07 October 2016

7 myths about ADHD debunked

Do you consider yourself well-informed about ADHD? Make sure you aren't deceived by these common myths . . .


Whenever there’s a behavioural aspect to a disorder, there are likely to be a number of misconceptions about it, and ADHS is no exception.   

Let's go ahead and bust a few common misconceptions about ADHD:

Myth 1: ADHD is caused by bad parenting

Hyperactive children are just the result of ineffective parenting. “You just can’t control your child” is a common phrase used by uninformed bystanders.

Fact: Research from Michigan State University shows this is a fallacy and ADHD is not caused by bad parenting. Parenting technique can improve symptoms, or make certain behaviours worse, but it’s definitely not the cause of ADHD.

Myth 2: It’s not a medical disorder

ADHD is simply bad behaviour and is definitely not a diagnosable disorder that warrants medical attention.

Fact: ADHD is a disorder listed in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and has specific diagnostic criteria. It’s part of the scope of practice of psychologists and psychiatrists to diagnose and treat the disorder, and extensive research has shown a biochemical imbalance in patients.

Read: Could stress be mistaken for ADHD in SA?

Myth 3: Medication will make a person seem drugged

Giving especially to children, strong medication such as Ritalin will only worsen the condition and make them feel drugged most of the time. The idea that it will "take away their personality" is a common conception.

Fact: Whereas ADHD medications are sometimes overprescribed, it is necessary in many cases. The Child Mind Institute’s research shows it can sharpen focus and increase the control a person has over their behaviour. Just like with any other medication, there are side-effects and it is not a one-size-fits-all scenario.

Myth 4: Children outgrow ADHD

ADHD is a childhood disorder and teenagers and adults can’t develop it. As children grow older they outgrow a lot of the symptoms.

Fact: Comprehensive research cited in the textbook “Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry” shows that 70 out of 100 children suffering from the disorder continue to have symptoms as teenagers, and about 50% still have ADHD by the time they reach adulthood.

Read: What's up with Ritalin?

Myth 5: People with ADHD are just stupid and lazy

People who are not intelligent, or are simply too lazy to control their own emotions, develop ADHD.

Fact: ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence, as research from The University of Maryland shows. “People with ADHD span the same IQ range as the general population,” the research found. It’s also not a case of “just being lazy”. Biochemistry limits one’s control in the same way the brain affects behaviour in other psychiatric conditions.

Myth 6: ADHD is a simple case of being hyperactive

Children eat too much sugar and are just hyperactive. They just need to sit still and focus on a specific task.

Fact: Studies from Harvard University show that there’s no definitive proof that diet has an impact on, or can even cause, ADHD symptoms. The crux of the problem is a lack of concentration, and this is not due to a lack of effort. While there are several behavioural interventions, these are often not enough to counteract biological changes.

Myth 7: Someone can’t have ADHD and also suffer from depression

ADHD is a unique disorder, and because of its hyperactivity component you can’t have it and also suffer from other psychiatric disorders.

Fact: A study in the Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry shows psychiatric disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder are often accompanied by ADHD symptoms. ADHD manifests itself in different ways and it’s often a co-morbid disorder, either as a primary or secondary disorder.

Read more:

Memory training helps kids with ADHD

Most docs don't follow ADHD treatment guidelines

Paracetamol during pregnancy tied to ADHD risk in kids


Ask the Expert

ADHD Expert

Dr. Shabeer Ahmed Jeeva is a specialist psychiatrist who has been practicing child and adult psychiatry for 30 years. He has vast experience in treating ADHD, and is also an ADHD patient himself. Dr. Jeeva trained and practiced in Canada as a child and adult psychiatrist and had lived there for 25 years. He had attended medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland (1970-1976). His professional experience and accreditation includes: Psychiatric residency at the University of Ottawa (Canada), Child Psychiatry fellowship at the University of Ottawa (Canada), Diploma in Psychiatry at the University of Ottawa (Canada), and Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Canada. Visit his website at:

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