Responses to ADHD Deniers



“There didn’t used to be ADHD in my day”

There did, we just used to call something different. Behaviours characteristic of ADHD have been decribed for centuries, and many historical figures are felt to have had ADHD characteristics. ADHD was first identified in 1775. Our understanding of the condition – as with many things – has then continued to depend and evolve over time.

You can read more about the history of ADHD here.

“I know, I get distracted sometimes”

A large number of mental health conditions and disorders can be seen as debilitating exaggerations of the normal human experience.

That means neurotypical individuals have a familiarity with the issue with many then failing to understand the differing extent it is for someone with the disorder. They can also fall into the trap of thinking the solutions for their level also apply at our level.

Depression is not just sadness, Chronic anxiety isn’t similar to nerves on a first date, and OCD isn’t just preferring things to be tidy. ADHD isn’t sometimes procrastinating for a big project or occasionally finding it hard to concentrate. Neurotypical familiarity can breed contempt of ADHD traits.

What makes ADHD different from normal distractibility and restlessness is the degree of features, the consistency of features across time and different settings, and the impairment caused by these features.

It wasn’t so long ago that individuals with Depression were advised as solutions “Turn that frown upside down” or “If you smile, the world will smile back at you”.

We’ve come a long way in our understanding of many mental health conditions and disorders. We have the same journey to travel with  ADHD.

“You can’t have adhd/autism because you have *insert* (a job, masters degrees, work in a hospital, have your kids with you, have a partner)”

Some people with ADHD achieve impressive things. For examples you can see our list of ADHD and Famous here.

Achievements need to be measured against the true potential of the person and the level of emotional and practical struggle it has taken to achieve what they’ve done.

It’s not uncommon for people with ADHD to resonate with “I’ve got ADHD. I can do anything. It just costs everything else” – to express the price paid, the curtailment of almost every other aspect of live, to achieve their goal. Others resonate with “I’ve got ADHD I’ve had to make my world really small” to talk about cutting elements out in order to survive and achieve.

Whatever you have done, and whatever position you have attained, it doesn’t rule out ADHD being part of that story.

“It’s just a TikTok craze” or “People are getting ADHD from social media” or even “It’s just a fashion, it’s social contagion”*

*Phillippa Perry in the Times.

TikTok, and other social media, has done a great job in promoting awareness of neurodiversity and ADHD. People aren’t catching ADHD on tiktok ~ they are learning what ADHD is and recognising it in themselves.

It is common to see media articles celebrating when individuals promote understanding of medical conditions on social media but decry the same when it is happening for ADHD. It is a part of the stigma surrounding ADHD that we aim to remove.

To help defend against negative stories on this we track tiktok views for both #adhd and #autism to highlight that both move almost in parallel and highlight that no-one is accusing tiktok of causing Autism.

It is important to note that as with all social media – some of it is great and some of it is nonsense. But overall as a charity we see the positive in the ADHD conversation and increased awareness that the social media conversation is creating.

“It’s just a white middle class thing”

There are problems with awareness between groups and access to assessment and treatment across the globe, so it is not surprising that the more privileged parts of society are over-represented in diagnosed populations. The research is unequivocal that ADHD features are found in every group. You can see examples of that in some of the backgrounds of people in our ADHD and Famous pages.

“The kids just need more discipline. They’ve been spoilt”

Children with ADHD can exhibit behaviours that are challenging and disruptive. But this is not because of a lack of discipline, but usually because of insensitive or inconsistent approached taken by adults who do not understand their needs. Just imposing stricter and stricter discipline will only make things worse. Boundaries and structure are essential, but so is meeting emotional needs.

“You can’t have ADHD, it would affect your employment opportunities.”

Having a formal diagnosis doesn’t change whether you have ADHD or not. It solely changes your understanding of having it and allows you to get additional support should you want it. We are advocates for the personal awareness and understanding that a formal diagnosis can bring someone.

The choice on telling people, including your employer, about your ADHD [with the exception of certain professions that require medical certification] is up to you. Your ADHD diagnosis is medically protected data and it is your choice who you tell.

ADHD is formally recognised as a disability under UK law. It therefore gives you protection from employment discrimination. The decision on declaring if you have ADHD during recruitment is yours alone. You don’t need to declare to your employer.

“But how can she possibly be ADHD, she isn’t violent/aggressive like the boys you hear about with it”

Violence, aggression, naughtiness, laziness. None of these are signs of ADHD. Some ADHD children appear to be these things out of frustration and alienation, but that’s not the same.

“She can’t possibly have ADHD as she has just sat still for ages drawing that really intricate and beautiful picture”

Hyperfocus is a common feature of ADHD, and can be confusing. But the problem with ADHD is (often) not a lack of attention, but a lack of attentional control. Hyperfocus can be useful, but just as often it means the ADHD brain is focused on something it shouldn’t be!

“The problem with ADHD diagnosis is that it means other things get missed”

This can be a problem if the assessment is rushed, and other important aspects get missed. If you are worried about this, go back to the team who diagnosed you/ your child to discuss.

“There is no material test for ADHD”

This is true, but unimportant. There is no test for most mental health conditions, as well as for physical complaints such as fibromyalgia, migraine and IBS. Defining a set of (impariring) symptoms and seeing what works for that group is a completely standard part of medical classification.

 “It’s a marketing ploy by drug companies.”

ADHD existed before the medications that we use to treat it. Pharmaceutical companies are strongly regulated and have developed products to help that are only prescribed by medical professionals who agree they can make a difference. In the UK the majority of ADHD medications can only be initially prescribed by a specialist to help ensure they are only given appropriately.

“Treatment doesn’t help, it just pacifies people.”

This isn’t true. ADHD medications may make people appear more calm, but that is because they give the individual better control over their own brains. It’s completely different to sedative effects in medication.

“The drugs are legal amphetamines”

The relationship between ADHD medicine and speed is the same as between coffee and cocaine. There’s a superficial similarity but a world of difference. ADHD medicine is not addictive, and will not get you ‘high’. The side effects are not trivial but they are closer to those caused by espresso that to amphetamine!

“The drugs are addictive”

ADHD medication is not addictive. This is clearly shown because individuals with ADHD, adults or children, commonly struggle to remember to take their medication and often need to build systems to do so. Compare this to nicotine – a known addictive substance – how many cigarette smokers you know who forget to start smoking each day?

There is also an important difference between a medication being important versus addictive. An individual talking about how important a difference ADHD medication makes for them and the negative impact of not having it – can to some be misunderstood as looking like an addiction. It is instead a sign of the positive impact of the medication and how difficult untreated ADHD is.

If you have additional claims you want debunked please click page feedback below.