There are a lot of misconceptions about ADD and ADHD out there. Attention-Deficit Disorder and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-once thought to be “kids only” and, in some cases, “excuses” for bad behavior-are a lot more common in adults. Chances are, you know someone who either has ADD/ADHD (I'm going to call them the same for the purposes of this article), or has a child who does. It can be confusing to separate the facts from the fiction but, in hopes of clarifying some things, I'm going to try. Here are some misconceptions about ADD and the truth behind them.
1. ADD/ADHD Isn't "real"
One of the biggest misconceptions about ADD and ADHD is that they're not “real” disorders. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), the book doctors use to identify and treat mental disorders, says differently. Granted, the same document includes a disorder that makes you think you're a walking corpse (sciencechannel.com), but that's real just as ADD is real.
2. It's a Kid's Disorder
I have it. So did a hottie college boyfriend of mine. So does Adam Levine, lead singer of “Maroon 5.” This isn't celebrity gossip-he's been very upfront about it. Some people do grow out of it, but not always. Also, more is being learned all the time about the “adult” version because ADD/ADHD presents differently in children than in adults. I'm not sure if it's because of our ages or because adults tend not to be in the same situations (i.e. school) kids are in when they are diagnosed, but the fact is that doctors are learning more about what causes this disorder and others like it. With more knowledge can come more treatment. That's always good.
3. It's over-diagnosed
A lot of people think teachers only mention ADD/ADHD because they're crappy teachers who can't deal with an energetic kid. Maybe this is true in some cases but, for most people, the squirming and inattentive behaviors don't cause marked behavioral or academic problems. Parental annoyance, maybe, but not much beyond that. For more of a “narrative” approach, here's a page explaining the differences: healthcentral.com.
4. It's Caused by Poor Teaching/parenting/diet Etc
It would be nice if it were that easy, wouldn't it? While it is possible for the disorder to be affected by diet, it is neither caused nor cured by what we eat. As for the others-since ADD is largely chemically-based, it's not caused by anything anyone else has done. There's a genetic as well as an environmental component, but it's not as though it's anyone's “fault” if you have it.
5. People with ADD/ADHD Don't Think
Quite the contrary. If anything, we think too fast. Because of the issues with focus, things race in and out of our heads so quickly that it's hard for anything to “stick.” Also, we're constantly thinking. You know how most people can tune out things around them (music, people around us etc) that they deem unimportant? We can't. I'd love to be able to ignore my neighbor's guitar talent (or lack thereof), but it's just not going to happen. However...
6. If You Can Concentrate on Something, You Don't Have ADD/ADHD
The problem isn't with focusing on anything at all, as opposed to being able to “filter” the mundane things that go through our minds. It's not unusual for someone with ADD/ADHD to get so absorbed (“in the zone”) on something they find interesting that they are completely oblivious to everything else around them. Remember how the boys of “South Park” were so focused on “World of Warcraft” that they couldn't even go to the bathroom? That's a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea. For information on how to use it to your advantage, visit add.about.com.
7. People with ADD Won't Be Able to Get along in the World
This is a really harsh way to put it, but I've heard this about my bipolar. It's no more true now than it was then. As I mentioned above, some people are sexy tattooed pop singers, actors, writers-you name it. Even if you aren't musical or creative, however, we can learn mental tricks or other ways to harness the effects of the disorder. For instance, people with ADD can make excellent store/restaurant managers or similar because we have to have a million things going on at once. That's just one example; there are many more. It takes work, sure, but it is very possible.
As you can see, ADD/ADHD is a lot more than simply “being a kid,” ”being lazy” or “getting bored.” While I won't deny that some people might try to use it as an excuse for bad behavior, the facts are that ADD and ADHD are real disorders with real symptoms and real treatments. More is being learned all the time, so hopefully our kids' generation will have a better handle on how to deal with it than our parents' generation did. What about you? Do you know anyone with ADD or ADHD? Do you have either? If so, what has helped you manage it? Do you have any advice for the rest of us? Discuss!