Myths About ADHD You Need To Stop Believing

Since TikTok became a household name, the image of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has gone from a hyperactive little boy bouncing off the walls of his elementary school's classroom to a smartly dressed or quirkily frazzled millennial woman sharing tips into a camera on how to boost dopamine production or manage to keep your house clean. Creators like K.C. Davis have made full-time careers out of creating TikTok content aimed to help those with ADHD and other neurodivergences function more easily. Unfortunately, as this explosion of information and awareness has bloomed, so has the prevalence of misinformation about the disorder.


While the treating physician should always be your primary source of information on your own diagnosis or your child's, the reality is that many medical professionals are still largely undereducated about ADHD and its many comorbidities (via BMC Family Practice). This explains why so many go searching for answers online. Here is your guide to the most prevalent myths about ADHD and why you should stop buying into them. 

Everyone has a little bit of ADHD

It is all too common when a person with ADHD vents about their struggles for a person without the disorder to claim that everyone has difficulty focusing at times and therefore everyone has a "little bit of ADHD" (via ADDitude). This type of comment typically comes from a neurotypical person who struggles to relate to what other people are experiencing if they haven't experienced the same firsthand.


When you tell a person who is dealing with a legitimate neurodevelopmental disorder that what they're experiencing is just a normal part of life, you're suggesting that they're simply blowing an everyday occurrence out of proportion. This is incredibly dismissive, not to mention inaccurate and just plain rude. The physical differences in the brain of someone who has ADHD can be seen on an MRI, as demonstrated by a 2017 study published in Radiology. The disorder is also more than just an inability to focus. It affects every facet of executive function, from time management to working memory, emotional regulation, and impulse control. 

ADHD is a gift

If you or your child has received an ADHD diagnosis, you've probably encountered toxic positivity in the form of insistence that an ADHD brain is actually a gift or a "superpower". While there are positive aspects of the disorder, such as the ability to hyperfocus on an interesting activity for a great many hours or to remain calm in times of intense acute stress, they do not outweigh the downsides (via GoodRx). Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is just that — a disorder. It is classified as such because it takes away from an individual's ability to function in society without struggle, as detailed by Teenshealth.


Trying to force someone with ADHD to reframe their very real disability as some sort of gift they should be grateful for is misguided at best and straight-up gaslighting at its worst. It is okay to acknowledge the struggle that comes along with a lifelong diagnosis that can only be managed and never cured. 

Kids will grow out of ADHD

The first signs of ADHD are often spotted during elementary school, as this is the first time most children are faced with the aspect of conforming their behavior to what is considered socially acceptable. When a child is routinely disruptive, distractable, or hyperactive, teachers will frequently reach out to parents with their concerns and may even request that you seek out or comply with testing (via WebMD).


As the child ages, they learn coping mechanisms that help them successfully mask their symptoms. Their hyperactivity becomes more of an inner chaos than one that can be seen on the outside. To the untrained eye, it will seem as if the child has grown out of their ADHD by the time that they reach their teen or young adult years. However, in the vast majority of cases, the person is still very much struggling to function at the desired level. The fact is, according to WebMD, only about 9% of children actually outgrow their ADHD symptoms. 

Taking ADHD meds will make you a zombie

One of the main reasons parents of children with ADHD give for refusing to medicate their children is that they fear that the meds will erase the child's personality and make them into a compliant shell of their former selves. Many adults avoid trying medication that could impact their lives positively due to this same fear. The truth is that the right ADHD medication for each person with the disorder is different. One stimulant might drastically improve focus and executive function while another might cause undesirable side effects like mood instability (via Medical News Today).


If you notice that you or your child is struggling with mood changes or irritability on ADHD medication, the answer is not to refuse medication in the future. It is to work with a physician to try different medications until you find the right one for your or their individual body chemistry. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is not a personality disorder and treating it with medication will not change your personality, as detailed by the Child Mind Institute

ADHD medications are addictive

The standard treatment for ADHD is prescription stimulant medication. When a person who has ADHD takes a stimulant, the region of the brain that is responsible for dopamine production goes from underactive to active, as detailed by CHADD. This can drastically reduce symptoms like executive dysfunction and hyperactivity for as long as the medication remains in the patient's system. In recent decades, college students and athletes have been known to abuse stimulant medications designed to treat ADHD in order to enhance their performance. As a result, stimulants are seen by the general public as risky and addictive. This is not the case.


A person with ADHD does not experience a high or a surplus of energy when they ingest a stimulant the way a person without ADHD does. It is also more likely that a person who has ADHD will struggle with substance abuse and addiction if they are not properly medicated with ADHD medication. Trying to succeed in life unmedicated can lead many who struggle with the disorder down a path of intentional or unintentional attempts at self-medication with illegal drugs or alcohol (via Labour Economics). 

Only boys can have ADHD

When ADHD — then frequently referred to as ADD — first emerged as a known condition in the 1990s, the image of a disruptive, hyperactive, mischievous schoolboy on Ritalin was basically the poster child. We now know that ADHD can be categorized into three subtypes: ADHD Inattentive, formerly known as ADD, ADHD Hyperactive, and ADHD Combination, as detailed by Johns Hopkins. Decades later, it would be discovered that all three subtypes of ADHD present differently according to gender, as explained by PsychCentral. Girls with ADHD may suffer from hyperactivity, but that hyperactivity is more internalized, manifesting as constant racing thoughts. Girls are also more likely to exhibit emotional dysregulation and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, which leads to many of them being misdiagnosed with a mood disorder like Bipolar.


Hormones also play a role for girls and women, causing ADHD symptoms to change or worsen during times when estrogen fluctuates, like puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, causing even more confusion. While boys are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls, there is no evidence that the disorder is actually more common in males (via Healthline). Always seek out advice on ADHD from a medical professional or a trustworthy source rather than trusting self-proclaimed experts on social media.