Despite numerous studies proving the legitimacy of ADHD, there is still a stigma around the diagnosis and the medication taken to manage symptoms. This stigma is incredibly harmful as it is considered an underestimated risk factor for other negative outcomes in ADHD, such as anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse, and eating disorders.1 Find out why this stigma exists, how ADHD stereotypes can be harmful, and steps we can take to banish the stigma for good.
Why Is There a Stigma Surrounding ADHD?
Even though ADHD has been classified as a medical disorder since the 1960’s, there are many naysayers who contribute to the stigma surrounding the condition. These skeptics believe that the disorder is an excuse for being lazy or unmotivated. When ADHD is missed by parents or teachers, children often receive negative feedback instead of accommodations for their differences. This may result in low self-esteem and poor academic performance.
Another factor that contributes to ADHD stigma is fear or judgement around medication. This is partly because stimulant ADHD medication is associated with harmful symptoms and this type of medication has a history of being used and misused by high school and college students who have not been diagnosed with ADHD.2
How Stigmas Are Harmful
Studies show that stigma around ADHD can affect treatment adherence, treatment efficacy, severity of symptoms, life satisfaction, and the mental health of individuals affected by ADHD.3 An early paper on stigma toward children with ADHD showed that prejudices toward medication didn’t just increase patients’ noncompliance to therapy, but it also caused them to be more cautious in disclosing their condition to others, affecting their ability to seek out support.4 Children with ADHD are also in danger of becoming isolated from peers due to stigma, as research indicates that ADHD-diagnosed children are overall less favored as friends by peers and acknowledged as highly disturbing in the class environment.5 This isolation can have disastrous effects on the self-esteem of a person with ADHD, which should be closely monitored, as individuals with the disorder, regardless of comorbidities, are at a greater risk of attempting and committing suicide.6
Stereotypes Surrounding ADHD Diagnosis
ADHD stigma is fed by stereotypes, from doubts about its validity to the idea that girls cannot get ADHD. By breaking down these stereotypes, we can help break down the stigma for good.
irritability and impulsivity.
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- ADHD is a real medical condition confirmed by the American Psychiatric Association and brain imaging studies that have captured marked differences in the brains of people with ADHD.7,8
- ADHD is not the result of bad parenting. Genetic and environmental factors play a bigger role in ADHD than parenting choices.
- Girls get ADHD, too, but it often looks different. Stigma disproportionately affects girls and women because many believe that ADHD only impacts hyperactive boys. Girls are more likely to express inattentiveness rather than hyperactivity.
- ADHD does not equate with laziness. Laziness depends upon willpower while people with ADHD have executive functional impairments that interfere with their ability to focus, prioritize, sustain effort, and regulate emotions.
- Prescription medication is not the only way to manage ADHD. There are a variety of non-stimulant, non-prescription options available to reduce the symptoms of ADHD without the side effects of stimulant medication. This includes Brillia, a targeted homeopathic remedy that regulates the activity of the S-100B protein in the body. This protein is responsible for manifesting the common symptoms of ADHD such as hyperactivity, lack of focus, and irritability. A number of lifestyle factors like proper nutrition, adequate sleep, controlled screen time, and relaxation techniques can also be used to successfully reduce symptoms of ADHD with success.
How We Can Overcome the Stigma
Along with being educated on the facts, we can all help reduce stigma whether we have ADHD or someone we love does. If your child has ADHD, use positive reinforcement to help build up their self-esteem and self-worth. Raise awareness about the condition by reading more, sharing more, and busting myths when you hear them. Just be careful to check the source of what you share so you can be sure you’re spreading facts. And if you have ADHD, let your voice be heard. The more we learn from those who have ADHD, the more we understand about the condition.
Find more resources about ADHD and get support at the Brillia blog.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. 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.