While it is true that all children are impulsive and inattentive at times, for children with ADHD, these seemingly normal attributes interfere with their ability to learn, succeed, and interact positively with others. According to the CDC, this real and serious condition has affected an estimated 6.1 million children in the U.S., which may not account for those children who have been undiagnosed or misdiagnosed1, primarily girls.12 Even though people are becoming more knowledgeable about ADHD in recent years, there are still a number of myths floating around. From ADHD being a result of bad parenting to the idea that only boys get ADHD, here is what we discovered about the most common ADHD myths in kids.
Myth: ADHD Is a Result of Bad Parenting
Parenting choices do not affect whether or not your child will develop ADHD. An accumulation of genetic and environmental risk factors do.3 According to psychotherapist and author Stephanie Sarkis, more than 10 genes have been identified as being linked to ADHD.4 And while structure and positive reinforcement can affect the severity of ADHD symptoms, they do not determine an ADHD diagnosis.
Myth: Only Boys Get ADHD
Boys are twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, but only because the condition is often missed in girls.5 While the main symptom of ADHD in boys is hyperactivity, the most common symptom for girls is inattention. It is estimated that half to three‐quarters of all women with ADHD are undiagnosed.6
Myth: ADHD is the Reason My Child is Unmotivated
Some kids get unmotivated at times, but ADHD isn’t always the culprit. In fact, the lack of motivation and “laziness” often attributed to ADHD is unfair because these words assume ADHD can be boiled down to will power. Kids with ADHD have neurological impairments that interfere with their ability to pay attention, prioritize, sustain effort, regulate emotions, and hold several things in mind at once. They may want to follow through on a task, and be aware of the dire consequences of not following through, and still be unable to get there.
Myth: Medication is the Only Cure for ADHD
While commonly prescribed ADHD medications that increase the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain can help reduce symptoms of ADHD, they are not cures. They only help manage symptoms, but they often come with a variety of unwanted side effects. These include sleeplessness, decreased appetite, headaches, and moodiness. But there are a number of natural and holistic options available to reduce the symptoms of ADHD without such side effects. These include controlled screen time, mindfulness practices, a consistent sleep schedule, healthy nutrition, and exercise. A non-prescription, homeopathic product like Brillia can also help, by regulating the activity of the S-100B protein in the body, which is responsible for manifesting the common symptoms of ADHD and anxiety, including a lack of focus and impulsivity.
Myth: Kids with ADHD Are Overmedicated
Hearing that 7.5 percent of children are on medication in the U.S. may seem alarming, but only until you learn that 11 percent of children have a diagnosis of ADHD.7 This raises a possibility of under-treatment instead of overtreatment. Medication is not for every child, but taking an ADHD diagnosis seriously and exploring the variety of treatment options available can make a lasting impact on their long-term health.
Myth: Kids with ADHD Aren’t Smart
While it’s true that children with ADHD face greater challenges when it comes to academic success, it’s untrue that ADHD correlates with a lack of intelligence. In fact, kids with attention issues can often be gifted when it comes to creative ambition, emotional expressiveness, interpersonal intuition, and even when assuming leadership roles. This is precisely why experts like Dr. Lara Honos-Webb, the author of The Gift of ADHD, says that characterizing ADHD as a disorder can lead to low self-esteem and underachievement.8 By characterizing ADHD as a personality trait, kids are more apt to see the strengths in their condition along with the difficulties. In this way, ADHD can be seen as a mixed blessing to be managed instead of a curse to be ignored.
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Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles and a mother of one. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a certificate in Narrative Therapy. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.