7 myths about ADHD debunked


Whenever there’s a behavioural aspect to a disorder, there are likely to be a number of misconceptions about it, and ADHS is no exception.   

Let's go ahead and bust a few common misconceptions about ADHD:

Myth 1: ADHD is caused by bad parenting

Hyperactive children are just the result of ineffective parenting. “You just can’t control your child” is a common phrase used by uninformed bystanders.

Fact: Research from Michigan State University shows this is a fallacy and ADHD is not caused by bad parenting. Parenting technique can improve symptoms, or make certain behaviours worse, but it’s definitely not the cause of ADHD.

Myth 2: It’s not a medical disorder

ADHD is simply bad behaviour and is definitely not a diagnosable disorder that warrants medical attention.

Fact: ADHD is a disorder listed in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and has specific diagnostic criteria. It’s part of the scope of practice of psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose and treat the disorder, and extensive research has shown a biochemical imbalance in patients.

Read: Could stress be mistaken for ADHD in SA?

Myth 3: Medication will make a person seem drugged

Giving especially to children, strong medication such as Ritalin will only worsen the condition and make them feel drugged most of the time. The idea that it will "take away their personality" is a common conception.

Fact: Whereas ADHD medications are sometimes overprescribed, it is necessary in many cases. The Child Mind Institute’s research shows it can sharpen focus and increase the control a person has over their behaviour. Just like with any other medication, there are side-effects and it is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.

Myth 4: Children outgrow ADHD

ADHD is a childhood disorder and teenagers and adults can’t develop it. As children grow older they outgrow a lot of the symptoms.

Fact: Comprehensive research cited in the textbook “Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry” shows that 70 out of 100 children suffering from the disorder continue to have symptoms as teenagers, and about 50% still have ADHD by the time they reach adulthood.

Read: What's up with Ritalin?

Myth 5: People with ADHD are just stupid and lazy

People who are not intelligent, or are simply too lazy to control their own emotions, develop ADHD.

Fact: ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence, as research from The University of Maryland shows. “People with ADHD span the same IQ range as the general population,” the research found. It’s also not a case of “just being lazy”. Biochemistry limits one’s control in the same way the brain affects behaviour in other psychiatric conditions.

Myth 6: ADHD is a simple case of being hyperactive

Children eat too much sugar and are just hyperactive. They just need to sit still and focus on a specific task.

Fact: Studies from Harvard University show that there’s no definitive proof that diet has an impact on, or can even cause, ADHD symptoms. The crux of the problem is a lack of concentration, and this is not due to a lack of effort. While there are several behavioural interventions, these are often not enough to counteract biological changes.

Myth 7: Someone can’t have ADHD and also suffer from depression

ADHD is a unique disorder, and because of its hyperactivity component you can’t have it and also suffer from other psychiatric disorders.

Fact: A study in the Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry shows psychiatric disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder are often accompanied by ADHD symptoms. ADHD manifests itself in different ways and it’s often a co-morbid disorder, either as a primary or secondary disorder.

Read more:

Memory training helps kids with ADHD

Most docs don't follow ADHD treatment guidelines

Paracetamol during pregnancy tied to ADHD risk in kids

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 873 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
83% - 9946 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
10% - 1155 votes
Rand - Dollar
Rand - Pound
Rand - Euro
Rand - Aus dollar
Rand - Yen
Brent Crude
Top 40
All Share
Resource 10
Industrial 25
Financial 15
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.