I thought it would be interesting to share some of the stereotypes or preconceived ideas people have about ADHD that are completely false.
Navigating the world with ADHD, especially as a woman, often involves challenging some common misconceptions. These misunderstandings can perpetuate stereotypes and hinder proper recognition and support for individuals with ADHD. Here are a few of the most prevalent misconceptions about ADHD, particularly in women:
1. “ADHD is only a childhood disorder”:
One of the most persistent misconceptions is that ADHD is a condition that only affects children or that you’ll just grow out of it. In reality, ADHD often continues into adulthood, and many individuals are diagnosed later in life, particularly women. As we have spent a lifetime masking and working out our own coping strategies, ADHD often manifests differently in adults.
2. “Hyperactivity is always present”:
While hyperactivity is a common symptom in children with ADHD, it doesn't always manifest as physical restlessness in adults. For women, ADHD might present as internal restlessness, racing thoughts or a constant feeling of being ‘on the go’.
3. “ADHD is a boys' problem”:
Historically, ADHD has been predominantly diagnosed in boys, leading to the misconception that it primarily affects males. Research shows that ADHD is just as prevalent in females, but it often goes unrecognised because societal expectations and the ‘good girl construct’ lead to an internalisation of the symptoms, girls are more likely to have hyperactive thoughts and daydream, where as boys are more likely to show physical signs of hyperactivity.
4. “ADHD is a lack of intelligence or effort”:
ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence or effort. Individuals with ADHD can be highly intelligent and they may struggle with executive functions like organisation, time management and focus. This is how ADHD is disabling.
5. “Medication is the only solution”:
While medication can be an effective part of ADHD management, it's not the only solution. Therapy, coaching, lifestyle adjustments and skill-building strategies can also be invaluable in managing ADHD symptoms.
6. “ADHD is just about inattention”:
While inattention is a core symptom of ADHD, it's not just as easy as saying ‘just pay attention then’. We have interest-based brains and can’t fire up our cylinders to focus on things that don’t interest us. Imagine an orchestra is playing at maximum volume but instead of all paying the same music, each instrument was playing a different piece. That is a little like an ADHD brain is, it hears every single instrument at the same volume but can’t work out which piece of music is the important one it should be focusing on.
7. “ADHD doesn't affect women's lives”:
ADHD can significantly impact a woman's life, especially undiagnosed, and permeates everything from education and career to relationships and self-esteem. It's often associated with higher rates of anxiety and depression, which are potentially misdiagnosed, because the underlying issue was undiagnosed ADHD.
8. “Women with ADHD are just scatterbrained”:
The challenges women with ADHD face are not merely the result of being ‘scatterbrained’. There’s very little research or conversation at diagnosis about how ADHD symptoms fluctuate throughout a woman’s cycle and the changes at menopause. The harmful historical narrative of a ‘mad woman’ could certainly be explained by hormone fluctuations and undiagnosed ADHD!
9. “ADHD is overdiagnosed”:
While there’s been increased recognition of ADHD in recent years, it's not overdiagnosed. Many individuals, especially women, remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, leading to unaddressed struggles in life. The recent spotlight that women, like myself, who’ve been recently diagnosed and talk in their communities about it, has seen a wave of women realising their truth too and so the perpetual underdiagnosed in women for decades is starting to be addressed, resulting in an increase in diagnosis.
10. ADHD is a ‘one size fits all’ condition:
There’s a saying that goes, ‘if you’ve met one neurodivergent person, you’ve met one neurodivergent person.’ Because ADHD and how it impacts a person is unique to them. What works for one person with ADHD may not work for another. Tailored approaches and strategies are essential for effective management.
Challenging these misconceptions is vital for creating a more inclusive and understanding society that recognises and supports individuals with ADHD, regardless of gender or age. And that is a world I want to be a part of.
Want to find out more about my ADHD journey? Click here!
To learn more about ADHD Awareness month, head here.
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