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What are common myths about ADD and ADHD?

Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

There are many myths about attention deficity hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In this video, psychiatrist and ADHD expert Edward Hallowell, MD, discusses key misunderstandings and sets the record straight.

Dr. Daniel G. Amen, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

ADD is the most common learning and behavior problem in children. It is also one of the most common problems in adults, and has been associated with job failures, relationship breakups, loneliness, a tremendous sense of under-achievement, drug abuse, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Despite its prevalence, many myths and misconceptions about ADD abound in our society. Here are just a few of them:

Myths:

  • ADD is a flavor-of-the-month illness, a fad diagnosis. It’s just an excuse for bad behavior.
  • ADD is over-diagnosed. Every child who acts up a bit, or adult who is lazy, gets placed on Ritalin or Adderall.
  • ADD is only a disorder of hyperactive boys.
  • ADD is only a minor problem. People make too much of a fuss over it.
  • ADD is an American invention, made up by a society seeking simple solutions to complex social problems.
  • Bad parents or bad teachers cause ADD. If only our society had old-fashioned values, there wouldn’t be these problems.
  • People with ADD should just try harder. Everybody gives them excuses and coddles them.
  • Everyone outgrows ADD by the age of 12 or 13.
  • Medication alone is the best treatment for ADD, and has few side effects for most people.

Facts:

  • ADD has been described in the medical literature for about one hundred years. In 1902, pediatrician George Still described a group of children who were hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive. Unfortunately, he didn’t understand that ADD is a medical disorder and labeled these children as “morally defective.”
  • Less than half of those with ADD are being treated.
  • Arkansas and Alabama had the highest percentage of children treated, while California had the lowest. An article in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that there was no evidence that ADD is overdiagnosed in our society.
  • Many people with ADD are never hyperactive. The non- hyperactive or “inattentive” ADD folks are often ignored because they do not bring enough negative attention to themselves. Many of these children, teenagers, or adults earn the unjust labels “willful,” “lazy,” “unmotivated,” or “not that smart.” Females, in our experience, tend to have inattentive ADD, and it often devastates their lives.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.