What is ADHD? Facts and Misconceptions (Part 2)

Amanda Luzzader

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder has received considerable attention in the past few decades, improving treatments and dispelling much of the stigma surrounding it.

In this three-part article, we are discussing facts and misconceptions about Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In the first part, we defined ADHD and outlined the disorder’s definition, signs, and symptoms. We also discussed Adult ADHD and Adult-onset ADHD.

What is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?As a reminder, ADHD is considered a brain-based disorder that can interfere with a person’s ability to follow instructions, concentrate on tasks, and it can sometimes involve hyperactive and impulsive behavior. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in children, and it may persist into adulthood. It is usually first diagnosed in childhood and often lasts into adulthood.

Facts vs. misconceptionsAttention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder has received considerable attention in the past few decades, improving treatments and dispelling much of the stigma surrounding it. However, ADHD is still often misunderstood, and there is as of yet much to learn about it. We’ll now turn to some of these remaining myths, misconceptions, and information gaps.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is not a real disorderThis may be the most common and pervasive misconception about ADHD—that it is simply a cover identity for children who chronically misbehave, can’t follow instructions, or who can’t pay attention. Indeed, some parents even approve of the symptoms and unruly behaviors exhibited by children who have ADHD, asserting that “kids will be kids” or “it’s just a stage.” However, according to an article published by Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), ADHD cases were being described as far back as 1775 by German doctor Adam Weikard, and 10,000 clinical and scientific studies about ADHD have been published since that time. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is included in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5) and is recognized by all major mental health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a real disorder, as are its negative effects on children and adults.

Parental treatment causes Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity DisorderOne persistent misconception about ADHD is that the disorder is caused by factors such as neglect or a lack of parental discipline. In other words, it is thought that a child who receives inconsistent behavioral correction and/or parental attention may develop ADHD. This misconception may arise from the reality that children with ADHD often challenge and overwhelm the everyday disciplinary techniques of unprepared parents, who therefore may appear to be disengaged and ineffectual.

The truth of the matter is that inconsistent parenting may aggravate a child’s ADHD and increase the severity of the disorder’s presentation. Parenting may also worsen coexisting disorders such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder. However, it cannot be conclusively stated that certain parenting styles or techniques cause ADHD. In fact, medical science has yet to conclusively determine the causes of ADHD. According to the CDC, ADHD is known to run in families, and so the disorder may have a genetic component. Additionally, some possible causes have been identified, as well as apparent risk factors, which are listed below:

-Brain injury-Exposure to environmental risks (e.g., lead) during pregnancy or at a young age-Alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy-Premature delivery-Low birth weight

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is over-diagnosed and children with ADHD are over-medicatedAccording to CHADD, the number of children diagnosed with ADHD have been rising steadily, perhaps by as much as 5 percent annually. This has led to assertions that the disorder is overdiagnosed. But CHADD asserts that the 2014 National Survey of the Diagnosis and Treatment of ADHD and Tourette Syndrome found that the vast majority of ADHD diagnoses are being administered with the highest levels of care, training, and accepted guidelines. CHADD also provides several explanations for rising numbers of ADHD diagnoses, including decreased stigmatization surrounding ADHD, improved awareness of the disorder among caregivers, and more (and more effective) ADHD screening and treatment opportunities.

Similarly, there are many who believe that children are often diagnosed with ADHD simply so they can be drugged into submission instead of properly disciplined. In other words, there is a misconception that parents and caregivers are too eager to use medication to treat ADHD. However, the National Survey of Children’s Health 2003-2011 showed that, of the 5.1 million children diagnosed with ADHD in the United States, only 69 percent were being treated with medication. Further, the National Comorbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement, which studied more than 10,000 adolescents (ages 13–18), found that only 20.4% of those diagnosed with ADHD received stimulants.

Now that we’ve dispelled a few of the most widespread and enduring myths and misconceptions surrounding ADHD, we’ll continue into the third and final part of this three-part article and discuss possible treatments and what to do if you suspect you or someone you know may have ADHD.

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