ADHD Misconceptions

October 2, 2017

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Everyone has heard conflicting “facts” about ADHD at one point or another. With the current definition for ADHD being relatively new, we’re learning about the condition at an exponential rate, which can make it hard to keep up. From who it affects to how symptoms manifest themselves, research is starting to answer some of those debated questions.

  1. ADHD isn’t Real
    It can be a bit disheartening that there are still people who believe that ADHD isn’t a real medical condition. The good news is that there are countless studies on ADHD and it is, in fact, very real – just ask The National Institute of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the American Psychiatric Association who have all recognized it as a medical condition. There have even been brain scan studies that have shown differences in brain development between individuals with ADHD and those without (Mathews et al. 2014).
  2. ADHD is a Childhood Disorder
    It’s possible for some people with childhood ADHD to no longer show symptoms as adults, but that’s not always the case. Studies have shown that between 35% and 65% of children with ADHD will continue to experience symptoms as adults (Owens et al. 2015). In fact, some people aren’t formally diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood.
  3. Only Boys Have ADHD
    It’s only been within the past few decades that girls have started being diagnosed with ADHD, but they are being diagnosed. It’s more than twice as likely for boys to have ADHD as children, but by adulthood the prevalence is nearly equal (Owens at al. 2015). One thing to keep in mind is that symptoms often differ between boys and girls; where an ADHD boy might be impulsive or physically aggressive, an ADHD girl might be withdrawn or “spacey.”
  4. ADHD is a Result of Poor Parenting
    It’s true that poor parenting won’t help a child manage their ADHD, but it’s not the cause of it. There have actually been studies that point to the fact that ADHD could be genetic. Other researchers have suggested that some people might be genetically predisposed to ADHD and other factors could cause symptoms to surface (such as lead exposure).
  5. ADHD is Over-Diagnosed
    It’s true that ADHD diagnoses have risen over the years; but that doesn’t mean these diagnoses have been incorrect. Reports have shown that the vast majority of ADHD cases were carefully determined by using correct, best practice guidelines. The continued increase in diagnoses could be linked to an increase in awareness of the condition in combination with a decrease in stigma.

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Myths and Misunderstandings. Retrieved from

Matthews, Marguerite et al. (2013). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences 16:235–266.

Owens, Elizabeth et al. (2015). Developmental Progression and Gender Differences among Individuals with ADHD. In R. A. Barkley (Ed.), Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment, 4th ed. (pp. 223–255). New York, NY: Guilford Press.