ADHD, or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, is one of the most commonly diagnosed neurobehavioral disorders. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, it is also one of the most misunderstood neurobehavioral disorders. Media portrayals, exaggerated stereotypes, and the way we talk about ADHD all perpetuate miscommunications and misconceptions. It’s time to clear up a few of those misconceptions for the record. Here are 5 myths you may have heard, or even believed, about ADHD.

1. ADHD is Always Hyper

When people think of ADHD, what they picture is often a talkative child on a sugar rush: “bouncing off the walls” and unruly behavior. Sometimes, that’s the case. Other times, not so much. There are actually 3 types of ADHD: inattentive ADHD (sometimes referred to as ADD or attention deficit disorder), hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, or a combination of both. The hyper, “bounding off the walls” behavior is more commonly found in hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, and sometimes in the combination. Inattentive ADHD looks more like learning disorders.

2. ADHD is a Children’s Disorder, which Children Outgrow

Most of the information that we find about ADHD refers to children with ADHD, which is why people commonly think that by the time children have grown into adults, they’re “over” their ADHD. Studies do show fewer adults with ADHD than children, but all our indications about ADHD indicate that the disorder can very much last a lifetime, and even lead to mental illness challenges as the patient grows older.  There’s even research that shows adults diagnosed with ADHD who showed no signs of ADHD as children.  

3. ADHD Only Affects or is More Common in Boys

Most portrayals of ADHD are the same: a young boy, about 10-12, skinny, white, hyperactive. Because of this, most people have the impression that ADHD is mostly prevalent in boys. This could not be more wrong. In 2007, 13.2% of boys were diagnosed with ADHD as opposed to 5.6% of girls. However, in adults, ADHD was diagnosed more or less evenly.  The reason is not so much that girls are less likely to have ADHD, but that they’re less likely to be diagnosed, and the stereotype is partly to blame.

Girls are likely to display ADHD in different ways than boys: they’re more likely to internalize, more likely to have inattentive ADHD than hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, and self-doubt is more prevalent in girls. Whether because of societal expectations or biology, girls tend to have quieter symptoms, and therefore less noticeable symptoms.

4. Children with ADHD Have an Unfair Advantage Because of IDEA

IDEA is Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a federal law providing special education services for those with disabilities, like neurobehavioral disorders, in schools. Children with ADHD are under the protection of IDEA, but this does not give them an unfair advantage over their neurotypical classmates, as some parents suggest. The reason they receive special education is because their neurobehavioral disorder gives them disadvantages when it comes to academic studies. IDEA levels the playing field to give children with ADHD as much of a chance to succeed in school as neurotypical children.

5. ADHD is Over-Diagnosed or Doesn’t Exist

This is a common cry because of the vast amount of children and adults diagnosed with ADHD. The original misconception was that ADHD is too often misdiagnosed, which is both true and not true. While ADHD might be over-diagnosed in some children predisposed to be hyper, it’s also underdiagnosed in children with subtler symptoms or in adults. Recently, the argument has shifted and even some psychologists have begun to claim that ADHD simply doesn’t exist. However strongly someone might hold this opinion, at the end of the day, it’s just an opinion. ADHD is recognized by both the American Psychiatric Association and National Health Institute.  
When educating yourself about ADHD, it’s important to get the right information from reliable sources. Speak to a neurobehavioral expert about any questions you may have.