Home » ADHD Stigma

ADHD Stigma

I know people that will talk in front of hundreds of people at non mental health conventions and mention that they have depression, an anxiety disorder, alcoholism, past drug addict. But they don’t mention they have ADHD. I know they do because they told me to my face.

I know people who have ADHD who work in the mental health fields who have ADHD and went public and got harassed and discriminated by psychiatrists, psychologists and doctors at work. Then they went back to hide in the ADHD closet.

People who are LGBT shouldn’t have to stay hidden in the LGBT closet and many of them now have come out of it. Why shouldn’t ADDers do the same?

Understand the myths and stigma around ADHD and find ways to effectively counter them to make it easier for you and others to come out of the ADHD closet, advocate for resources for ADHD and get the ADHD help you need and deserve.

ADHD and Stigma Articles

Does ADHD Really Exist? How to answer this question for those who’ve bought into the stigma

Would you tell someone who’s a diabetic that he shouldn’t take insulin, it’s not good for them, diabetes is a phoney condition thought up by the drug companies and all they have to do is stay away from the chocolate bars and have happy thoughts?

Why is it that people who would not assume they’re knowledgeable enough to make pronouncements of the validity of physical medical conditions assume that they are knowledgeable enough to make sweeping pronouncements of the validity of mental medical conditions? Here are polite and more direct ways to explain ADHD to non adders (or adders in denial and projecting internal shame on to the condition) and clinical evidence of ADHD as a real condition

Some Myths of ADHD

Myth # 1: ADHD is Not a Real Disorder
Myth # 2: ADHD is a Disorder of Childhood
Myth # 3: ADHD is Over-Diagnosed
Myth # 4: Children with ADHD are Over-medicated
Myth # 5: Poor Parenting Causes ADHD
Myth # 6: Minority Children are Over-Diagnosed with ADHD and are Over-Medicated
Myth # 7: Girls Have Lower Rates and Less Severe ADHD than Boys

12 Ways to Fight Mental Health Stigma With Social Media

Social media can be used to stigmatize and spread ignorance and hate. But it can also be used to counter stigma, spread facts as antidotes to hate and lies. My posts lists many ways to do this from simple and easy to more complex.

ADHD Facts – Dispelling the Myths

Download (PDF, 66KB)

Vancouver Sun Celebrates ADHD Awareness Week by Stigmatizing ADHD on Front Page and Syndicating It Nationwide

Pencil, pens and meds. LA Times editorial stigmatizing ADHD get’s fisked by Gina Pera

Helping your child overcome the stigma of ADHD

Breaking the silence of ADHD Stigma

ADHD behaviors still get attributed to poor parenting. “The general thinking is often that the parent is not strict enough and the child is in control of the situation,” Matlen said. But a child with ADHD isn’t disobedient on purpose; they have a biologically based disorder that disrupts self-regulation. And simply applying more discipline — without treating the ADHD — doesn’t work.

Adults with ADHD are misperceived as “drug-seeking,” seeking the diagnosis in order to supposedly get their hands on stimulants. As Matlen corrected, many adults with ADHD actually forget to take their medication.

Explain Adult ADHD To Non ADDers. My Crowd Sourced Anti ADHD Stigma Campaign

My crowdsourced campaign to reduce the ignorance, misinformation, and stigma against adults with ADHD I’m doing on my first blog Adult ADD Strengths.

People explain what is the most important thing that you want non-ADHD adults to know about what life is really like living with Adult ADHD.

You can do it anonymously, or with your full name.

Overcoming the ADHD Stigma

An expert psychologist shares his secrets for fighting  ADHD stereotyping in children and adults.

Stigma and The ADHD Catch 22.

My article for Transitions Magazine the quarterly for The Disability Alliance of BC  ( used to be called BC Coalition of People with Disabilities (BCCPD) in their issue focusing on stigma.  Covers ADHD myths and how to deal with people who stigmatize ADDers.

The ADHD Catch 22 What would it take for you to go public with ADHD?

Answers to my survey questions blogged relating to the ADHD Catch 22. People with ADHD often face a lack of resources in diagnosis and treatment of ADHD, especially for adults with ADHD, and often face stigma about the condition or how they treat the condition.

One of the MANY reasons for this is that many people in the media/govt/health system/public don’t think ADHD exists, or that it is a real problem/ significant problem with major impacts / think it’s overdiagnosed/ conspiracy theory, etc.

