6 Myths About ADHD

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Chris Illiades, MD on September 4, 2020
  • Hispanic doctor explaining pamphlet to client in office
    Straight Talk on ADHD
    Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was first described more than 200 years ago. In the years since, a lot of myths about ADHD have developed. Some of these myths still persist today. It’s time to set the record straight on some common myths about ADHD.
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    Myth: ADHD is not a real disease.
    There was a time when people thought bad parenting caused ADHD. Some also believed eating too much sugar was a cause. These are myths. There's probably nothing a person does or does not do that causes ADHD. The fact is that it's a common brain disorder. The exact cause is not known. Researchers now think that genes passed down through families may play a role. Brain imaging studies show changes in the brains of people with ADHD. But, they're still checking into other possible causes, too. 
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    Myth: Children outgrow ADHD.
    Symptoms of ADHD usually start in childhood. Some children with ADHD do get better as they get older. But, most children will still have ADHD symptoms in their teens. Many of these teens will continue to have ADHD as adults. It's important for teens and adults with ADHD to continue working with their doctors. Do not expect to outgrow ADHD and do not stop treatment on your own. 
  • woman and girl reading a book
    Myth: Girls rarely get ADHD.
    It's true that more boys than girls have an ADHD diagnosis. It's not true that ADHD is rare among girls. In fact, it's common. It's also a myth that ADHD is less serious in girls. Truth is, it can be just as serious in girls as in boys. In fact, girls have a higher rate of suicide attempts and self-injury than boys do. Girls also have a higher rate of ADHD-related eating disorders. Also, as adults, ADHD is present at the same rate in males and females.
  • child taking a pill
    Myth: Most children with ADHD are treated with stimulants.
    Stimulant medications are the main medical treatment for ADHD. They're not the only treatment. Education and behavioral therapy are also important treatments. Many children with ADHD do not need medications. In fact, for children up to age 5, the first treatment should be behavioral therapy. Although ADHD medication is effective at managing symptoms, studies show most adolescents and teens with ADHD don’t take medications.
  • child addicted to pills
    Myth: ADHD medications cause addiction.
    Stimulant drugs that treat ADHD can be addictive and dangerous for people who don't have ADHD. These same drugs are safe and effective for people who do have ADHD. It's true that people with ADHD are at higher risk for addiction to alcohol, drugs and smoking. But, it's not true medications that treat ADHD are the reason. In fact, studies show that treating ADHD with stimulant drugs may reduce the odds of someone becoming addicted to other substances.
  • Mother moisturizing son's skin
    Myth: ADHD is hard to treat.
    There's no cure for ADHD, but that does not mean there's no treatment. Treatment may include medications, behavioral therapy, education on the condition itself, and treating other disorders related to ADHD. Treatment varies from person to person. Treatment also may need to change over time. However, treatment for ADHD works well. Medications do not lose their effectiveness with age. With the right treatment, most people can live full and productive lives with ADHD.
6 Myths About ADHD

About The Author

Myths and Misunderstandings. Children and Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). http://www.chadd.org/Understanding-ADHD/About-ADHD/Myths-and-Misunderstandings.aspx

Facts About ADHD. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/facts.html

ADHD Information for Teens. Children and Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). http://www.chadd.org/Understanding-ADHD/For-Parents-Caregivers/Teens/ADHD-Information-for-Teens.aspx

Medication Abuse and Diversion. Children and Adults With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). http://www.chadd.org/Understanding-ADHD/For-Parents-Caregivers/Teens/Medication-Abuse-and-Diversion....

Harstad E, Levy S. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Substance Abuse. Pediatrics. 2014;134(1):e293-e301. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/134/1/e293
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 4
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.