Sarah Shore, MS

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10 Myths and Facts about ADHD

...from Attention Deficit Disorder: The Unfocused Mind in Children and Adults, by Thomas E. Brown, Ph.D. Associate Director of the Yale Clinic for Attention and Related Disorders (Yale University Press, 2005)

1.  MYTH: ADHD is just a lack of willpower. Persons with ADHD focus well on things that interest them; they could focus on any other tasks if they really wanted to.   FACT: ADHD looks very much like a willpower problem, but it isn’t. It’s essentially a chemical problem in the management systems of the brain.

2.  MYTH: ADHD is a simple problem of being hyperactive or not listening when someone is talking to you.  FACT: ADHD is a complex disorder that involves impairments in focus, organization, motivation, emotional modulation, memory, and other functions of the brain’s management system.

3.  MYTH: Brains of persons with ADHD are overactive and need medication to calm down.  FACT: Underactivity of the brain’s management networks is typical of persons with ADHD. Effective medications increase alertness and improve communication in the brain’s management system.

4.  MYTH: ADHD is simply a label for behavior problems; children with ADHD just refuse to sit still and are unwilling to listen to teachers or parents.  FACT: Many with ADHD have few behavior problems, chronic inattention symptoms cause more severe and longer-lasting problems for learning and relationships for those with ADHD.

5.  MYTH: Those who have ADHD as children usually outgrow it as they enter their teens.  FACT: Often ADHD impairments are not very noticeable until the teen years, when more self-management is required in school and elsewhere.  And ADHD may be subtle, but more disabling during adolescence than in childhood.

6.  MYTH: Unless you have been diagnosed with ADHD as a child, you can’t have it as an adult.  FACT: Many adults have struggled all their lives with unrecognized ADHD impairments. They haven’t received help because they assumed that their chronic difficulties, like depression or anxiety, were caused by other
impairments that did not respond to the usual treatments.

7.  MYTH: Everybody has the symptoms of ADHD, and anyone with adequate intelligence can overcome these difficulties.  FACT: ADHD affects persons of all levels of intelligence. And although everyone sometimes has symptoms of ADHD, only those with chronic impairments from these symptoms warrant an ADD diagnosis.

8.  MYTH: Someone can’t have ADHD and also have depression, anxiety, or other psychiatric problems.
FACT: A person with ADHD is six times more likely to have another psychiatric or learning disorder than most other people. ADD usually overlaps with other disorders.

9.  MYTH: Medications for ADHD are likely to cause longer-term problems with substance abuse or other health concerns, especially when used by children.  FACT: The risks of using appropriate medications to treat ADHD are minimal.  The medications used for ADHD are among the best researched for any disorder.

10.  MYTH: ADHD doesn’t really cause much damage to a person’s life.  FACT: Untreated or inadequately treated ADHD syndrome often severely impairs leaning, family life, education, work life, social interactions, and driving safely. Most of those with ADHD who receive adequate treatment, however, function quite well.

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