Myths and Facts About ADHD

November 8, 2007 at 1:56 pm  •  Posted in Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder by  •  0 Comments

By Margarita Bleier, MA, MSW, LCSW

What is ADHD? Myth #6
Myth #1 Myth #7
Myth #2 Myth #8
Myth #3 Myth #9
Myth #4 Myth #10
Myth #5 Myth #11


What Is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is often diagnosed in children when they exhibit six or more of the following symptoms of inattention of hyperactivity which have been present for six months or more. In the area of attention deficit, such symptoms include

  • Making careless mistakes
  • Having difficulty sustaining attention
  • Not seeming to listen
  • Difficulty organizing tasks
  • Avoiding or dislike tasks that require mental efforts
  • Losing things necessary for school work
  • Being easily distracted by others, and/or
  • Failing to finish chores, school work, doesn’t follow through

When diagnosing the addition of hyperactivity or impulsivity, the following must be present:

  • Fidgeting with hands or feet or squirming in seat,
  • Often leaving seat in classroom or in situations where remaining seated is expected,
  • Running around and climbs excessively,
  • Having difficulty playing quietly,
  • Talking excessively, and/or
  • On the go as if driven by a motor.

MYTH #1: There is a single well-known cause for ADHD.

While there is no single cause for the disorder, ADHD has been attributed to:

  • Genetic factors (Familial predisposition)
  • Biologic factors (Such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Lead poisoning, etc.)
  • Social factors (learned behavior, parenting skills, etc.)

Myth #2: Even if my child has ADHD, it is better to ignore it and not label him as having a problem.

Fact:  Studies show that without treatment, children with ADHD are more prone to alcohol and drug abuse, school and work problems and difficulty with interpersonal relationships.

Myth #3:  Stimulant medication used by adolescents could lead to abuse and addiction.

Fact:  Early treatment may in fact provide protection against the development of an abuse problem. Long-acting formulations are taken once daily and additional dosage outside the home is not necessary.

Myth #4:  Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is just a disorder of childhood.

Fact:  ADHD is not just a disorder of childhood. The adult form of the disorder is known as ADD because the symptoms of hyperactivity diminish with age.

Myth #5:  ADD in adults is not very common.

Fact:  ADD is far more common than popularly believed. While ADHD presents as a series of symptoms that usually become evident in preschool or early elementary years, more than 8 million adults in the US may have ADD.

Myth #6:  All children outgrow ADHD.

Fact:  Although in some cases symptoms can change or even disappear during adolescence, the condition continues into adulthood for 60 % of children with ADHD.

Myth #7:  ADHD is caused by bad parenting.

Fact:  While research shows that ADHD tends to run in families, ADHD may be a neurobiological disorder. How parents respond and raise a child may contribute to the persistence of ADHD symptoms but not cause it.

Myth #8:  Eating foods with lots of sugar causes ADHD.

Fact: Carefully controlled trials have shown that there is no relationship between high sugar levels and the behavior of children with or without ADHD. Additionally, there is no proof that there is a definite abnormality in the brain, or that there is a chemical imbalance within the brain.

Myth #9: Behavioral therapy alone is enough in the treatment of ADHD.

Fact:  ADHD can be treated through a combination of individual and family therapy, behavioral therapy (a system of rewards and punishments, and time-outs applied systematically and consistently by all the people involved in the care of the child), and/or medication therapy. None of these treatments work efficiently by themselves.

Family therapy addresses family dysfunction, individual therapy addresses low self esteem, behavior medication changes behavioral habits, and medications decrease impulsivity and hyperactivity. Medication can only be prescribed by a physician after a careful evaluation and diagnosis.

Myth #10: There are more children with ADHD now than in the past.

Fact:  The number of children that are being treated for ADHD has risen because there is more awareness and better ways of diagnosing and treating this disorder. More children are being helped.

Myth #11:  Schools are putting children on ADHD medication.

Fact: While teachers are often the first to notice ADHD symptoms, only physicians can prescribe medications to treat ADHD, and only the child’s parents or legal guardians can consent to treatment.

What Is Not Known:

What came first? Does family turmoil cause the child to have the condition? Or, does the child condition cause major family chaos?

What Is Known:

Certain stimulants combined with individual and family interventions can help children become quiet and compliant. With these interventions, children are better able to utilize their talents to the fullest. It is estimated that between 70 -90% of children treated with one of the stimulants improve in their behavior.


  • American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC 1994. pp. 78-95
  • American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Practice Guidelines: Diagnosis and evaluation of the child with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Pediatrics 105 (5): 1158-1170.
  • Biederman, Joseph, M.D. Practical Considerations in Stimulant Drug Selection for the Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Patient- Efficacy, potency and Titration, Communications Media for Education, Inc. Princeton Junction, NJ U.S.A.
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed. (DSM IV).
  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (1991) Practice Parameters for the Assessment and treatment of ADHD. Vol. 30 No. 3.
  • Kelly, K. and Ramundo, P. 1996. You mean I’m not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy? Simon & Schuster, NY pp 8-25.
  • Maxment, J.S. & Ward, N.G. 1995. Essential Psychopathology and its Treatment. W.W, Norton, NY and London, pp. 437-445.


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