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ADHD myths

'If you had ADHD you'd be bouncing off the walls'
NO! This is a common misconception which leads to thousands of people, mainly girls, going unnoticed and undiagnosed (see Attention! Thousands of ADD girls going unnoticed and undiagnosed).

There are two main types of ADHD: 'ADHD combined type' (inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity) and 'ADHD inattentive only type' (also known as 'ADHD predominantly inattentive type'). The latter can be more damaging as inattentive sufferers fail silently or have work twice as hard as their peers to produce the same results. They are also generally not noticed, whereas the hyperactive-impulsive type tend to stand out like a sore thumb.

Instead of being noticed, diagnosed and given help, the inattentive types are merely labelled as being 'lazy', 'stupid' and/or 'slow-moving'.

'ADHD isn't a disorder, it's an excuse'
It certainly is not. It is a recognised disorder which can be very damaging if it remains undiagnosed. It is caused by abnormalities in the brain.

'You can't have ADHD - you're clever'
There are people with ADHD who have degrees. They may be disorganised, distractible and find it extra hard to work and get their work done, but they still have the intellect.

Many people with ADHD are clever. Many even have above-average intelligence.

'Everyone does that'
Yes, everyone does do that to a certain extent. Everyone is a bit forgetful and many people find it hard to organise themselves sometimes. Everyone also drifts off from time to time. The fact is that people with ADHD unwillingly drift off all the time, are always forgetting to do things and find it extremely difficult to organise themselves and their belongings, often ending up with piles of unsorted stuff. It depends on the degree and the frequency of the problems. ADHD ranges from mild to severe.

'You're just stressed'
They will be stressed if they have ADHD! Being stressed can caused ADHD-like symptoms but they will disappear when the person stops being stressed. ADHD often causes the stress however, and the ADHD symptoms do change with stress, but will always be there.

'You're just lazy'
NO! They are not being lazy! They cannot help what they do (or what they cannot do properly). People with ADHD have abnormalities in the brain which means they find it very difficult to do certain things. This is not being lazy. They may need help, certain strategies and/or some leniency.

'If you can concentrate on __________, you can concentrate on your work/the teacher'
Again, this is not so. The essence of ADHD is that they can never focus correctly - if their focus is drawn by something, they find it hard to take it away again, but depending on the object of focus, it may take a while for their focus to be drawn there in the first place. They may finally find get focused, only to be interrupted, causing them to lose their train of thought completely and find it hard to regroup their thoughts again. They can focus, but they only find it easy to do so on things that interest them. This is part of the nature of ADHD - it is not selective as such, but the way their brains work (or don't work, depending on how you look at it).

'You're not forgetful - you just can't be bothered to remember'
Again, a classic misunderstanding - because the person with ADHD tends to remember things they like better than things they don't, many people think they are just not bothering to do things and are pretending to forget. This is not so! It is true that those with ADHD tend to remember things better if what they are remembering/trying to remember is something they like, but this does not mean they are making any of it up. They have almost an 'involuntarily selective memory'.

The problem often does not lie with remembering to do things as such, but rather 'remembering to remember' to do things. For example, person A tells person B (who has ADHD) to do something. Person B does mean to do what he has been told to do, but forgets it soon after he has been told and fails to carry out the task. So now person A comes and tells person B that he forgot to do something. Person B remembers that he had been told by person A to do that task, but he 'forgot to remember', i.e. nothing told him, for example 'oh yes, I can see the washing machine. Person A told me to take the load out of the washing machine. I must do that.' (Note, however, that even if person B did see the washing machine, it still might not have registered that he had to do anything with it).

'You'll remember if I start fining you'
Yes, they might. But then again they might not. It depends on how severe the ADHD is, how forgetful they are and what the thing is the person is required to remember. If it does work, it does not mean the person couldn't remember the thing in the first place. (Remember, many people with ADHD often get fines for forgetting to send off their bills, etc. - this does not make them any less forgetful.)

'You'll grow out of it'
No, no and no again! Most people with ADHD do not grow out of their disorder. ADHD is caused by abnormalities in the brain which do not improve upon reaching adulthood. Some people do grow out of ADHD but for most the hyperactivity and some of the impulsivity merely evolve into restlessness and impatience and for those with inattentive only type ADHD, the symptoms will probably stay much the same. They may, with time have developed coping strategies but their disorder remains.

'You don't look like you have ADHD'
This is possibly the most puzzling ADHD myth around. Like deafness and blindness, you cannot see ADHD merely by looking at the person but you can often, but not always easily, detect their disorder by observing them and by speaking to their family and friends about them and their characteristics. How can you tell when someone has drifted off? They may be gazing with ea vacant expression, they may be looking round the room but often you can't. Never tell someone they do not look like they have ADHD if they tell you they have. They might be lying but you can't tell. They know better than you do.

'I've got a tummy ache.'
'It doesn't look like you do'.

It's just as puzzling as that!

'It can't be that bad, you function'
If someone appears to be functioning it does not mean they are functioning well and they find it very hard to do so, causing a great deal of stress.

'Everyone has issues, you just have to deal with them'
Everyone has issues - this is an undisputed fact. However people with ADHD have their disorder on top of their issues and also ADHD magnifies those issues. Helping someone with ADHD is merely levelling out the playing field to make it fairer and to make sure they reach their full potential.

'Just sit down and make a list, and then just do it'
If they could do that, a) they probably would and b) they wouldn't have ADHD.



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