Liberals, Conservatives Agree: It’s Okay to Bash ADHD, Bully the People Who Have It


Wouldn’t it be great if we could bridge this “left-right” divide in our country?  If only we could agree about something.

Oh wait. Left and right do agree on something: That it’s okay to disparage the very diagnosis of ADHD, not to mention the medication used to treat it.

Introducing: The ADHD Hall of Shame, a new ADHD Roller Coaster department.

Inaugural inductees: HBO show host Bill Maher and his guests Arianna Huffington, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA).

Make that two self-avowed “liberals” and two “conservatives” who gleefully agree: It’s okay to bash the legitimate science-based diagnosis of ADHD.

“Paddling a child is inhumane but drugging a child is the way to go?” began an indignant Kingston (R-GA).

The implication? There’s nothing about ADHD that a good whupping won’t cure.

(Side note: We’ve already talked back once to that bad idea with this U.S. News and World Report piece: “One View: A Spanking Might Beat Ritalin.” Parenting columnist Nancy Shute provided a platform to ADHD gadfly-contrarian behavioral pediatrician Larry Dilller. Unfortunately, the news outlet deleted the comments. I had rallied many of my friends with ADHD to share how well childhood spanking worked for them. It didn’t.)

From there, Maher and the other two guests piled on ADHD, especially the medications that millions take to alleviate their symptoms.  (To judge for yourself, advance the video above to 24:30.)

I was waiting for one of them to say, “and the school said my children should be evaluated for ADHD!”  Then Ms. Huffingon piped up, as if on cue.  (Skim her last two books and you’ll find self-confessions of electronic-device overuse and sleep issues, which she claims led to her collapsing of exhaustion.)

Nothing breeds vitriol against ADHD like the suggestion that the person—or his or her children—might have ADHD. Please keep that in mind: It’s not just “non-ADHD” people who rage against the diagnosis and it’s treatment; it’s the “in denial” folks with ADHD, too.  In fact, sometimes they are the most ferocious in their attacks. Moreover, some of them have a hustle based on ADHD denial.

Business consultant, author, and Huffington Post blogger Michael Laskoff, who often writes about his experiences having ADHD, also took issue with the show in a recent column, “Being Famous Doesn’t Make You an ADHD Expert”.

Promoting Shame and Stigma

We who know ADHD intimately know that all-too-familiar traveling companion: shame. Partly, shame originates from not knowing you have ADHD and internalizing all the inexplicably negative feedback you encounter, from childhood on.

Another type of shame, though, is lobbed with full force at people with ADHD.   It comes from people (some of them highly educated on other issues) who refuse to educate themselves yet self-righteously criticize ADHD as a “pharma invention” or “the disease du jour” or “overdiagnosed” or or or or.

These pundits are entitled to their own opinions, as they say, but not to their own facts. And when their deluded opinions target my friends with ADHD—on the airwaves, in print, or on the Internet—it leaves me at once angry and heartsick at this cold-hearted, mingy-minded ignorance permeating left and right.

Would they taunt eyeglass-wearing children with the schoolyard bullying chant “Four eyes! Four eyes!”?

Would they rip into the parents of children who wear eyeglasses, hurling accusations that if they loved their children more, fed their children more healthfully, and spent more time with their children, there would be no need for vision correction?

My guess is, if it got them political capital or some other type of reward, yes. But ADHD makes a very convenient whipping post.

I figured it’s past time we hold up the mirror to the bloviating blowhards (even as they profess valiant defense of children and adults who would otherwise be unjustly “drugged”). Let them get a little taste of the shame they are doling out.  Hence The ADHD Hall of Shame.

What do you think?

20 thoughts on “Liberals, Conservatives Agree: It’s Okay to Bash ADHD, Bully the People Who Have It”

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  4. Thanks Gina for creating the “Hall of Shame” Department. I know it will be a favorite for me and all your readers.

    Unfortunately, there are going to be so many inductees! The trite nonsense about ADHD being a normal variant of childhood (and adulthood?) is just too easy for lazy media meat-heads.

