ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)

Myths and Misconceptions About ADHD

Perceptions of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are replete with myths, misconceptions, and misinformation about the nature, course and treatment of the disorder.

While barriers to treatment have been reduced in recent years, there is a climate of blame, shame, embarrassment and stigma that discourages our society from seeking help for ADHD which can be a debilitating condition for the child. There is compelling evidence that a large number of children with ADHD, are not being served, are inadequately served, or are inappropriately served.

Misinformation often bypasses those in need of treatment for ADHD and may discourage families from seeking appropriate care. Parents may avoid professional help because they are often accused of seeking to medicate overly playful, non-compliant, or mildly disruptive children. More likely, parents are struggling to help their children cope with a serious constellation of problems and are seeking help because previous attempts to reduce the impact of ADHD have failed.

Or even better, everyone in the family says, this is how children grow up and they will be fine when they are all grown up and in high school or college. This is absolutely wrong and incorrect and is just brushing the matter under the carpet or avoiding responsibility.

Myth: ADHD Is Not a Real Disorder

ADHD is a serious and valid disorder with severe, lifelong consequences. Studies over the past 100 years demonstrate that ADHD is a chronic disorder that has a negative impact on virtually every aspect of daily social, emotional, academic and work functioning. It is a real disorder with serious consequences.

Myth: ADHD Is a Disorder of Childhood

Long-term studies show that anywhere from 70–80 percent of children with ADHD exhibit significant signs of restlessness and distractibility into adolescence and young adulthood. Research estimates that 1.5 to 2 percent of adults have ADHD, and between two and six percent of adolescents have ADHD. ADHD is a lifelong disorder that requires a developmental framework for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. We believe that in India this figure is much higher specially in male children.

Myth: ADHD Is Over-Diagnosed

It is difficult to find evidence that ADHD is over-diagnosed or that stimulant medications are over-prescribed. In fact we feel that it is under diagnosed and/or untreated. Rates vary depending on the rating scales employed, the criteria used to make a diagnosis, the use of cut-off scores, and changes in diagnostic criteria.

ADHD is a handicapping condition and will be seen in the long run with decreased academic and social parameters.

Myth: Children With ADHD should not be medicated.

Researchers now believe that the use of stimulants reflects better diagnosis and more effective treatment of a prevalent disorder. The percentage of children who receive medication of any kind is small. So while there has been an increase in the number of prescriptions, a relatively low overall rate of stimulant use is reported in school-aged children. In fact medication at appropriate and small does helps more.

Myth5: Poor Parenting Causes ADHD.

This misconception may be the most difficult to dispel because parenting characteristics (i.e., being critical, commanding, negative) and poor management do exacerbate ADHD. It is not environmental factors (e.g., parenting practices, parental psychopathology) but genetic factors and not a shared environment, which account for the greatest variance in ADHD symptoms—about 80 percent. While management difficulties influence parent-child conflicts and the maintenance of hyperactivity and oppositional problems in young children, theories of causation of ADHD can no longer be based solely or even primarily on social factors, such as parental characteristics, care giving abilities, child management, or other family environmental factors.

Other factors may play a causal role, including exposure to environmental toxins (e.g., elevated blood lead, prenatal exposure to alcohol and tobacco smoke), but not all children exposed to these risk factors have high rates of hyperactivity, nor do all children with ADHD have these risk factors. Although other factors (e.g., family adversity, poverty, educational/occupational status, home environment, poor nutrition, environmental toxins, ineffective childrearing practices) do not appear to have a significant contribution to the development of ADHD symptoms these factors contribute to co morbid disorders and complicate treatment effectiveness.

A number of inaccurate or non-scientifically based parent beliefs about the causes of ADHD including: allergic reactions or sensitivity to foods, family problems like alcoholism or marital discord, ineffective discipline, lazy learning habits, a lack of motivation, etc.

Inaccurate or false beliefs which are associated with parental attributions that children were responsible for their ADHD symptoms (symptoms are intentional and children can control their symptoms), and with the use of less effective treatment (e.g., diet control).

Myth7: Girls Have Lower Rates and Less Severe ADHD than Boys.

Girls are less likely to receive a diagnosis of and treatment for ADHD compared to boys despite need. Girls with ADHD have greater intellectual impairment, but lower rates of hyperactivity and externalizing disorders compared to boys. Girls with ADHD have more severe internalizing disorders than boys. Girls with ADHD were more likely to have conduct problems, mood and anxiety disorders, lower IQ, and more impairment on social, family and school functioning than non-referred girls. However, conduct problems were lower in girls than in males with ADHD, which may account for lower rates of referral.

Compared to boys with ADHD, girls with ADHD reported higher rates of overall distress, anxiety and depression, and demonstrated more hyperactivity, conduct and cognitive deficits. We note higher rates of inattention, hyperactivity, oppositional defiance, conduct problems, social difficulties, depression and anxiety. Girls may report more distress than boys, and they may be more affected by environmental factors than males with ADHD.

Correct screening and identification should dispel inaccurate information about ADHD. Popularly held false beliefs, which are often perpetuated by emotional or unexamined arguments do more harm than good. They do little to advance our knowledge and do a lot to discourage parents from seeking help and from using effective treatments for ADHD that have undergone rigorous scientific scrutiny.

For more information and how to help your child please contact the Dyslexia Association of India™ and we would be more than willing to help dispel your doubts.

When you approach the DAI™, we do not immediately conduct an assessment. We try to understand the issue and help you with understanding your child better. Only once you are convinced that your child needs help that we proceed with any form of screening and intervention.

In fact if your child is screened and has an issue, you should know that the educational system in India has provisions for helping the child and no school can “turn out” your child or ask you sign any “conditional agreements” that are based on the performance of your child where academics are concerned.

Even for attention issues, the school cannot ask for any conditional letter to be signed by the parent. Call us now at 88260-22886 or e mail us at for further information.