ADHD Awareness Month: More Than Just An Idiom

Published October 3, 2022

Everyone may be susceptible to forgetfulness or difficulty focusing from time to time, and for various reasons. It’s a natural part of life. However, we’re not all a little “ADHD.” The abbreviations ADD and ADHD are often used as a shorthand to mean forgetful, messy, impulsive, or even lazy, but contrary to common misuses, these acronyms represent a very real disorder affecting people all over the globe.

ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, a brain-based, chronic biological disorder that can cause impulsive behavior, difficulty maintaining attention, and hyperactivity. Still, popular misconceptions about ADHD lead to continued belittling and skepticism over a genuine reality about 7 percent of the world experiences.

The basics of ADHD

ADHD is typically diagnosed in childhood upon detecting higher levels of hyperactivity and inattention than expected for that child’s age group for at least six months. Such symptoms can cause distress for the child and problems in school or with friends. While ADHD is more often associated with kids, it affects an estimated 2.8 of adults worldwide. ADHD in adults appears similar to how it does for children, though actual symptoms may be more subtle as people grow older.

There are three ways ADHD presents itself.

Predominantly Inattentive

Also known as the Inattentive Type, people impacted by this sort of ADHD tend to forget details of daily routines. They can also be easily distracted, leading to difficulty following instructions or conversations.

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive

Symptoms of ADHD presented this way, also called hyperactive/impulsive type, tend to show up as fidgets, difficulty sitting still, and in smaller children, constant running, jumping, and climbing. People with impulsive ADHD may have more accidents and injuries than others. They might also struggle not to listen without interruption.

Combined Presentation

The third type of ADHD is an equal combination of the first two. People with the combined presentation of ADHD can be both fidgety and easily distracted.

Undiagnosed and untreated ADHD in adulthood can lead to significant issues. Financial difficulties might arise due to struggles maintaining work, meeting deadlines, or paying bills on time. Impulsivity ​​from ADHD can lead to compulsive eating. Struggle from difficult symptoms of ADHD can also lead to low self-esteem and chronic stress.

Adults with ADHD in adulthood means a higher likelihood of depression, bipolar disorder, or other comorbid psychiatric disorders. In fact, about 50 percent of adults with ADHD have an anxiety disorder. And many studies show significant links between ADHD and substance abuse. Adults with ADHD make up 25 percent of all people treated for alcohol and substance abuse. As a result, ADHD can cause a strain on personal relationships, especially if a lack of understanding about their condition leads to assumptions about character.

Mythbusting ADHD misconceptions

ADHD affects real people, but stereotypes often overpower the disorder’s actual influence on people’s lives. Moving ADHD past idiom into valued and understood disorder means educating society to change common misconceptions. Here are a few myths about ADHD worth busting.

ADD and ADHD aren’t the same

Though many still use ADD to mean ADHD, the term ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’ is actually outdated. Experts once used two different terms (ADD and ADHD) to differentiate between symptoms with hyperactivity and symptoms without. However, updated understandings of the disorder distinguish ADHD into three categories: inattentive type, hyperactive/impulsive type, and combined type.

ADHD is overdiagnosed

A 2017 study found a significant increase in ADHD diagnoses between 2005 and 2014. However, most studies conclude that overdiagnosis is not the reason for this increase in diagnosis. Instead, experts attribute increases in diagnosis to more awareness of neurodevelopmental disorders, improved diagnostic procedures, and changes in diagnostic criteria in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Kids outgrow ADHD

Symptoms of ADHD may dull in severity in adulthood, but it is important to note that the disorder is not preventable or “curable.” People with ADHD who have had treatment in childhood are more likely to have manageable symptoms in adulthood. Similarly, undiagnosed and untreated ADHD into adulthood can be extremely difficult to manage.

ADHD is not an idiom to mean lazy or impulsive. It’s essential society become more educated in the many facets of the disorder to continue to devalue its stereotypes. ADHD stigma can lead to bias against people dealing with the disorder, as well as further relaying myths about ADHD. Phrases like “I’m so ADD/ADHD” help counter many years of research, studies, and overcoming of stigma against ADHD, which have helped millions of people today. As we continue to learn and grow, education proves to be the key to overcoming harmful misconceptions about ADHD.

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