    Maybe we can embarrass a few of them into cleaning it up and doing their jobs.

  5. Yes, Doc Betsy, the singular lack of compassion — what I refer to as “mingy-minded meanness.” The irony is that these people think they are acting in service to the children and adults who are, in their minds, being uncompassionately diagnosed and treated.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story, Dr. McNeil, and being a fierce advocate for these kids.

    I’m honored to be visited by other esteemed bloggers. Kerch is an ADHD-savvy Life Coach. Dr. Boyd writes a column on psychology and psychotherapy. Of course Jeff is the brain behind Jeff’s ADD Mind. Terry doesn’t have a blog yet (that I know of), but I will try to channel his whip-smart observations and humor. And welcome Adrian, who is active in the Twitter world.

    It’s great to have allies on the Internet. If you’ve been reading the comic strip Pearls Before Swine lately, I’ve been looking for the equivalent of an Internet Happy Box (escape from the meanies). Found it here!

  6. betsy davenport, phd

    Oh, good, Gina. I have been talking about this with my daughter this week (after she was so stung and enraged by the show that she was – uncharacteristically – crying while gripping the remote control til it whitened her hand). I wondered aloud about my strong reaction to the AD/HD “discussion” and the COPD crack as well. I am always pissed when I read and hear the same witless blather. It does not evoke shame in me, but it always gives me a sharp stab in the stomach as I immediately think of the untold millions who are still suffering, many of whom will, as my daughter said, now go without what they need, and some of them may well lose their lives as an indirect result.

    No, what really got to me was this. Coupled with the gratuitous crack about COPD (that could have been my father when I took him to the last baseball game he ever saw, and he was too oxygen deprived to even carry the damned tank and too embarrassed to wheel it around), I reacted to the singular lack of compassion coming from Bill Maher and from the rest of them as well.

    It is that failure of empathy I found so painful — more painful than a stray comment about how people are over medicated — because if a person can’t imagine himself into a coal miner’s boots he surely can’t imagine himself into my Brain. I have no need of Maher’s understanding, but there are millions who need someone’s understanding (or, at the very least, their credulity) and if a bright educated guy who reads is tossing off that kind of misinformation and scorn, what will become of them?

    Not everyone has easy access to the public square and I think those who find themselves there have an obligation to treat the privilege – and their listeners – with respect.

  7. Gina,

    Once again you’re the “leader of the pack,” opening new paths and opening more minds in the process. Bravo!

    Now…some possible inductees to the Hall of Shame: Dr. Breggin; Dr. Baughman; Dr. Phil and his advisor Dr. Lawlis (notice how many have “Dr.” before their name).

  8. Thanks for putting this up. It is discouraging. Of course there is a definite kernel of truth in the criticisms of medicating kids, but most of the discussion on ADD was astoundingly absolutist.

    I think it would be helpful for there to be more admission and discussion that many kids from certain demographics are indeed over-diagnosed and over-prescribed, and that medicating should always be done by skilled, specialized providers, and never as the first course of action.

    That said, it is so painful to hear the ignorant blather coming from Huffington and Maher on this subject. So much misery has come from the idea that a kick in the ass will solve problems with kids. I didn’t expect this f from either of these people, despite Mahers diet beliefs. The other two guys–well, what can you expect?

    Very disheartening. Thanks again for covering it.

  9. Dr. Katherine Nell McNeil

    Gina, you are an angel. Thank you for helping with this battle. I am a special education teacher of high school students with severe emotional/behavioral issues. Most have a combination of ADHD and learning disabilities and comorbid conditions such as anxiety, bi-polar disorder, depression, and obsessive compulsive to name a few. I have taught this student population for the past 11 years and I can’t tell you how many time I have heard from individuals that all these kids needs is there “ass kicked” to get them back in line. I try to explain that many have had year of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in addition to their disabilities. Because their disability is invisible there is a group that just refuses to believe in their disability and we won’t even go into appropriate therapy and medication as part of their treatment plan.

