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Seven myths about AD/HD...debunked!

The truth behind seven mistaken beliefs about AD/HD.

Few psychological conditions have generated more discussion in recent years than attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD). Yet, people continue to harbor many mistaken beliefs about it. Read on to learn the truth about AD/HD.

Myth #1: AD/HD isn't a real medical disorder.

AD/HD has been recognized as a legitimate diagnosis by major medical, psychological, and educational organizations, including the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education. The American Psychiatric Society recognizes ADHD as a medical disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the official mental health bible used by psychologists and psychiatrists.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (also known as attention deficit disorder) is biologically based. Research shows that it's a result of an imbalance of chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, within the brain. Its primary symptoms are inattention, impulsiveness, and, sometimes, hyperactivity. People with AD/HD typically have a great deal of difficulty with aspects of daily life, including time management and organizational skills.

Myth #2: Children who are given special accommodations because of their AD/HD 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 children with AD/HD. Special accommodations, such as extra time on tests, simply level the playing field so that kids with AD/HD can learn as successfully as their non-AD/HD classmates.

Myth #3: Children with AD/HD eventually outgrow their condition.

More than 70% of the individuals who have AD/HD in childhood continue to have it in adolescence. Up to 50% will continue to have it in adulthood. Although it's been estimated that 6% of the adult population has AD/HD, the majority of those adults remain undiagnosed, and only one in four seek treatment. Yet, without help, adults with AD/HD are highly vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. They often experience career difficulties, legal and financial problems, and troubled personal relationships.

Myth #4: AD/HD affects only boys.

Girls are just as likely to have AD/HD as are boys, and gender makes no difference in the symptoms caused by the disorder. But because this myth persists, boys are more likely to be diagnosed than girls.

Myth #5: AD/HD is the result of bad parenting.

When a child with AD/HD blurts things out or gets out of his seat in class, it's not because he hasn't been taught that these behaviors are wrong. It's because he cannot control his impulses. The problem is rooted in brain chemistry, not discipline. In fact, overly strict parenting — which may involve punishing a child for things he can't control — can actually make AD/HD symptoms worse. Professional interventions, such as drug therapy, psychotherapy, and behavior modification therapy, are usually required.

Myth #6: Children who take AD/HD medication are more likely to abuse drugs when they become teenagers.

Actually, it's just the opposite. Having untreated AD/HD increases the risk that an individual will abuse drugs or alcohol. Appropriate treatment reduces this risk.

The medications used to treat AD/HD have been proven safe and effective for more than 50 years of use. These drugs don't cure AD/HD, but they are highly effective at easing symptoms of the disorder. The drugs do not turn kids into addicts or "zombies."

Myth #7: People who have AD/HD are stupid or lazy and never amount to anything.

People with AD/HD are of above-average intelligence, recent studies show. They certainly aren't lazy. In fact, many well-known, high-achieving individuals from the past are thought to have had AD/HD, including Mozart, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, George Bernard Shaw, and Salvador Dali. The list of high-achieving ADDers in business today includes top executives, such as David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways, and Paul Orfalea, founder of Kinko's.

Reprinted with permission from ADDitude Magazine. All rights reserved. See for more articles like this one.

Comments from readers

"thanks alot for this article, I learned alot, and I know now what I supporse to do to my son who has AD"
"I feel ADHD diagnosis is tooo easily dignosed and when you look at other symptoms bipolar disorder can easily mimick ADHD & ODD....My son was diagnosed with ADHD & ODD,put on stimulant meds which helped witht the hyperactivity, but then worsened the 'ODD'. true bipolar psychologists are far and in between...not many know that bipolar can be comorbid with ADHD,ODD,& OCD, or just bipolar which has all the symptoms of the same..and as for testing most doctors use the adult bipolr test and are not really aware that there is a child's for of the test..BEWARE...the stimulant meds can do great harm to the bipolar child!!!"
"I am a concerned parent ( single mom) with two boys my eldest has been diagnosed with adhd. We are on school number 5 going into the 6th grade. I live in Jersey City where the quality of public education is poor and the private schools are expensive and still do not cater to the needs of children with adhd. I am looking for a strong school where there is either great administrative support or specialized program for my son. He is not hyper but tends to be unable to focus and fairly impulsive. "
"I think 'gender makes no difference in the symptoms caused by the disorder' is not entirely accurate. From other things I've read, girls w/ADHD tend to present differently."
"Diagnosed as an adult. Go on and off my medication. I could be a charter member of Underachievers Anonymous. Financial and marital problems as well as a daughter who gets exceptional grades besides the fact that she bombs on every long-term project and has no concept of time or goal-setting or planning (just like me). Have isolated myself for years from the world by being a stay-at-home mom, but reluctantly have to go back to work a minimum wage job because of no college degree - I thought I was too stupid and didn't know how on earth I'd take care of myself when I went to college. Got married at 18, but only have one kid. Husband also avoids any real connection with other people, besides acquaintances at work."
"Please visit to get details about a very important conference in Las Vegas."
"I think that children with ADHD are sometimes more intelligent then normal children. I have a daughter who is ADHD and she get straight A's in school right now. She is very hyper and she had to change schools a few times because of it already but the school that she is in now, she loves it because she is doing excellent now. I do not believe any of the Myths above because I have seen exactly what these children are capable of doing. "