ADHD Myths and What Is Actually Going On Inside Your Brain

by | Dec 12, 2022 | Issue 161, Issues | 0 comments

Our understanding of the most common mental disorders of the 21st century varies from one individual to another. The thought of ADHD, for example, brings back images of a hyperactive...

Our understanding of the most common mental disorders of the 21st century varies from one individual to another. The thought of ADHD, for example, brings back images of a hyperactive young boy who can’t sit still in class, has difficulty focusing and, perhaps, is ‘different’ from his fellow students. However, research has shown that ADHD is far from these beliefs. Instead, they belong more to the realm of myth than reality, thus often hampering treatment and recovery rather than helping us understand what children with ADHD go through.


What Is ADHD? 

ADHD (i.e., Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is one of the most common neurological development disorders in children, often associated with hyperactivity, impulsive behaviors and a lack of attention.

However, defining ADHD is more complex than one might think since it can manifest itself through various symptoms summarized by researchers in three primary forms:


Predominantly Inattentive

It describes a person whose ADHD manifests primarily as difficulty finishing a task, paying attention to details or following instructions.


Predominantly Hyperactive

This form of ADHD focuses on the individual’s hyperactivity leading to difficulties with fidgeting, impulsive behavior and waiting. 



This form of ADHD presents both inattentive and hyperactive traits equally.

ADHD is not a one-size-fits-all condition. One person with ADHD is very likely to behave very differently from another. The same goes for its symptoms, which vary significantly between individuals — daydreaming, being forgetful, frequent fidgeting, having a hard time resisting impulses, struggling with waiting to do something, etc. 


Are ADHD and ADD the Same Thing?

Although related, ADD and ADHD are not the same condition. Going back to the types of ADHD mentioned earlier, ADD is missing the H (i.e., the hyperactivity part of ADHD). Thus, ADD is often characterized by difficulty maintaining attention but not necessarily by hyperactivity. For clarity, ADD is another name for the first type of ADHD — Predominantly Inattentive. 


ADHD Myths and Facts

Is ADHD a Thought Disorder?

Not exactly, since ADHD is not created by a particular thinking pattern. Unlike a thought disorder, which reflects an issue in an individual’s way of thinking, ADHD affects the brain’s functioning. 


Does ADHD Make You Dumb?

Absolutely not. ADHD does not affect a person’s intelligence and certainly is not a mark of stupidity or a lack of intelligence. On the contrary, nothing prevents a child with ADHD from becoming quite intelligent — names such as Mozart, Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln stand as solid proof! 


Are ADHD People Lazy?

ADHD does not make people lazy. What we misunderstand as laziness is a child’s struggle to stay focused. Such children strive toward succeeding but may have a harder time finding motivation than others due to the challenges of maintaining focus. 


Are ADHD People Smart?

People with ADHD can be as brilliant as Benjamin Franklin or Abraham Lincoln, although it does not necessarily make someone more intelligent by default. However, ADHD can allow people to excel exceptionally at things that pique their interest. This phenomenon, often called hyperfocus, occurs when a person with ADHD works on something they are very interested in, causing them to enter a state of extreme and completely undivided focus. 


Is ADHD a Disability?

Yes and no. ADHD is not a learning disability — while it can make learning harder, it doesn’t hamper learning skills like reading, writing or math. This myth is mainly based on the fact that ADHD often coexists with other conditions behind learning disabilities. 

That is not to say that ADHD children may need additional assistance or help to learn. Indeed, assisting children with ADHD can be a great way to help them overcome any difficulty they may be experiencing. 


Can ADHD Cause Insomnia or Make You Tired?

The relationship between ADHD and insomnia or fatigue is a bit unclear, although there is a correlation between the two. Children with ADHD are more likely to develop sleep disorders, experience nightmares and have shorter sleep times in puberty. People with predominantly hyperactive ADHD are more likely to suffer from insomnia. 


Myths About ADHD Medication

Myths and misconceptions don’t just float around an ADHD diagnosis; they often surround ADHD medicine as well.


ADHD Meds Are Unnecessary

For many people with ADHD, medicine is a crucial way to help them manage their symptoms. This medicine primarily comes in two forms:

  • Stimulants, which improve focus; 
  • Nonstimulants, which help with impulse control and concentration. 

Each person will need a different type or combination of medications to treat their symptoms, but that is not to say that medication is unnecessary. 


ADHD Meds Are Addictive

The foundation of this myth is that people with ADHD who do not receive proper treatment are more likely to abuse drugs. However, the driving factor for this abuse is the presence of poorly treated ADHD, not any ADHD medication. 

ADHD medication is a completely safe and effective form of treatment. Studies of children who take ADHD medication have found no increased chance of drug abuse corresponding with ADHD medication use. 

It is possible to misuse ADHD medication like any medicine. But if you’re a parent considering whether ADHD medication is something you’re comfortable with, take encouragement that ADHD medication won’t increase the likelihood that your child will delve into substance abuse someday.


A Parting Reminder

ADHD is a condition we may all be familiar with but often understand less than we think. Numerous myths and misconceptions circulate on the news and the Internet around ADHD, how it’s treated and how it affects people — this was by no means an exhaustive list. But hopefully, it illuminated ADHD a little more and dispelled some myths you may have heard or believed.

Luke Argue

Luke Argue

Luke Argue is a junior in the government department at Patrick Henry College. Aside from writing, Luke enjoys playing volleyball, reading about foreign affairs, and studying world cultures and religions.