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Pediatrician Seeks to Dispel Myths about ADHD

Hattiesburg Clinic Physician Addresses Misconceptions for ADHD Awareness Month in October

Millions of children and adults are living with a condition that is highly treatable but carries with it many public misconceptions: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

ADHD is a chronic neurodevelopmental disorder that currently affects 11 percent of school-age children, based on data from the National Resource Center on ADHD. Symptoms range from difficulty paying attention to being easily distracted and struggling with waiting or taking turns.

Although there is much research and information available on the topic, there are still many inaccuracies about ADHD shared throughout society. In his more than 36 years of practice as a pediatrician, Ronald Kent, MD, with Hattiesburg Clinic Connections, has heard many of these ADHD myths.

In recognition of ADHD Awareness Month this October, here are 18 common myths about ADHD, according to Dr. Kent:

  1. ADHD isn’t a real medical disorder.

“ADHD is recognized as a legitimate disorder by the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Education, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychiatric Society,” said Kent.

  1. ADHD is a new diagnosis.

“Symptoms were first described in an article in the medical journal Lancet in 1902. The name has changed over the years as researchers have learned more about the disorder. The primary symptoms have remained the same as first described in that article.”

  1. The use of medication for ADHD is a recent development.

“Dexedrine was first used over 60 years ago. Ritalin was first used over 50 years ago. New medications are developed to improve efficacy and tolerability.”

  1. Children eventually outgrow ADHD.

“Seventy percent continue into adolescence, and 50 percent continue into adulthood.”

  1. ADHD affects only boys.

“The gender difference in those who are diagnosed is less now but is still slightly greater in boys than girls. Because of this myth, more boys are diagnosed than girls.”

  1. Being distracted is normal.

“It is true that some distraction is normal. However, in ADHD, distraction produces an inability to be productive. Some people believe that distractibility is the core symptom in ADHD.”

  1. He’s just being a boy.

“It’s true that most boys have more trouble in school than girls. It is important to look at age-related norms. However, when activity levels significantly interfere with school performance, it is not normal.”

  1. He would do better if he just tried harder.

“If ODD, or oppositional defiant disorder, is present, effort can be a problem. ODD is a persistent pattern of behavior involving anger or irritability, defiance towards authority figures and vindictiveness. Many children with ADHD spend hours doing homework, but working hard and not seeing results usually produces either anger or depression.”

  1. He’s bored.

“Bored children can develop behavior problems, but bored children without ADHD do their work. Bored children with ADHD don’t do their work.”

  1. ADHD is the result of poor parenting.

“The problem is rooted in brain chemistry, not discipline. Poor parenting can make any child’s behavior worse. Overly strict parenting can actually make ADHD symptoms worse.”

  1. People with ADHD will never amount to anything.

“There have been several successful people throughout history who were thought to have ADHD, including Wolfgang Mozart, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. Other successful people who have actually been diagnosed with ADHD include David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue, and Paul Orfalea, who founded Kinko’s.”

  1. ADHD treatment with medication makes drug abuse more likely.

“A Harvard study by Dr. Joseph Biederman, a Harvard psychiatrist, followed multiple groups of adolescents. In that study, only 25 percent of the group with ADHD that was being treated abused drugs or alcohol, while 75 percent of the group with ADHD that were not being treated abused drugs and alcohol.”

  1. Medication turns children into zombies.

“Medication can change the way a child or teenager interacts with the world; but, usually, an altered state of consciousness is caused by too high a dose of medication.”

  1. If a child can focus on anything, he does not have ADHD.

“This is one of the biggest misconceptions about ADHD. Children with ADHD can pay attention. What they have trouble with is sustaining their attention and attending to boring tasks.”

  1. ADHD is just a school disorder, so that’s the only time medication should be given.

“ADHD is a global disorder. Medication can be beneficial in a social environment. It can be beneficial in sports. Medication is necessary for driving. It can also help the family function better.”

  1. ADHD medication stunts growth.

“Ten out of 12 studies show no effects on growth. In the other two studies, the maximum change was one inch. With that said, close monitoring of growth is recommended.”

  1. ADHD medications cause heart problems.

“Studies show no increased rate of cardiovascular events with ADHD medication, but stimulants can make underlying disorders worse.”

  1. Having ADHD does not qualify you for a 504 plan.

“The United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights states, ‘Regardless of how well he or she performs in school, a student who has trouble concentrating, reading, thinking, organizing or prioritizing projects, among other important tasks, because of ADHD may have a disability and be protected under Section 504.’”

Anyone interested in learning more about ADHD and other behavioral or mental health disorders can attend the 14th Annual ADHD and Related Concerns Conference Oct. 19-20, at Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss. To register for the conference, visit www.s-resa.org.

Michael Shields


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