Plus, people who have ADHD very rarely go public with having ADHD, or do things to educate the media/govt/health system/public about the problems and stigma that people living with ADHD have.

So no/few perceived problems because few complaints/advocacy, especially when people with other mental health conditions do more complaining/advocacy = few $$ and resources for ADHD and more stigma. ADHD Catch 22.

Silencing Skeptics: The Truth About ADHD and LD

What is ADHD? Does medication really help? Can adults have ADD? Learn to clear up common misperceptions about ADHD with authority.

Stigma in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Great comprehensive article on stigma and ADHD

Mueller AK, Fuermaier AB, Koerts J, Tucha L. Department of Clinical and Developmental Neuropsychology, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.

The contribution of stigma associated with ADHD can be conceptualized as an underestimated risk factor, affecting treatment adherence, treatment efficacy, symptom aggravation, life satisfaction, and mentally well-being of individuals affected by ADHD. Public as well as health professionals’ concepts about ADHD are highly diverse, setting individuals with an ADHD diagnosis at greater risk to get stigmatized.

7 thoughts on “ADHD Stigma”

  1. Kerry Gearin

    Hi Pete,

    Thanks for this succinct, informative and compelling article. In Family Law situations an ADD/ADHD diagnosis can be used as a stick against the parent. This quick and easy to read handout helps to start the education process.

    This summer, 2015, Legal Aid Ontario is asking for recommendations to assist Domestic Violence Survivors. I would like to see funding available so our clients could have some Coaching Sessions coupled with an Analysis about what treatment and techniques best suit the Parent so they are more focused and less stressed. Similarly, I would like parents of children with ADD/ADHD to have the same opportunity to have their wiliness to utilize supportive techniques tested.

    I have noticed some Lawyers and Social Workers, including those who work for Children’s Aid Societies, are interested in learning about ADD/ADHD so they can provide better support to parents.

    Trauma Survivors share many of the same traits and anything that promotes understanding and support for Better Parenting is a gift to society.

    Thanks for your ongoing gifts to society Pete.

    Much appreciated,

    Kerry K Gearin, Family & Child Protection Lawyer, Ontario, Canada

  2. Thanks Kerry, I appreciate it.

    Those are good ideas, it’s much better to offer people with ADHD relevant ADHD support than just shame and stigmatize them. ADHD is a very treatable condition. I’m glad more people are interested in learning about ADHD.

    I know one person who works with male victims of sexual abuse and he says they have much higher rates of ADHD. Wonder what the rates are on domestic violence victims and people with ADHD?


    I have ADD as a 41 year old female. I do things unknowingly sometimes….and it is very painful emotionally because people don’t understand and just think I have “no tact”. But when I say, I’m sorry I have ADD, they just shrug their shoulders, roll their eyes and completely dismiss what I just said.
    Last night at work I cried like a baby in the bathroom at my work. It’s VERY hard to feel unliked and misunderstood so much. I know I personally dispise this disorder. It has haunted me all my life.
    Thank you for your advocacy. I only hope to be able to embrace the good and let go of the bad about ADD a little easier.

  4. Pete Quily

    You’re welcome Heather, the key to ADHD is exploring ways to learn how to manage it more effectively for your unique ADHD brain. Instead of saying I’m sorry I have ADHD, try and figure out what caused the behaviour/words, not from a judgemental view or shaming, but from a curiosity point of view, like a detective. Then think, what could I do differently to reduce the likelihood of doing it differently next time? What were the internal cues I missed or external environmental warning signs?

    And then set alarms to practice them to prepare for next time.

    Here are some notes from my Vancouver Adult ADHD support group you might find useful

    You might want to find an ADHD support group near you to connect with others see my list of Canadian, US & international ADHD support groups.

  5. Hi Heather! I understand you completely! I have been fighting with ADHD my entire life and I am now 38. Go tell people it’s real – they just call me “excited” or “impulsive” which a euphemism for a nut case…I hope in the future it will be believed to be as real as autism for example.

  6. Hi Heather lots of evidence of ADHD is a real condition, see my post on my other blog but what there is a shortage of is ADDErs and their family members willing to call out stigmatizers and raise the cost of stigmatizing ADHD.

  7. Pingback: Your ADHD Superpowers And Your ADHD Kryptonite - BC ADHD

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *