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ADHD Myths and Facts

Topic Overview

Some of the misconceptions about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) include the following:

Myths and facts about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
Myth Fact

There is no such medical condition as ADHD.

ADHD is a medical disorder, not a condition of the child's will. A child with ADHD does not choose to misbehave.

ADHD is caused by bad parenting. All the child needs is good discipline.

ADHD is not caused by bad parenting. But parenting techniques can often improve some symptoms and make others worse.

ADHD is a life sentence.

Although ADHD symptoms usually continue into adulthood, the person learns ways to cope with the symptoms. People with ADHD have plenty of energy, are creative, and can often accomplish more than people who do not have the condition.

Having ADHD means the person is lazy or dumb.

ADHD has nothing to do with a person's intellectual ability. Some highly intelligent people have ADHD.

The diagnosis of ADHD is confirmed if certain medicines (psychostimulants) have a positive effect on what seem to be symptoms of ADHD.

Children without ADHD respond to psychostimulants similarly to children with ADHD. A trial of medicine is not used to diagnose the condition.

Medicine for ADHD will make a person seem drugged.

Properly adjusted medicine for ADHD sharpens a person's focus and increases his or her ability to control behavior.

Medicine prescriptions for ADHD have greatly increased in the past few years, because the condition is being overdiagnosed.

ADHD is estimated to affect about 3 to 7 out of 100 school-age children in the United States.1 There is little evidence to support claims that ADHD is overdiagnosed and that ADHD medicines are overprescribed.

Psychostimulants are no longer useful after puberty.

Teens and adults with ADHD continue to benefit from medicine treatment.

Children with ADHD are learning to use the condition as an excuse for their behavior.

ADHD is a disability. Children with ADHD have to learn ways to deal with their symptoms (inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity) that cause them to have difficulties in life.

Children outgrow ADHD.

About 70 out of 100 children with ADHD continue to have symptoms during their teen years and about 50 out of 100 have symptoms into adulthood.2

If a child has ADHD, he or she can always be diagnosed in the doctor's office.

A child may not always show symptoms of ADHD, especially in an unfamiliar setting. Evaluating a child from one office observation may result in failure to recognize or diagnose symptoms.

References

Citations

  1. American Psychiatric Association (2000). Attention-deficit and disruptive behavior disorders. In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., text rev., pp. 85–103. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
  2. McGough JJ (2005). Adult manifestations of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder section of Attention-deficit disorders. In BJ Sadock, VA Sadock, eds., Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 8th ed., vol. 2, pp. 3198–3204. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised February 2, 2012

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