Top 10 Myths About ADHD

Top 10 Myths About ADHD

Discover surprising facts about ADHD - who gets it, how it progresses, and how the disorder is treated.

Somehow, the more we know about ADHD, the more myths about ADHD seem to arise. And everyone from friends and neighbors to Hollywood celebrities has something to say about it. With all that chatter, it can be hard to separate facts about ADHD from fiction. Get the straight facts with this list of myths and misconceptions about ADHD.

Myth #1: Only kids have ADHD.

It's true that about 1 in 10 kids under the age of 17 has ADHD. But about 4% of adults have ADHD, too. And, in fact, many cases of adult ADHD are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, in part because people think it's only a childhood condition.

Myth #2: All kids "outgrow" ADHD.

Not always. Up to 80% of children with ADHD have symptoms in adolescence. And for up to 70% of those kids, ADHD symptoms continue to cause problems in adulthood -- such as relationship difficulties, money troubles, work strife, and a rocky family life.

Myth #3: Medication is the only treatment for ADHD.

Medication can be useful in managing ADHD symptoms, but it's not a cure. And it's not the only focus of treatment. Lifestyle changes, counseling, and behavior modification can significantly improve symptoms as well. Several studies suggest that using a combination of strategies to treat ADHD works best.

Myth #4: People who have ADHD are lazy, and they lack intelligence and willpower.

Simply not true. In fact, ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence or determination. ADHD is a neurobehavioral disorder caused by alterations in brain chemicals and changes in the way the brain works. It presents unique challenges, but they can be overcome. And ADHD doesn't have to get in the way of success. Many successful people have managed the condition. Even Albert Einstein is said to have had symptoms of ADHD.

Myth #5: ADHD isn't a real disorder.

Not so. Doctors and mental-health professionals agree that ADHD is a real biological disorder that can significantly impair functioning in people who have it. ADHD is caused by an imbalance in brain chemicals, which affects certain brain areas that regulate behavior and emotion. This altered brain function produces ADHD symptoms.

Myth #6: Bad parenting causes ADHD.

Absolutely not! A combination of genetic and environmental factors causes ADHD. Good parenting skills can help children deal with ADHD symptoms, but parenting choices don’t cause ADHD symptoms. ADHD symptoms are caused by brain-chemical imbalances that make it hard to pay attention and control impulses.

Myth #7: Kids with ADHD are always hyper.

Not always. ADHD comes in three "flavors" -- the predominantly inattentive type, the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type, and the combined type, which is a mix of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms. Although kids with hyperactive-impulsive or combined ADHD may be fidgety and restless, kids with inattentive ADHD are not.

Myth #8: Too much TV time causes ADHD.

A combination of genes and environmental factors causes ADHD, not habits. That said, spending excessive amounts of time watching TV or spending too many hours playing video games could trigger the condition in susceptible individuals. And in kids and teens who already have ADHD, excess screen time may make symptoms worse.

Myth #9: If you can focus on certain things, you don't have ADHD.

It's not that simple. Although it's true that people with ADHD have trouble focusing on things that don't interest them, there's a flip side to the disorder. Some people with ADHD get overly absorbed in activities they enjoy -- called "hyperfocus." Hyperfocus can help you be more productive in activities that you like. But you could also become so focused that you ignore responsibilities you don't like.

Myth #10: ADHD is overdiagnosed.

If anything, ADHD is underdiagnosed and undertreated. Many children with ADHD grow up to be adults with ADHD. The pressures and responsibilities of adulthood often exacerbate ADHD symptoms, leading adults to seek evaluation and diagnosis for the first time. Also, parents who have children with ADHD may seek treatment only after recognizing similar symptoms in themselves.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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