Guest Blogger: Courtney Meder, LPC Child and Family Therapist

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health disorder that can manifest in above-normal levels of hyperactive and also impulsive behaviors. ADHD can occur in both children and adults. People with ADHD may also have trouble focusing their attention or staying still for long periods of time. Because of the prevalence of ADHD and its common symptoms, there exist many myths and misconceptions.  

MYTH: ADHD doesn’t exist.

ADHD is not a character flaw, but a disorder recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Department of Education, and the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Physicians were reporting ADHD symptoms in children as early as the 1700s, though it wasn’t formally known as a diagnosis until the late 1960s when it was recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.

MYTH: All children with ADHD are hyperactive.

There are different types of ADHD, including:  

It’s important to know that children do not have to have the hyperactivity piece. A child with inattentive symptoms may appear daydreamy and easily distracted. They may be disorganized, forgetful, or careless.  

MYTH: If he/she/they can focus on a video game, it can’t be ADHD. They can control it!

The struggle isn’t so much as a focus issue, but dysregulation of focus for tasks that require prolonged attentiveness and are perceived as mundane. ADHD diagnosis can have a component of “hyperfocus”, by which kids can spend excessive amounts of time on an activity to the neglect of other obligations. This can occur when environments or activities are highly stimulated.

MYTH: Kids with ADHD just need to try harder.

This myth seems to be one of the toughest on children, as the assumption is that children are purposefully trying to irritate others and are sometimes described as “lazy” and “troublemakers”.  Many times, parents may feel judged, due to misconceptions that parents need to provide more discipline.  The fact is that children with ADHD are trying their best to focus and engage in socially appropriate ways, though it is beyond their capacity.  Such failings can lead to feelings of frustration and irritability.  

MYTH: Medication is dangerous! I don’t want my child will be a zombie.

The American Pediatric Association recommends medication and behavioral health therapy as a first-line defense in the treatment of ADHD. While it is true that medications can have side effects, it is important to consult with your physician about concerns and the best treatment strategy. 

Here are some things you can do to alleviate concerns when considering medication:

  • Write a list of questions
  • Talk to the doctor about concerns
  • Attending a consultation with a physician doesn’t mean you are committed to the decision
  • Be curious
  • Inquire about side effects

Living with ADHD can cause some frustrations in your family for both you and your child. However, understanding the disorder, and clearing up any myths and misconceptions you may have can you help your child succeed.