11 Myths & Facts about Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Myth: All kids with ADHD are hyperactive.
Fact: No all kids with ADHD are hyperactive. Many kids can have challenges with their attention span. Children who are inattentive, but not overly active, may appear to be dazed, bored and /or lazy.
Myth: Kids with ADHD can never pay attention.
Fact: Kids with ADHD can focus on activities they enjoy. However, no matter how hard they try, they have trouble maintaining focus when the task at hand is boring, repetitive and/or requires much effort.
Myth: Kids with ADHD have control over how they behave
Fact: Kids with ADHD may do their best to practice ”good behaviors” but still struggle with sitting still, staying quiet, or paying attention. They may appear disobedient, but that doesn’t imply they’re intentionally acting out.
Myth: Kids will eventually grow out of ADHD.
Fact: ADHD often ( I believe “always”) continues into adulthood, so don’t wait for your child to “outgrow the problem.” Symptoms over the course of your child’s life may change however, ADHD will continue to be a part of his functioning. Treatment (i.e. behavior therapy, parent behavior management, medication therapy, general therapy) can help your child learn to manage and minimize the symptoms. The average age of onset for ADHD is 7, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), but many children will continue to experience symptoms as they grow older. In fact, research has shown, about 70 percent will experience symptoms in their teens and 50 percent into adulthood, however this number depends on a number of factors.
Myth: Medication is the best treatment / management option for ADHD.
Fact: Medication is often prescribed for ADHD, but it might not be the best option for your child. Effective treatment for ADHD also includes education, curriculum accommodations; behavior therapy, support at home and school, exercise, good sleep hygiene and proper nutrition.
Myth: ADHD is only a childhood condition
Fact: ADHD is a human condition. It is the most common mental health condition in children (around 6.1 million kids are diagnosed with ADHD,) however there are MANY adults that are suspected to have ADHD, and majority are unaware!! (Approximately 8.2 million adults are suspected to have ADHD. This statistic does not reflect the actual number of adults diagnosed, which is much lesser.
Myth: ADHD is a fake condition made up by pharmaceutical companies.
Fact: DEFINITELY NOT TRUE. It is still unclear how a well-studied condition like ADHD, that has a large amount of evidence-based medicine to support its existence is still not believed by many.
Myth: ADHD is not a real medical condition
Fact: Based on the previous truth myth buster, you already know my answer! Critics use a lot of different arguments to support their claim for discrediting ADHD. Some blame bad parenting for “unruly” kids, pharmaceutical companies for “fabricating” the illness in exchange for a profit or students looking for an unfair “advantage” in the classroom. One theory supports that ADHD is the result of a culture with “a growing intolerance of childhood playfulness.”
Nevertheless, ADHD is a valid and authentic condition, recognized by the National Institutes of Health(B), the U.S. Surgeon General and countless other medical professionals. Furthermore, there’s evidence to support a genetic predisposition for the condition in studies of twins – a hallmark of legitimacy.
Myth: ADHD is caused by eating too much sugar
Fact: There is very little evidence to support a link between eating sugar and acting hyper, even though parents still believe in the so-called “sugar rush.” There’s also little evidence that links sugar to causing or worsening symptoms of ADHD.
Interestingly, it’s more likely that parents are affected by their children’s sugar intake: One study found that mothers who thought their sons were drinking a sugary beverage rated their children’s behavior as more hyperactive, criticized their sons more and kept a closer watch over them, the BBC reported.
Preliminary studies suggested certain food additives linked to ADHD, but according to the FDA, the results are inconclusive. More and better research is needed to fully understand the implications
Myth: ADHD is more common in boys and men than in girls and women.
Fact: According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), “boys are four-six times at risk than girls” for ADHD, however research suggests that our cultural and societal stigma may be at work here. According to the National Resource Center (NRC) on ADHD, some studies suggest ADHD is more “internal” than “external” in girls; they may not exhibit what most of us deem hyperactivity – physical- the same way as boys. Girls with ADHD may be more likely to have – internal- hyperactivity of the mind, mood disorders, lower IQs and more difficulty socially, while boys may be more disruptive in school settings, leading to more referrals and diagnoses. More research is needed to fully understand gender differences in ADHD.
Myth: Adults with ADHD will struggle to complete school and succeed at work.
Fact: Teenagers with ADHD have a higher high school dropout rate, and difficulty with impulse control, which may lead some adults with ADHD to quit a job on a whim. But there is zero evidence to suggest ADHD affects a person’s intelligence (IQ) or drive, and famous faces like Simone Biles, Adam Levine, Michael Phelps and Solange Knowles certainly show that adults with ADHD can be creative, focused and successful.
\Some people may discover that medication to manage ADHD is helpful, and many adults develop coping mechanisms and skills to assist them in reaching their goals (with or without the help of medication management.) Living with ADHD is not impossible, but it does require effort, the support of others and a positive self-perspective to gain good symptom control and live optimally.
Dr. Brown answers your “Text Tom” questions below:
I am a baby boomer. I believe that I was a missed ADHD child that was whooped to be still and focus. Now I deal with anxiety disorders. Should parents be looking at the levels of anxiety in their child’s life as well as possible ADHD?
