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10 ADD/ADHD Myths

Many parents are confused about exactly what Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) really are. The first thing you should know is that the two conditions, while slightly different, are now both being referred to in the medical community as ADHD. Here are 10 common myths -- and the scientific facts to dispel them -- that surround this disorder.

Myth #1: Only kids who are hyper have ADHD.

While hyperactivity is the most common symptom of ADHD, it is possible for a child to be suffering from the disorder without being hyperactive. ADHD actually has three subtypes:

  • A predominantly inattentive subtype: Signs include becoming easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds; failing to pay attention to details and making careless mistakes; rarely following instructions carefully and completely; losing or forgetting things like toys, pencils, books, and tools needed for a task.
  • A predominantly hyperactive-impulsive subtype: Signs include feeling restless, fidgeting and squirming; running, climbing, leaving a seat in situations where sitting or quiet behavior is expected; blurting out answers before hearing the entire question; and having difficulty waiting in line or for a turn.
  • A combined subtype, which is the most common of the three.

Children who fit into only the first subtype may be suffering from ADHD without showing signs of hyperactivity.

If left untreated, ADHD continues into adulthood. However, by developing their strengths, structuring their environments, and using medication when needed, children with ADHD can grow up to be adults leading very productive lives. In some careers, having a high-energy behavior pattern can be an asset.

While it's true that people with ADHD are naturally impulsive and more likely to take risks, those patients taking stimulants for this disorder are actually at lower risk of using other drugs. Children and teenagers who have ADHD and also have coexisting conditions may be at high risk for drug and alcohol abuse, regardless of the medication used.

Ritalin, a psychostimulant medication, is one of the most common forms of treatment for ADHD. It's been shown to help children focus and be less hyperactive. But in order to be most effective, it must be part of a larger treatment plan that may include academic help for the child and behavior-modification treatment.

ADHD is a condition of the brain that makes it difficult for children to control their behavior. While researchers have been unable to find the exact cause of ADHD, they have discovered a distinct change in brain size and activity in children with ADHD. Because these children have difficulty controlling their behavior, they may be labeled "bad kids." This is far from the truth.

Ritalin may have an effect on some children's growth. But recent studies have revealed that any effect on height is only temporary. Even children who are still taking the medicine throughout adolescence ultimately do achieve their normal height.

You may have heard media reports or seen advertisements for "miracle cures" for ADHD. However, the following methods have not been proven to work in scientific studies:

  • Optometric vision training (asserts that faulty eye movement and sensitivities cause the behavior problems)
  • Megavitamins and mineral supplements
  • Anti-motion-sickness medication (to treat the inner ear)
  • Treatment for candida yeast infection
  • EEG biofeedback (training to increase brain-wave activity)
  • Applied kinesiology (realigning bones in the skull)

Research doesn't support the theory that sugar can cause ADHD. In fact, it's highly unlikely that sugar intake can affect the size of parts of a child's brain, as is seen in patients with ADHD.

The majority of children who have been diagnosed with ADHD have at least one coexisting condition. The most common conditions are:

  • Conduct disorder: Up to 35 percent of children with ADHD also have oppositional conduct disorder. Children with this condition tend to lose their temper easily and are defiant and hostile toward authority figures. Studies show that this type of coexisting condition is most common among children with the primarily hyperactive/impulsive and combination types of ADHD.
  • Mood disorders: About 18 percent of children with ADHD also have mood disorders, more frequently among children with inattentive and combined types of ADHD. Children with mood disorders or depression often require a different type of medication than those normally used.
  • Anxiety disorders: These affect about 25 percent of children with ADHD. Children with anxiety disorders have difficulty functioning because of extreme feelings of fear, worry, or panic, and may frequently suffer from a racing pulse, sweating, diarrhea, and nausea. Counseling and/or medication may be needed to treat these coexisting conditions.
  • Learning disabilities: Learning disabilities make it difficult for a child to master specific skills, such as reading or math. ADHD is not a learning disability in itself, but it's a common adjunct to learning disabilities. These two conditions together can make it very difficult for a child to do well in school.

Many famous artists, scientists, and politicians had ADHD as children. Here's a list of some well-known celebrities with ADHD:

  • Ansel Adams
  • Charlotte/Emily Bronte
  • Salvador Dali
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Robert Frost
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor
  • Bill Gates
  • John F. Kennedy
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Mozart
  • Jack Nicholson
  • Eugene O'Neill
  • Elvis Presley
  • Joan Rivers
  • Anne Sexton
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • Robin Williams
  • Tennessee Williams
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Wright Brothers
  • Frank Lloyd Wright

Sources: American Medical Association; American Academy of Pediatrics; Kitty Petty ADD/LD Institute

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.