ADHD Myth-Busting Series: Introduction

ADHD myth busting

Throughout history, whenever we haven’t clearly understood a phenomenon, myths have substituted and passed for knowledge. As more of us learn about ADHD, the common misconceptions we encounter (especially in comments to news articles!) may disappear entirely. We can only hope.

I’ve created this new ADHD Myth-Busting Series  to help you educate the public (and even “resistant” family members) in these areas:

  1. Understanding that ADHD affects children and adults.
  2. Pushing aside mistaken notions that ADHD is an excuse for irresponsibility, a “typical human behavior,” a by-product of modern life, or a pharmaceutical company invention.
  3. Knowing that ADHD is not, in fact, a “controversial” diagnosis and that all significant scientific and medical bodies agree that ADHD is a valid medical condition.
  4. Realizing that, left unaddressed, some ADHD symptoms can yield serious consequences

Here are the seven specific myths I will be exploring in the weeks to come; I welcome you to submit more myths and your ideas on countering them. Just write to me by clicking “Contact Gina” at the top of this page. Thanks!

  1. “…ADHD Is for Children”
  2. “. . .ADHD’s Just an Excuse for Irresponsibility”
  3. “…The Symptoms Are Basic Human Behaviors”
  4. “. . .Modern Life Makes Us All Act ‘ADHD’ish’”
  5. “…It’s a Ruse to Make Pharmaceutical Firms Rich”
  6. “…ADHD Is a Controversial Diagnosis”
  7. “…ADHD Is a Minor Difference, Not a Big Deal”

—Gina Pera




14 thoughts on “ADHD Myth-Busting Series: Introduction”

  1. Wise, knowledgeable, supportive, understanding (feel you understand and you do). with your understanding, experience, knowledge, etc but you can get past the myths and validate the reality. This is all very new to me and and I am glad you know the truth. Good responses to letters, can easily see different issues that can be clarified and supported. you’re just great! what else can I say?

  2. Hi PB,
    The ability to see a much larger picture than most do has been of tremendous benefit to me over the years. However, it can be a burden not a boon if you can’t get to the other side of the mass and have it sorted and pruned. I need to be able to put everything else aside to get to that final stage. It’s likely why I’ve done my best work between 11:00 pm and 4:00 am – the rest of the world leaves me alone. To do that I have to be relaxed, rested, and fed. When/if depression is getting the upper hand, the massive information pile becomes overwhelming rather than an attractive puzzle. It sounds to me like you aren’t quite getting to the end of the process – that look on other people’s faces that says “OMG! It’s so clear now!” Gina may have been alluding to the same concern with her gentle ‘nudge’. Take care of yourself.

  3. Margaret, after reading your comment. It is good to see that there are others that understand. Obviously, it’s not good that you have to deal with it.
    I have similar focus issues and am often told that I am not seeing the “big picture” when, after a long period of “invisible to others” effort, what I’m trying to communicate is the ultimate causes and, what, seems to me, the place to make changes to solve things, not just deal with them.
    But what comes out (short term working memory?) is Just the end point. I have much difficulty understanding how much or little to communicate with others regarding the very hard figuring, analyzing the whole spider web of relevant and irrelevant thoughts, etc… that I had gone through. What happens is that only the “simple solution” , to me, comes out , and people look at me as if I don’t have a clue.
    It is a Herculean effort for me to organize verbally the steps I took to get to that point, Often, I get ignored or ridiculed, unless I just go and do it myself, where I am too frequently rewarded with, “you work too hard”. or that I made it seem so easy that it wasn’t any effort at all. The other option is to go through another Herculean effort of writing a document detailing every little step, proof. Justification. etcetera, to the point that nobody wants to read it, or that I am looked at as just a busy body, even when right.
    This probably is also stated too simply. But please note, I can also go through the same processes and fail miserably, hopefully with just me as a witness. But I have a real bad habit of exposing my mistakes (be honest) before others eagerly expose them for me. Enough said I hope.

    On an unrelated note, I just spent five hours analyzing a large purchase, that I have been considering for weeks, and ended up going with my first choice with a slight downgrade from top of the line. To save money?, I rarely know and am rarely totally satisfied with any decision because the analysis never ends. I usually end up just doing it, maybe just to get it done.

