Is ADHD really a legitimate brain condition? Or is it a made-up diagnosis used to explain aberrant behavior? Is the ADHD label an opportunity for some people to slough off responsibilities and get a pass on completing necessary tasks? Does it give people an excuse for their mistakes and their behavior? These are examples of frequently heard comments and questions from people who question the validity of ADHD. They are often heard to say: “Oh, yeah, everyone now-a-days seems to have ADD”. I often hear people call this ADD backlash, but still I wonder at it.

It’s difficult to understand how anyone with ADHD would choose to be labeled with it, and better yet – to flaunt it. Most people, from teenagers to adults, would prefer to hide their diagnosis. Often because of their diagnosis, they feel bad about themselves. Admittedly, some “kids” may resort to playing the ADHD card with their parents. But rarely have I encountered a child of any age who has used ADHD as an excuse to get out of some responsibility at school and away from home. In reality, they are so adverse to people finding out they have ADHD, they often make the mistake of not getting the help and information they need. ADHD also has the added unfortunate characteristic of making those affected appear clueless, incompetent, rebellious and uncaring. When you add the common characteristic of being thought of as “typically unreliable” to this constellation of undesirable behaviors, frustration and anger are often the feelings that color the response they get from others. Who would consciously choose to play this role?

I suspect this is at least some of the reasoning that created the myth. Someone with ADHD can very much look like a badly behaved troublemaker who doesn’t listen and pay attention, yet demands special treatment. Even after the directions are individually explained, extra attention given and special accommodations made, that child or adult still may not be able to meet the task or communication expectation. The same complaint echoes continually through-out schools, workplaces and homes - “They won’t change, they don’t seem to care, nothing improves, and I’ve done what I can”. Is it any wonder why ADHD can get such a bad rap when there exists a perception that they are just difficult people pretending to need extra attention?

Of course ADHD is indeed a neurological condition that affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This condition adversely affects the executive functions that allow people with ADHD to get started on a task or project, continue to focus their attention on a subject uninterrupted, hold facts and figures in mind as they work, have a sense of the passing of time, avoid distractions and extraneous information. It’s difficult for people with ADHD to take direction from others very well and deliver results on time. Predictably, these challenges and difficulties are just the thing to irritate those around them. It could explain why people don’t believe and therefore don’t wish to accommodate the real life challenges of this brain condition.

The Myth of ADHD? If there can be a myth of ADHD, it would have to be that people with ADHD can get better if they would just try harder; that with a good upbringing and education, people are taught how to behave appropriately; that people with ADHD are just the difficult people you find in life no matter where you go, and there will always be free loaders, excuse makers and people that never grow up. THESE are more likely the myths of ADHD.

The TRUTH of ADHD is that there are many well suited strategies and structures that can help people with ADHD succeed and be more reliably cooperative and productive. The truth of ADHD is that there is a wealth of information out there in the form of books, lectures, workshops, and websites that better inform and educate about the condition, how it affects people, and how to help. The truth of ADHD is that there are proven methodologies in the form of ADHD Coaching and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that help people with ADHD organize and structure their lives and transform their problem behaviors. And the most important truth of all is that most people with ADHD are highly successful at what they do including many famous scientists, inventors, CEOs, salespeople, artists, and doctors throughout our history. They happen to be the gifts around us we are often blind to. They are the problem solvers and some of the best hope we have for the future.

So next time you hear about the myth of ADHD – spread the word. Help educate people so they can be supporters of those with ADHD and better understand how to help children and adolescents in schools and adults at work. Don’t be afraid to admit you have ADHD. Be an ambassador for the condition so we can continue to change the minds around us. Show others how they can help you with your challenges so they can learn how to support all people with ADHD.

Author's Bio: 

Carol Gignoux is well established as an expert within the ADHD coaching, consulting and training profession with over 35 years experience working with ADHD and over 16 years as a professional coach. She is a Licensed Certified Financial Coach and is trained as an Executive Coach. She has worked with executives and managers to create high functioning, successful businesses locally as well as nationwide. Carol was an active board member of the International Coaching Federation New England (ICF) for 3 years and is a founding board member of the Institute for the Advancement of ADHD Coaching which is the responsible certifying body for ADHD Coaches worldwide.