Image Credit: Getty Images

Unraveling The Stigma Of ADHD

Reading time | 3 mins

Anyone who loves a good debate knows that they can find one on the internet. There’s a neverending cycle of topics to disagree on, from pineapple on pizza to the current state of American politics.

Since I’m a mental health advocate, I pay particular attention to the ideas and perceptions people have about mental health. The stigma around some disorders has changed, but I have to say, we have a long way to go when it comes to ADHD.

I have been living with ADHD for as long as I can remember. People seem to think that because of my disorder, I should be a boy, a child, or white, yet I’m none of those. ADHD is a hot topic for discussion, and people everywhere hold strong opinions on what it is, whether it exists, and whether or not it should be recognized or treated.

Much of the problem of living with ADHD isn’t the disorder itself, but the stigma that we have to face. Like any other human being, I’d rather be judged for who I am, not who I’m not.

If you have ADHD and you’re facing the same problem, you know without a doubt the frustration I’m talking about. Here are just a few examples of stigma that I’ve encountered while trying to explain what ADHD is to others.

People with ADHD are lazy

People with ADHD have difficulty completing tasks. We struggle with organization and management, and our lack of executive function makes it so much harder to finish things.

That means that we’ll often struggle to complete projects we begin, keep our home organized, or manage our workloads. To the untrained eye, this looks like laziness. But really, we’re constantly working to combat the idea that we’re purposely not doing what we’re supposed to be doing.

Being called lazy when we’re working so hard to keep it together is devastating to our self-esteem.

We just want medication

The main staple of treatment for ADHD is stimulant medication. This plays a big role in the stigma we face. Anyone with ADHD who has ever attempted to fill a prescription for a stimulant knows this: It isn’t easy.

You have to fill the prescription at the same pharmacy each time. Plus, your prescription has to be a paper copy each time. This creates a great deal of paperwork and hassle for someone who already has a hard time staying organized.

First, you have to get to the doctor’s office to begin with, meaning you have to remember to schedule an appointment, make it to the appointment on time, get your paper prescription (which you can’t lose), and then go to the pharmacy.

This process in itself creates a huge challenge for the ADHD mind. Nobody is going through all of that because they like the way stimulants feel. Unfortunately, too many people believe that those of us on ADHD medication are simply doing it for the drugs.

We don’t want responsibility

A common misperception about ADHD is whether or not it exists in the first place. I frequently joke that the disorder sounds like something made up. After all, I can pay attention, but only when it’s something that really grabs my attention.

ADHD is no laughing matter, though. Many people believe that ADHD means someone has a lack of willpower or desire to do the things needed in order to be a successful adult. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

I have sat for hours in front of a blank computer screen, begging my brain to just do what I need it to do. (Ironically, I struggled with this while writing this very article.) ADHD makes a person seem like they’re shirking their responsibility, when in reality, we’re struggling with trying to stay above water.

The takeaway

Living with ADHD is a serious challenge for the adults who have it, and some days, I’m not convinced that it’s a challenge I’m up to. This is my life, not a sound bite on the web. It’s my life’s mission to change the conversation around ADHD and bring the reality of living with it to the masses. These stigmas have to stop somewhere.

ADHD-US-NP-00015 MAY 2018