #7: Children who take ADHD medication will get ‘addicted’ and are more likely to abuse drugs as teenagers and adults. Actually, it is just the opposite. Individuals with ADHD who do not receive medication are more likely to ‘self-medicate’ with drugs and alcohol. Taking stimulants (be it drugs, caffeine, etc.) without the close supervision of a doctor increases the chance of abuse. The medications used to treat ADHD have been proven safe and effective when taken at the proper (low) dosage under doctor supervision. These medications do not cure ADHD, but are highly effective in relieving some of the symptoms of the disorder. If taken at the proper dosage, the medications should not turn your child into a ‘zombie’ or alter his personality. If it does, you should consult your child’s doctor to have the prescription changed.
If you know, or suspect, that someone you know has, or has a child with ADHD, remember that to him or her it is not a joke. It is a very real and difficult problem that they have very little control over. So before you jump to any conclusions, or take them off of you Facebook friends list, take the time to educate yourself and make the effort to understand.