ADHD Myths and Facts

ADHD Myths and FACTS10 Common Myths about ADHD

by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D.

Most people who discover they have ADHD, whether they be children or adults, have suffered a great deal of pain. The emotional experience of ADHD is filled with embarrassment, humiliation, and self-castigation. By the time the diagnosis is made, many people with ADHD have lost confidence and blame themselves.  It’s important to remember, however, that ADHD is NOT your fault or the effect of bad parenting.  

ADHD is a neuropsychiatric condition.

It is genetically transmitted. It is caused by biology, by how your brain is wired.  It is NOT a disease of the will, nor a moral failing.  It is NOT caused by a weakness in character, nor by a failure to mature.  Its cure is not to be found in the power of the will, nor in punishment, nor in sacrifice, nor in pain. 


Try as they might, many people with ADHD have great trouble accepting the syndrome as being rooted in biology rather than weakness of character.  

So if you’re blaming yourself for having ADHD, remind yourself right now: “IT’S NOT MY FAULT.” As such, I encourage you to educate yourself.  You need to learn what ADHD is and isn’t and to separate the FACTS from the myths.


FACT: People with ADHD vary in their intelligence (whatever that elusive word means!) as much as the general population does. 

Many people with ADHD are extremely intelligent, especially in the areas of creativity, originality, intuition, resourcefulness, and emotional savvy.  Indeed, when I meet with someone who has ADHD, one of my top priorities is to locate as quickly as possible their special talent, which I often call their special sauce, because, in my experience, almost everyone with ADHD has one.

Learn how to see the positive sides of the negative symptoms by Reframing the Negative Symptoms Associated  with ADHD.  

Learn  more about ADHD here.



ADHD Facts

FACT:  While ADHD can disable the person who has it, even ruin that person’s life, it can also confer great benefits and lead to enormous success, if managed properly.  The key is to identify the condition, and then get the right help in managing it.

Learn about ADHD Treatment.

ADHD Medication

FACT:  While medication can often be useful in dealing with ADHD, it is neither necessary nor always effective.  The starting point in managing ADHD is education. 

One needs to learn about what ADHD is–and what it isn’t–in order to change it from a serious liability into a bonafide asset. 

Where To Start:

Books are a cost-efficient way to start the process.  I can recommend my comprehensive book, Delivered from Distraction, written with Dr. John Ratey, but there are many other good books out there as well. 

There are also excellent websites, chock full of free, valuable information.  The best one for parents looking for help for children is, which is a phenomenal resource.

Check out more ADHD Resources HERE.

Dr. HallowellFACT:  While child psychiatrists (which is what I am) get the most training in ADHD, there is a shortage of child psychiatrists in the United States, and their waiting lists can be very long.  In FACT, a wide range of professionals can diagnose and treat ADHD. 

The key question to ask is:

“How much experience do you have in treating ADHD?”  Also keep in mind, some professionals have a lot of experience in treating ADHD in children, but little or none with adults.  So always ask.  Be he or she a pediatrician, family physician, psychologist, neurologist, social worker, or any other professional, the most important qualification is lots of experience in diagnosing and treating ADHD. 

Another qualifier:

If medication is to be used, an M.D. must be part of the treatment team.

Learn about getting an ADHD Diagnosis.

ADHD Boys and GirlsFACT:  People of all ages can have ADHD, and females can have it as well as males.  The most undiagnosed group are adult women, followed by adult men.  The general public, including many doctors, does not realize that this condition affects both sexes and all ages.


ADHD: The Gender Issue

Signs of ADHD in Adults

Signs of ADHD in Children

FACT:  Many people who have ADHD are not in the least hyperactive or disruptive.  Indeed, they are quiet and daydreamy, lost in their thoughts, following the charms of their inner, imaginative life.  Oftentimes female, these people are commonly not diagnosed with ADHD simply because they are not restless or disruptive.  In FACT, they have the subtype of ADHD called “primarily inattentive,” rather than the type that includes disruptive behavior, which is called “ADHD: Combined type”.

