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What Most People Don’t Know about ADHD

Today, there are still many myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Everyone from the media to mental health professionals may perpetuate these erroneous beliefs. Below, experts shared what most people don’t know (or commonly misunderstand) about ADHD. You’ll find everything from what causes ADHD to what helps it.

1. ADHD is not caused by our super-busy, tech-consumed culture.

Today’s world is certainly busier and more distracting and more hectic than it’s ever been. Our attention spans are shorter. We have a harder time staying focused. We often can’t go an hour or 30 minutes without checking email or glancing at our phones.

However, those of us that don’t have ADHD still manage adequately, said Mark Bertin, MD, a board certified developmental behavioral pediatrician. ADHD is a complex neurological disorder that goes beyond being distracted.

“ADHD affects self-management skills called executive function that include not only attention and impulse control but organization, planning, time management and far more,” said Dr. Bertin. In this post he further explains how ADHD really functions:

ADHD is a poorly named condition. The stereotypical symptoms – lack of attention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness – merely scratch the surface. The parts of the brain implicated in ADHD also control executive function skills – abilities such as time management, judgment, organization, and emotional regulation. Executive function is kind of like the brain manager, responsible for supervising and coordinating our planning, our thoughts and our interactions with the world. The true issue with ADHD is one of executive function and as has been said by Dr. Russell Barkley and others, a more appropriate name for ADHD might be ‘executive function deficit disorder.’

Multitasking, social media, email and other distractions may exacerbate ADHD. But they don’t cause it.

2. ADHD affects all areas of a person’s life.

People often think that ADHD solely affects academic performance or possibly one’s productivity at work. Unfortunately, ADHD has far-reaching effects.

“ADHD can affect anything in your life that requires proper regulation, organization, planning, attention, impulse control and emotional grounding,” said Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D, a psychologist who treats ADHD and a clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

This could be anything from sleeping to paying the bills to cleaning the house to interacting with your spouse.

For instance, as Bertin notes in this piece, kids with ADHD are at an increased risk for language delays. They also struggle with finding the right words and stringing thoughts together quickly. They have a hard time focusing on conversations in groups or noisy environments.

3. Up to two-thirds of people with ADHD have another disorder.

People with ADHD also may have depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or bipolar disorder. (This piece lays out comorbid disorders in kids with ADHD along with recommended resources.)

This is why it’s important to receive a comprehensive evaluation, which screens for other disorders. According to Bertin, “if treatment stalls, it’s worth looking again to see if something else is going on with ADHD.”

What Most People Don’t Know about ADHD

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Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). What Most People Don’t Know about ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 16 Jul 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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