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The Dumbest Things People Have Told Me About My ADHD

A woman with ADHD, feeling isolated from a group of people, sits on a staircase and clutches her knees to her chest.
Getty Images/ spfoto

When it comes to ADHD, a lot of people have a lot of opinions. In my experience, I’ve found that some people see ADHD as a controversial disorder. The condition is highly debated among many, whether they’ve taken the time to educate themselves about it or not.

Being diagnosed with ADHD is an intricate process, but sometimes I question why I bother explaining that I have ADHD to anyone. On the one hand, I’ve learned so much about the condition that I want to share that knowledge with other people. On the other hand, sharing my thoughts and feelings about the disorder puts me in the uncomfortable place of having to explain ADHD to people who don’t understand it. Often it seems like they don’t even want to understand it.

The discussion can get pretty heated…

Over the years, I’ve heard some pretty frustrating opinions about ADHD. Here are a few of the dumbest things people have told me along the way:

‘ADHD is made up’

People love to claim that ADHD is made up — despite all of the clear scientific evidence and documentation to the contrary. ADHD is a real mental health condition, but many people haven’t taken the time to really learn about it.

Every now and again, when I’m browsing on Facebook, I come across an article with a headline like, “Kids in this country don’t have ADHD” or “Professor from Fancypants University claims ADHD is a hoax.” That’s when I have to spend the rest of my afternoon educating the person I love who shared that nonsense.

‘You don’t have to take medication’

For whatever reason, some people are extremely offended by the idea that someone might have to take medication to control their mental illness. I’ll never understand why, but it’s a perspective I’ve encountered time and again. I’ve met people who — as far as I know — have never been mentally ill a day in their lives, but who are comfortable telling people with ADHD that they shouldn’t take their medicine. That kind of shaming may actually lead people to stop taking their medication, which can do real harm.

‘ADHD is a gift’

There’s a movement within the ADHD community that I find a bit strange. Some people who have ADHD talk about the condition as though it’s a superpower and makes them magical.

It’s fine if that’s your personal experience, but please don’t insist to me, or to anyone else who has ADHD, that the condition is a gift. Many of us don’t feel that way. I know people whose marriages and careers are hanging by a thread thanks to this so-called gift. To quote a friend of mine, “If ADHD is a gift, I need the receipt so that I can return it.”

‘Everybody gets distracted sometimes’

I’ve had plenty of people point out to me that my illness is really just a common trait called “getting distracted,” and I need to move on. While everyone does indeed get distracted sometimes, ADHD is about more than the occasional distraction. People with ADHD deal with distractibility on a daily basis, and it disrupts our whole lives. This is not your “once in a while I have trouble getting things done” issue. This is something I deal with every day.

‘You don’t have ADHD, you just need to do [fill-in-the-blank]’

When someone can’t convince me that ADHD isn’t real, sometimes their next tactic is to tell me that I personally must not have the condition. This type of comment is usually rooted in the extremely offensive idea that people who have ADHD can’t also be intelligent and accomplished.

In reality, people living with ADHD accomplish great things every day. You can be bright and brilliant and also have ADHD.

‘Back in my day, people didn’t have ADHD’

This is another one of my “favorite” internet memes. It suggests that in the past, people had their ADHD “spanked away,” or that parental discipline led them to change their behavior. But that’s not how ADHD works. In my opinion, what these memes are actually saying is this: Some people would rather believe that folks with ADHD are inherently lazy than to accept that they have an actual disability.

‘You should write things down’

One day I’m going to offer a tour of my home and feature the huge collection of calendars, journals, and notebooks that I have. This isn’t just because I’m a writer. I’ve been trying to write things down for years. But I haven’t been able to effectively keep a notebook or calendar system in place for longer than a few months. So, sure, tell me all about how writing things down will change my life.

‘You’re an addict if you take that medicine’

Reading this list may be raising your awareness about the controversy surrounding ADHD — but we haven’t even begun to tap into how people feel about ADHD medication.

Because ADHD stimulant medication is frequently misused by people who don’t have the condition, some believe that you’re a drug addict if you take ADHD medication. Yes, you read that right: A drug that you use under a doctor’s care can get you branded a drug addict by some misguided people. Watch out for them. In my experience, they’re everywhere.

‘Don’t use ADHD as an excuse’

I've encountered many people who seem to fear that a person who has ADHD might use their condition as “an excuse.” An excuse for what exactly, I don’t know. When someone tells me not to use my ADHD as an excuse, I immediately think that they may be people who struggle with compassion and acceptance.

‘How do you know you have ADHD?’

Sometimes I’ve found that if someone can’t convince me that I don’t have ADHD or shouldn’t be taking medication, they’ll suggest that it would be impossible for me to know that I have ADHD at all. Seriously. I’ve been so surprised by this type of comment that I reached out to another person with ADHD to confirm that I’m not imagining it.

Here’s what she said: “Someone told me that they don’t think someone who really has ADHD would know that they have ADHD. Honestly, I had no response. I didn’t feel the need to defend myself and just moved on from the conversation.”

The take away

Despite being faced with these dumb perspectives, life carries on. I’ve learned that I don’t need other people’s validation to live my life in the best way possible. The truth is that invisible disabilities are unseen, and some people have a hard time understanding what they can’t see. Don’t let anybody try to roll over you with their uneducated opinions. You know what you have and who you are.

The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for the evaluation, management, or treatment of any condition.

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The individual(s) who have written and created the content in and whose images appear in this article have been paid by Teva Pharmaceuticals for their contributions. This content represents the opinions of the contributor and does not necessarily reflect those of Teva Pharmaceuticals. Similarly, Teva Pharmaceuticals does not review, control, influence or endorse any content related to the contributor's websites or social media networks. This content is intended for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered medical advice or recommendations. Consult a qualified medical professional for diagnosis and before beginning or changing any treatment regimen. 

ADHD-US-NP-00010 MAY 2018

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