Learn More

Defining ADHD

How the Hallowell Centers Can Help You Manage ADHD

ADHD Girl ChampionFACT:  While people with ADHD may struggle in school or flounder as adults, they can also excel.  With the right help, or with luck or the grace of God, the can rise to the very top of whatever field they enter. 

Examples of Successful People with ADHD

There are Nobel Prize winners who have ADHD, as well as Pulitzer Prize winners, Academy Award winners, self-made millionaires and billionaires and CEO’s. Furthermore, there are professional athletes, leading jurists and attorneys, brain surgeons, best-selling authors, scions of Wall Street, Professors, airline pilots, Navy SEALS and war heroes. Add to the list, mega-successful entrepreneurs, inventors (Edison was a classic!), poets, playwrights, chefs, award-winning teachers, and champion race-car drivers. In short, anyone who has made their way to the top of anything.

Learn more about Dr. Hallowell’s strength-based approach to treating ADHD.

ADHD HyperfocusFACT:  People with ADHD can super-focus at times and pay better attention than anyone.  When what they are doing interests them they often go into a state of hyper-focus, such that they lose track of the passage of time or their biological needs and drives.  It is when they are not interested that their minds wander.  But their minds do not go empty, which is why attention deficit is such a misnomer.  In ADHD attention wanders, but it never disappears.

Learn more about ADHD and Focus here.

ADHD MedsFACT:  While the medications used to treat ADHD can be dangerous and addicting, if they are used properly they can be totally safe and hugely helpful. 

When they are used properly, and when they work, which is in 80% of people who have ADHD who try them, they are like eyeglasses for the mind: they produce mental focus.  And, when monitored properly, they cause no side effects, other than appetite suppression without unwanted weight loss.  Used properly, these medications are very safe and highly effective.  First used to treat what we now call ADHD in 1937 (most people have no idea these medications have been around that long), stimulant medication can turn a child’s or adult’s life completely around. While one should be aware of the dangers of medications, they should also be informed that when medications are monitored and taken properly, they can be remarkably effective. Learn  more here.

It’s important to note that medication should never be the only treatment (education, lifestyle modification, exercise, and coaching or tutoring should also be included), it can be an extremely helpful component of the treatment regimen. Learn more about meds and alternative treatments HERE.

Learn  more about  Treating ADHD.

ADHD Facts

Myth #10: ADHD is caused by bad parenting, too much electronics, pollution, or environmental stress.

FACT: While the FACTors listed above can make ADHD worse–or life in general worse–they do not cause the condition.  In most cases, one inherits a genetic predisposition to ADHD which the environment then draws out, or does not, depending, of course, on the environment.  As the growing field of epigenetics is proving, there is a life-determining interaction between a person’s genetic endowment and the environment in which he or she lives.

Learn More

ADHD: The Heredity Factor

ADHD for Parents



Next Steps

If you believe that you, your child or spouse may have ADHD, I strongly recommend getting a professional diagnosis. The Hallowell Centers all provide Dr. Hallowell’s strength-based approach and specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.

Looking for more information about ADHD?

Check out  What Is ADHD, and our page on ADHD Diagnosis and Treating ADHD.

I’ve written multiple books on the subject that all speak to different aspects of the condition.

I recommend starting with:

Both books offer thorough overviews on ADHD and their treatment.

For parents of children with ADHD, I recommend SUPERPARENTING FOR ADD: An Innovative Approach to Raising Your Distracted Child.

Dr. Hallowell address false accusations about connections to drug companies and his big pharma in this blog post.

It is easy to imagine you have ADHD when you do not. Don’t try to diagnose yourself. Leave it to the professionals.” Click here to learn how The Hallowell Centers get help make an ADHD diagnosis.

Sign up for our Newsletter