In the U.S., approximately 10% of school-aged children and approximately 4% of adults have been diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Thanks to years of research on ADHD, experts on this disorder can debunk some of the erroneous beliefs that have circulated regarding ADHD. Below, we help clarify a few of these common ADHD myths:
- ADHD is only a childhood disorder. It’s true that ADHD is often first recognized in children, but there is also growing evidence that ADHD can emerge for the first time when people are adults. Additionally, though some children who have milder forms of ADHD can “grow out of” the disorder, it often persists into adulthood.
- People with ADHD can’t focus on anything for very long. The use of “attention deficit” to describe this disorder can be confusing because people with ADHD can, in fact, “hyperfocus” on activities that they find highly engaging, interesting or reinforcing.
- To be diagnosed with ADHD, a person must show signs of both hyperactivity and deficits in attention. Again, “attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder” is a bit of a misnomer because an ADHD diagnosis can actually occur with one of three subtypes: hyperactive-impulsive type, inattentive type and combined type.
- Boys are more likely than girls to have ADHD. The CDC indicates that boys are more often diagnosed with ADHD not because they are more prone to the disorder, but because it presents more subtly in girls. Boys often exhibit more overt, easily recognizable signs of hyperactivity whereas girls are more likely to “fly under the radar” with covert signs of inattention.
- ADHD is caused by poor parenting, too much screen time or excessive sugar. Though these factors can certainly exacerbate ADHD symptoms, there is no research indicating they are the cause of ADHD. Research completed to date on ADHD suggests a number of other possible causes, however, including brain anatomy, genes/heredity, significant head injuries, premature birth or prenatal exposure to toxins like alcohol or nicotine.
For more information about ADHD in both children and adults, check out the Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) website.