The countless misconceptions about ADHD have been around just as long as the condition itself. Often, people with ADHD and those around them believe the misconceptions and internalise them as truth. Unfortunately, the negative impact of these myths can cause serious damage, preventing people from getting the support they need in school, at work, and in their communities. The struggles and disappointing experiences that can come from these issues can significantly harm a person's self-esteem while triggering a variety of other negative feelings.
With the guidance of Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Pablo Jeczmien, we look at some of the common misunderstandings about ADHD and the problems they can cause for people with the condition.
The first description of ADHD was published in the early 1900s. Since then, thousands of clinical and scientific publications have been published that point towards significant differences between the ADHD and non-ADHD Brain.
While some still oppose its legitimacy, ADHD is now globally recognised as a real condition by many of the world's leading medical, psychological, and educational institutions, including the American Psychological Association, American Psychiatric Association and the NHS. It also appears both in the ICD 10 and DSM 5 diagnostic classifications.
It used to be thought that as children with ADHD enter into adulthood, their symptoms will naturally disappear and no longer be an issue. And while studies show that some symptoms of hyperactivity can fade during adolescence, other underlying issues with attention and organisational skills tend to continue into adulthood. A 2016 study showed the condition to persist from childhood to adolescence in 50 – 80% of cases and into adulthood in 35 – 65% of cases.
Many adults with ADHD develop strategies to help them through everyday life challenges. This can be extremely exhausting and without support, adults with ADHD can become more vulnerable to mood disorders, anxiety and substance abuse. There is also an increased likelihood of career difficulties, troubled personal relationships, legal, and financial problems.
Few people enjoy paying bills or completing unpleasant household chores. But while most neurotypical people have the ability to simply "get the job done" when someone with ADHD lacks interest in a task, a sense of paralysis can manifest - they want to get started, but just can’t.
This might look like a lack of willpower to some people. But evidence suggests that it's a genuine neurological problem linked with brain chemistry and reflects the impairments associated with ADHD.
Unproductive time spent fruitlessly trying to complete tasks can be a tiring and lonely experience – it demands lots of energy and for some people with ADHD, can even feel physically painful. The important thing to remember is there are always tried and tested methods to help, such as working through your to-do list with a friend or partner. With the right methods and strategies, any person with ADHD can complete any task.
The idea that bad parenting causes ADHD probably comes from the unhelpful perception that children with ADHD often misbehave. If a child with ADHD suddenly jumps up and starts making lots of noise, it's not because they haven't been told the behaviours are wrong, but because he or she has trouble controlling their impulses.
Remember: the evidence states that ADHD is caused by complex genetic and neurological factors - all of which are beyond any parent’s control. Therefore, behavioural problems originate from the chemistry of the brain, not a lack of parental discipline.
Boys are indeed more likely to be diagnosed than girls, but this isn’t because girls are less susceptible to the condition. Instead, it’s more likely due to the different presentations of ADHD symptoms in girls, often culturally dictated, which can make it more difficult to identify.
Boys with ADHD tend to be more likely to be hyperactive and struggle with self-control. This can cause them to act out in school and in social settings, making the signs much easier to spot from an early age and prompting parents and teachers to pursue a diagnosis.
For girls with ADHD, the signs tend to be less obvious. They will typically display fewer behavioural problems. This means the symptoms are often missed and as a result, they are less likely to be referred for a diagnosis or treatment.
While a boy might present their frustration through hyperactivity, a girl might turn their frustration inside, expressing their feelings in more subtle ways. A girl with ADHD is less likely to be loud and disruptive but may forget to complete a piece of homework and might appear "spacey" and forgetful. Without a diagnosis, this can often be mistaken for laziness or a learning disability.
The symptoms of ADHD may present differently in males and females, but it's important for them all to be treated properly, and this usually starts with a formal diagnosis.
If you think your child may have ADHD, you might want to speak to their teacher, before seeing a GP, to find out if they have any concerns about your child's behaviour. Your GP won't be able to provide a diagnosis, but they will discuss your concerns and can refer you for specialist ADHD assessments, if necessary.
Without a formal diagnosis, people with ADHD often struggle to receive the necessary support, prompting problems in school, at work, and in relationships. They’re also more likely to develop other conditions, including anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities.
Whatever the circumstance, there are practical ways for anyone with ADHD to make adjustments and take advantage of their strengths. Adults with ADHD are often intelligent, hardworking problem-solvers who have developed clever ways to combat their symptoms and lead extremely productive lives.
It all starts with a diagnosis that gets all the details right and opens the door for meaningful change.
If you think you or your child may have ADHD and would like to talk through the process of assessment and treatment, give our experienced team a call and they'll be happy to talk you through your options on 0203 326 9160.
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