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ADHD: Facts and Myths

These days, ADHD is everywhere. It’s the topic in classrooms, homes, and doctor’s offices everywhere you turn. As with many things, common topics come with myths that distort our understanding of the topic. So, let’s talk about ADHD and common myths associated with it- and the facts to challenge those myths!


Myth 1: People with ADHD are always hyperactive


FALSE! While hyperactivity is definitely a diagnostic category for ADHD, it is not the only one and there are plenty of people with ADHD who display minimal hyperactive symptoms. Those that show a lot of hyperactive symptoms tend to fit the mold of what most would consider the stereotypical presentation of ADHD- but it’s more than that! The other diagnostic category- inattentive type- describes those who struggle to stay focused, make seemingly careless mistakes on homework or work tasks, struggles to keep their time and belongings organized, and may often appear to not be listening. People can display symptoms of one or both types of ADHD- but hyperactivity is not all of ADHD!


Myth 2: You did it yesterday, you can do it again today!


This is tough for those with ADHD and those supporting someone with ADHD. Inconsistency is a hallmark characteristic of ADHD that unfortunately means that yesterday’s success doesn’t always translate into today’s. People with ADHD tend to be so over-focused on the present moment that they aren’t able to stop and think about lessons learned from the past or how their current choice might affect their future. Where someone without ADHD will remember how they got in trouble for not doing their homework last week (even if they still choose not to do their homework), a person with ADHD will not remember or think about that past experience which makes it impossible for them to use that experience to change future behavior. From the outside, it seems like someone with ADHD is making a choice to disregard what they’ve learned and make a poor choice anyways. In reality, it isn’t a choice- that information is not crossing their mind in moments they might need it.


Myth 3: You just need to try harder!


It can be confusing to see someone with ADHD focus so well in certain situations and focus not so well in others. It’s easy to mistake this for lack of trying- especially when some ADHD-related behaviors can look like silliness on the surface. However, asking someone with ADHD to try harder to remember things or focus or organize their stuff is like telling someone who’s hard of hearing to try harder in order to hear. The struggle is in how the brain is wired- not in how hard they’re trying! Again, inconsistency is the name of the game here.


Myth 4: You can’t have ADHD if you can focus on some things really well


This one is hard for lots of people to understand. Most ADHD folks have a handful of activities that they can focus on all day long without a problem- video games, legos, puzzles- everyone’s got a few favorite activities. Enjoyable tasks are one of the areas that focus is easier for people with ADHD. You might be thinking- “well of course, isn’t that the case for everyone?” Yes and no. Yes it is easier for everyone to focus if it is an activity or task they enjoy. The difference is in the ability to focus when it’s a non-preferred activity or task. For those without ADHD, it might be more difficult, but you can tune out other things and get to work even when it isn’t fun. For those with ADHD, tuning out other things and avoiding distraction is near impossible. The allure of scrolling Instagram or continuing to play video games when the dishes really need to be done is too strong to avoid unless there’s something else like a deadline or pressure from someone else. As with Myth #3, it isn’t a choice. Someone with ADHD knows they need to do these tasks but cannot see past the present moment to weigh how sacrificing their current enjoyment may pay off in the future.


Understanding ADHD can be tough for everyone- but it’s even tougher when myths are circulating. If you or someone you know is struggling to understand ADHD or if you think you may have ADHD yourself, talk with your doctor or a therapist! There are resources to help caregivers, teachers, and ADHD-ers!

Written By,

Alyssa Onan, LPC



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