Several misconceptions about ADD/ADHD dispelled through facts

Amy Ryder - Campus Psychologist

Amy Ryder – Campus Psychologist

In a recent opinion column in The Chart, several misconceptions about ADD/ADHD were presented. It is my intent to dispel some of these myths and to promote a better understanding of ADD/ADHD.

ADD/ADHD is not a myth or the result of “lazy parenting.” Are some people out there just naturally disorganized? Yes, but there are some people who are not just “lazy.” ADD/ADHD is not the result of laziness, although that is a misconception among many people who do not understand the complexity of mental disorders. People with ADD/ ADHD have an illness or disability much like someone who has cancer, heart disease, asthma or any other illness requiring medication to help maintain a healthy lifestyle. This disorder is real, and anyone who has this disorder or knows someone who has ADD/ADHD can attest to the fact it has a deep and broad impact on their daily lives.

ADD/ADHD has long been recognized in psychological circles. In 1848 a book titled, Fidgety Phil was written about what would become known as ADD/ADHD.

In 1902, ADD/ADHD was described as children who were aggressive, defiant, resistant to discipline (lazy), excessively emotional or passionate, and the children were labeled as having a “defect of moral control.”

Today, ADD/ADHD is a behavior disorder commonly diagnosed in children, and it can be diagnosed in adults. Statistics show three percent to five percent of children have ADD/ADHD and as many as 9.5 million adults are presently diagnosed with the disorder. ADD/ADHD is very much a part of many people’s lives, and it is very real. School systems often deal with this disorder. In fact, 12 percent to 22 percent of children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD disorder also have a specific learning disability. Forty to 60 percent of these children/adults have academic difficulties. Fifty percent of these children need special education or related services, and 30 percent to 50 percent of these children are retained at least once while in school.

Another common myth associated with ADD/ADHD is children will “out grow” the disorder. At the college level, approximately six percent of undergraduate students have a disability. Of this group, 45 percent have a learning disability and/or ADD/ADHD (National Center for Educational Statistics).

At Missouri Southern, students who provide appropriate documentation can request and receive academic accommodations. These students do not seek services because they want “the easy way out” or a “hand out.” They often seek services reluctantly but with the understanding that if they do not receive accommodations they will not persist to graduation.

The symptoms of ADD/ADHD are: inattentiveness (failing to give close attention to details, has difficulty sustaining attention to tasks, does not listen when spoken to, does not follow through with instructions, has difficulty organizing, looses things, is easily distracted and forgetful), hyperactivity (fidgets often, cannot stay seated, excessive running and climbing, has trouble in leisurely activities, acts as if “driven by a motor” and talks excessively) and impulsivity (blurts out answers before the question is asked, has trouble waiting turn and interrupts and intrudes on others). The hyperactive component is not seen in ADD.

These symptoms are usually prevalent before age 7 and must be prevalent in two or more environments such as home and school. The evidence for the impairment must be clearly detectable in social, academic and occupational functionings. There are several steps to take in diagnosing ADD/ADHD. It should not be a simple trip to the doctor for medication. There are scales that rate behavior, diagnostic interviewing and meeting the rigorous criteria in the DSM-IVR that aid professionals in detecting this disorder.

There is a vast amount of research being done on this disorder today. There are many possible contributors to this disorder including genetic factors, neurological factors and environmental factors. Due to the amount of research being done there are several research-based methods used in detecting and diagnosing this disorder causing a misdiagnosis to be more rare than it used to be.