4 Myths and Facts About ADHD

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is the most common behavioral disorder found in children. According to the CDC, 9.8% of U.S. children ages 3 - 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. Yet despite its prominence, there are many pervasive misconceptions, stereotypes and myths that people believe. October is ADHD Awareness Month, and Andrea Richards, MD, Pediatric Neurologist and Director of Outpatient Medical Quality Improvement at Children’s Specialized Hospital, helps to debunk those myths and present the facts about ADHD.

Myth: Someone must be hyperactive to have ADHD.

Fact: “Not all people with ADHD are hyperactive,” said Dr. Richards. “There are three different types of ADHD, each with varying symptoms that may or may not include hyperactivity.”

The three different types of ADHD are:

  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation, where a person may be restless, have poor impulse control, racing thoughts or is constantly talking.
  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation, where a person may be easily distracted, has trouble focusing or has difficulty staying on task.
  • Combined Presentation, where a person struggles with both hyperactivity and inattention.

Myth: Only males can have ADHD.

Fact: “Anyone of any gender can have ADHD,” said Dr. Richards. “Yet males are much more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than females.” 11.7 percent of males in the U.S. have been diagnosed, while only 5.7 percent of females in the U.S. have been diagnosed.”

The difference in the diagnostic rates between males and females is due to people’s stereotypical notion of what ADHD looks like or presents as. Males with ADHD are more likely to exhibit noticeable physical symptoms of hyperactivity, such as restlessness, constant talking, or impulsivity. Females are more likely to have symptoms like inattention or mental hyperactivity in the form of racing thoughts. As such, the ADHD symptoms that females experience tend to be less noticeable than those ADHD symptoms a male experiences, and therefore, females are not as easily diagnosed with ADHD.

Myth: ADHD only affects children.

Fact: “ADHD can affect people of any age,” said Dr. Richards. “While children are much more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, with the average age of diagnosis being about 7, there are people who go undiagnosed until they’re adults.”

It’s important to note that for adults, ADHD does not begin to spontaneously present itself one day, an adult with ADHD has had it since they were a child. Children diagnosed with ADHD are likely to retain symptoms into adulthood; The American Journal of Psychiatry found this is the case for 90% of children diagnosed with ADHD.

Myth: ADHD medication alters your personality.

Fact: “ADHD medication does not alter the personality of children or adults who take it, rather it alters their behavior,” said Dr. Richards.

“Often, treatment for ADHD is sought out because the disorder’s influence on behavior is impeding a person’s ability to live their life or go through school or work. ADHD medication makes those impeding behaviors less prominent, increasing quality of life while keeping a person’s personality completely the same,” adds Dr. Richards.

If the medication causes any change in personality, that suggests that the specific medication or dosage prescribed is not the right one for them. If this occurs, the patient or guardian should talk to their doctor about trying a different dosage or medication.

While there isn't a definitive cure for ADHD, numerous treatment options are available to enhance daily functioning and alleviate symptoms. Treatment strategies may encompass medication, psychotherapy, educational support, training, or a blend of these approaches.

To connect with a top behavioral health specialist at RWJBarnabas Health call 888-724-7123 or visit.