Opinion: What ADHD Awareness Month Means To Me
ADHD Awareness Month initially started as a single day event in October 2004. This month is meant to be dedicated to celebrating individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), educating people on the disorder and encouraging diagnosis for those who believe they may have ADHD.
I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was six years old. Following this diagnosis has been 14 years of going on and off medications, fighting the harmful stereotypes associated with this diagnosis and never truly feeling at par with my neurotypical presenting peers. I have heard every myth and misconception under the sun; this ADHD Awareness Month, I have set out to inform and educate a wider audience.
ADHD is more than the inability to focus or sit still. ADHD can present itself as hyperfixations, difficulty with memory or a delay in social skills. But most importantly, ADHD is an invisible disability affecting about 6.7 billion children in the United States. To make a positive change, I would like to address three misconceptions on this disorder that have impacted me personally.
Myth 1: ADHD is a male-only condition
For years, this myth both astounded me and devalued my experiences every time someone tried to challenge my diagnosis on the basis that I am female. The idea that ADHD was a symptom of boys growing up and maturing has reached as far back as the 1700s. However, this recently-adopted mindset has left girls out of the equation entirely. This is due to the prevalence of studies on white, hyperactive young boys. While males are diagnosed two or three more times than females, ADHD still affects at least 4.2% of females. This myth often leaves women misdiagnosed.
Myth 2: ADHD is an excuse
According to ADHDAwarenessMonth.org, ADHD is a result of neural messages in the brain not being effectively transmitted unless the activity or task is something really interesting to a person. These tasks usually "turn them on" for whatever reason. When my brain is unable to focus on one task, I am often left feeling defeated. My neurotypical peers often view this inability to complete tasks as laziness or an excuse to procrastinate. In reality, most of the time I also want or need to complete the task but my brain is not receiving the message that the task needs to be completed.
Myth 3: ADHD is not a real disorder
ADHD is an internationally recognized disorder that impacts millions of individuals around the globe. To question the realness of their experiences with this disorder is to invalidate them. ADHD is a complex disorder affecting the day-to-day functions of a person's life.
One last important thing I wish to note is that I do not speak for every person with ADHD. Their experiences could be incredibly different from mine. Some in the ADHD community are actively seeking to rename this experience while others are looking to live their life as normally as possible despite the challenges ADHD brings. No matter where you are, I hope ADHD awareness month has spread new light and information on this frequently misunderstood disorder.
By Rachel Van Horne, Associate Editor