    When they are all done ranting and raving I ask them, “What are the chances of a high school student with who has a 1.6 GPA, and barely makes it out of high school getting a BA? They give me a funny look and tell me “Maybe 10%.” I then ask, “Ok, what are the chances of a high school who has a 1.6 GPA, barely makes it out of high school, and can’t write a paragraph getting a MA? They tell me “Maybe 2%. I then tell them I have one last question, “What are the chances of a high school who has a 1.6 GPA, barely makes it out of high school, and can’t write a paragraph has severe ADHD and profound learning disabilities getting a PhD? They just laugh and tell me, “Not a chance, no how no way.” Then they laugh. I look at them dead in the eye and tell them that the hypothethical student I just described to them was me and that I was written off by all my teachers too and I will never turn my back on any of my students because if I can achieve what I have starting at the age of 32 and finishing my PhD at 49, so can my students. It leaves them with their mouths open.

    If I can leave someone questioning their beliefs then I have done my job. If anyone is curious about what I do everyday here is a short video. I teach 4 period of social studies and 2 periods of Digital Media Design. The video is of Digital Media Design.

  10. Thanks Katherine! I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to meet a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who “believes” in ADHD!

    In fact, I’ve encountered enough ADHD-bashing by other Pulitzer winners, I thought it was taught in a j-school class that I’d somehow missed. 😉

    Folks, Katherine is also the author of The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood Makes Us Smarter. Click on her name to visit her website, or click here:

  11. Thanks for chiming in, folks. Nominees always welcome!

    John writes a great blog about bi-polar disorder, among other subjects — Knowledge is Necessity.

    And you know, I did “go positive” — I’m positive these people belong in the Hall of Shame! 🙂

    1. Julie Appleton

      Congrats Gina, a well deserve accolade for your ongoing work.

      We Downunder seem to have peacefully crept through February ADHD Hunting Season this year – I guess there has been enough drama happening in the world to take the eyes off ADHD for a change. They do all belong in the Hall of Shame, It is bad enough to look stupid, but they opened their mouths and proved it.

      Keep up the good work.

    2. Thanks so much, Julie.

      Here in the U.S., there are so many profiteers out to exploit “stupid” on so many levels, it’s hard to keep track.

      I never thought this would be the case in the 21st Century, when we know so much.

      Glad to hear it’s been an ADHD Hunting Season with no casualties.


  12. Hey, Gina. Congrats on your Wall of Shame. May I add a new diagnosis? Asshole Personality Disorder.

    I was thinking of doing my own Hall of Shamers, then I decided to go positive. I’m composing a piece right now on blogs I whole-heartedly recommend and yours is one a a small handful that gets the two thumbs up. It should be up in another hour or two. Keep up the great work …

  13. You see two liberals and two conservatives. I see a closet-case, a smiling All-American fascist, a chronic attention-whore and an embarrassingly ignorant pot-head who objects to any drugs but his own.

    Nonetheless I find it entirely fitting that this self-righteous and self-infatuated gang of ignoramuses be honored as charter members of The ADHD Hall of Shame.

    (I also assume from patching together their words of wisdom that if people with COPD had been properly beaten as children, they wouldn’t be dragging those damn oxygen canisters around, ruining Bill Maher’s jaundiced view of the human landscape.)

    I’ll certainly be on the lookout for other worthy Hall of Shamers.

  14. Virginia S. Wood, Psy.D.

    What do I think? I think you, and titles like “Being Famous Doesn’t Make You an ADHD Expert” say it all. But I think you have stumbled on something of genius here and may not have even realized it: Attention-seeking Disorder. Can we add that to the DSMV? and can we then sedate these people into silence or some near-approximation thereof?

    1. Julie Appleton

      We actually could enforce their own solution – give them a paddling and see if it ‘cures’ their ignorance – but I doubt that anything will get through to that happy bunch.

    2. Hi Julie,

      Hhaha! Turnabout is fair play! Your solution makes perfect sense.

      Only one problem: Some of them might like the spanking too much. 😉


  15. Kerch McConlogue

    What a great idea to publish this kind of thing. Here’s to your notion growing in popularity. And thereby doing something to bash some other guys who freakin’ need it!

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