    I don’t want to give up how I see things. I want to know and feel how others see them so differently, and be able to accept, learn, and deal with that. At the same time I want to feel that I fit in somewhere, where I don’t get the feeling that I would be great if only I was more like everyone else.

    1. Hi PB,

      I can understand not wanting to give up how you see things, or somehow feeling forced to see things that way “everyone else” does.

      Of course, “everyone else” is not monolithic, though it might seem that way.

      The more you describe these phenomena (and you detail them very clearly, imho), the more it is sounding like your challenge is in organizing and selecting from your thoughts—knowing where to expand, where to prune.

      This seems akin to the challenges that some people have with organizing “stuff” in their homes—what’s useful, what’s expendable, where does it all go?

      You know I’m going to be a nudge (because I care about you, as a friend), so pardon for asking….how’s the medication experimentation going? Have you increased the dosage and noticed any change, for better or worse?


  4. Margaret Shibley

    I agree so much with Jaclyn’s “But you were in the gifted program…” myth. My GP is knowledgeable, but when I went to the Royal Ottawa Hospital (a mental health facility), the ‘specialist’ decided that since my parents never ‘caught’ me at any of my stunts, since I was also in the gifted program, I had a degree in science, and I read an enormous amount – I couldn’t possibly be ADHD. He said I had unresolved anger issues! and depression. Let’s see – 2 boys also ADHD and ADD, a husband with severe paralysing depression issues for over a decade, a house falling apart around my ears – and somehow I’m the one responsible for keeping us all together, and clean, and fed, and on time and and and… You bet I was angry sometimes, just smart enough not to let loose when it doesn’t do anything but make things worse. My GP just laughed at him, listened to my childhood stories and said it was a miracle I wasn’t dead or so far on the other side of the law they couldn’t find me. The specialist never did anything to find out where my area of hyperfocus was – taking masses of information, learning, analysing, and then making the complex simple and presenting it for other people to understand. His response to “It shouldn’t be so hard to pay the bills and do the paperwork” was, “Just tell yourself it isn’t, and sit down and do it.” (sounds of muted screaming). This could be an indefinite rant, but you get the point. This particular myth, that ADHD folks can’t be smart, and don’t accomplish anything, is extremely destructive. Please address!!

    1. Oh boy….”unresolved anger issues” — yeah, at that ignorant “specialist!”

      Thanks, Margaret. Excellent one.


  5. Kidlet Who Cooks

    Damn, once again I forgot to select/copy as I’m typing a comment, so just before I’m ready to Post, I click outside the box and lose it.

    So I will try to reconstruct it later.

    But the short version is YES, PLEASE include the “ADHD is a gift” myth. I don’t think the general, ADHD-ignorant public has this misperception, but as Gina points out, MANY of the “experts” and pwADHD have been hawking it for years. And it’s not true – actually, as many pwADHD themselves point out, it is one of the biggest myths out there.

    aka Kidlet Who Cooks

  6. Our social circle is crunchy and counter-culture, so the myth we often argue against when my husband’s ADHD treatment is discussed is that it’s a gift: that’s he’s actually more evolved & innovative, or a creative genius. They plead with him not to seek or continue treatment because it will kill his sparkle.

    1. Good one, Chloe. Boy have we heard that one.

      And it’s a shame that it’s been promulgated by the self-promoting, self-described ADHD “expert” Hallowell.

      This idea of ADHD “superpowers” makes for a great marketing strategy. But that’s about it. Because it does nothing to actually improve the odds of people with ADHD reaching their goals.

  7. So true, Sachiko. People ask me that about my husband, who has a PhD in molecular biology. They assume that ADHD gave him the “genius” to do that. Instead, left unrecognized, it made his life miserable as he worked so hard to achieve his goal.

  8. I’ve gotten “but you were in the gifted program at school.” Or some varition on the “you’re too smart to have ADD” sentiment. Ugh.

    1. Hi Jaclyn,

      Yes, that’s a very telling one, isn’t it. It point-blank says, “But I thought people with ADHD aren’t very smart.”


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