It saddens me to that you were punished for something that was outside of your control; but thankfully, we now know much more about the condition- particularly, how these symptoms can lead to uncontrollable and less desired behaviors.
YES! Parents should definitely observe for anxiety, which is a common co-morbid condition of ADHD; in other words, symptoms of both ADHD and anxiety can share the same space and look and feel similar. Anxiety symptoms are commonly observed in kids and adults who have unmanaged ADHD. Anxiety can also present as a condition separate from ADHD.
I read there are several various types of ADD. A brain scan shows the difference. Is this true?
A: There are three recognized subtypes of ADHD.
- Predominantly Inattentive Type
- Hyperactivity/Impulsive Type
- Combined Type (combination of inattention, hyperactive and impulsive symptoms)
Brain imaging scans may be appealing because they appear to offer a firm diagnosis. However, these tests are still new regarding their use in ADHD, and they have many limitations. These tests are also expensive, and some can potentially expose children to radiation.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved one biological test to help diagnose ADHD in children from ages 6 to 17 years old. It’s called the Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment Aid (NEBA) System.
It records the type and number of brain waves that nerve cells give off each second. It is shown that people with ADHD tend to have a higher brain wave ratio between the two common brain waves — theta and beta — compared to people without ADHD. But this test isn’t meant to replace clinical evaluations or assessments. The results are meant to be used alongside a patient’s medical history and physical assessment.
If the NEBA test does not indicate a likelihood of ADHD, it can lead the clinician to evaluate the patient for other conditions such as head injuries, substance abuse, and auditory processing disorders. These conditions can also cause ADHD-like symptoms including impaired functioning and low attention span. So, when it’s unclear if symptoms are due to ADHD or another condition, a clinician can use the information provided by NEBA scans.
Currently, brain scans are more useful for research purposes than for making clinical diagnoses.
As an adult, what doctor should you go to for an official diagnosis and treatment for ADHD?
I would recommend contacting a board-certified adult psychiatrist or a double-board certified child & adolescent psychiatrist to obtain an official diagnosis and management plan for ADHD. (look for psychiatrists like myself, who specialize in ADHD. 😊)
Psychologists and ADHD certified specialists can also establish the ADHD diagnosis, but they cannot treat ADHD with medications. On the other hand, they may provide education about other forms of treatment options – i.e. alternative medicine (focusing on improving a healthy combination routine of diet, exercise, proper sleep hygiene, vitamins).
Is it healthy for children to take their meds during school days and off on weekends?
Stopping stimulant and non-stimulant medications on the weekends is not harmful to your child’s mind or body. However, stopping medications can create problems for kids, particularly because ADHD symptoms occur outside their control.
They can also have a difficult time trying to manage their ADHD symptoms without their medication. You cannot “turn on and off” ADHD like a light switch, therefore, it is recommended for children and adults to take their medications daily (including holidays!)
For some children whose parents decide to place their child on a “drug holiday,” it is commonly due to medication side effects, with appetite suppression being the most common, followed by weight loss.
How can I get my child tested for ADHD? She has been disruptive in school. She is 7-years-old, doesn’t sit still, hyper but sweet as pie, smart as well.
I would recommend contacting a double-board certified child & adolescent psychiatrist or your child’s pediatrician to inquire about obtaining an official ADHD evaluation and management plan (look for psychiatrists like myself, who specialize in ADHD 😊.) Unless the behavior is severe, it may be difficult to make a diagnosis of disruptive behavior disorder without first, evaluating for (and managing) ADHD.
Are there different types of natural medicine to treat the condition?
There are several natural medications (herbal ADHD supplements) that may help reduce ADHD symptoms. In many cases, natural treatments augment medication and help to achieve the best positive results. Other natural remedies may include nutrition and lifestyle changes and the use of technology to train the brain to help improve focus and be less impulsive.
Where can listeners find you? Do you have a podcast or upcoming speaking engagements?
You can connect with me directly on my website: www.drdawnpsychmd.com. I am also located on all social media platforms, using the tag @DrDawnPsychMD. (FB, IG, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube) I have two private practice locations in Houston, TX and offer virtual appointments to families who live in Texas and Illinois. You can locate more information on my practice website: www.adhdwellnesscenter.com
My Podcast show, “From ADHD to Amaze-Ability” is now available on Pandora! It is also accessible on iTunes, Google Play and Spotify. Subscribe today! “From ADHD to Amaze-Ability” Podcast Show: www.amaze-ability.com
I also have weekly scheduled FB LIVE sessions every Tuesday at 7 pm CST, where I encourage my viewers to discuss various mental health topics that impact our families and communities. In honor of celebrating “ADHD Awareness Month,” every segment will feature a topic on ADHD. You can join the discussion every Tuesday evening here: www.LivewithDrDawn.com
Dr. Dawn Brown is a double-board certified child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist. She is the owner, CEO and sole practitioner at ADHD Wellness Center and has two private practice locations in Texas as well as a growing virtual presence, offering online appointments. As a two-time best selling author, Dr. Brown is a pioneer of “the mental health movement” specializing in working with professional athletes and supermoms of ADHD children.
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