Adult ADHD Myths and Facts

When it comes to ADHD in adults, there's a lot of misinformation out there about the symptoms that go with it and the best way to get help. Learn how to cut through the confusion to get the treatment you need.

Myth: ADHD isn't a real condition.

Although doctors don't know what causes ADHD, it's a real condition. Researchers believe that your genes play a role. About 85% of people with ADHD have someone in their family who also has it.

It's also possible your environment, brain injuries, diet, and your brain's wiring may have something to do with it, too.

Whatever the cause, if you're one of the 17 million people in the U.S. with ADHD symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsive behavior, you know just how real it is.

Myth: You have adult ADHD only if you were diagnosed as a child.

You can have adult ADHD even though you weren't diagnosed as child, but you had to have ADHD symptoms before age 12. It's possible you didn't get a diagnosis when you were a kid because you had a mild form of the condition or your parents or teachers didn't recognize your symptoms. Some people are able to overcome their symptoms as children, only to find that the demands of adulthood make it harder.

You might also have different symptoms as an adult than you did as a child. Grown-ups are less likely to have hyperactive symptoms than children, but that doesn't mean they don't have ADHD.

Some long-term studies suggest that some people who have ADHD symptoms as adults didn't have any signs of the condition when they were kids. More research is needed.

Myth: Adults with ADHD just need to learn to be more organized.

ADHD isn't a character flaw. It's a developmental disorder of the brain. Some of the symptoms of adults with ADHD are:

  • Trouble completing and organizing tasks
  • Frequently losing important belongings
  • Forgetfulness and distraction
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty following details
  • Impatience

Myth: More men than women have ADHD.

The truth is, men and women are diagnosed with ADHD at equal rates.


Myth: Medicine is the only treatment for adult ADHD.

Doctors frequently suggest medication to treat ADHD symptoms because it works well. But if you combine medicine with behavioral therapy, you might get better results than if you use only one or the other. If you have trouble with inattention, routines, or listening to others, behavior therapy can teach you ways to manage these problems.

Some self-help treatments that can also help are:

Manage your diet. Eat foods and minerals thought to boost brain health such as fish oil, zinc, iron, and magnesium. Also make sure to include protein and complex carbohydrates such as beans and whole grains.

Don't skip sleep. Tired brains are less likely to work at their peak. Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

Exercise. Walking just four times a week for 30 minutes can help improve your symptoms.

Mindfulness or yoga. Both of these stress-relief techniques help you pay close attention to your thoughts, feelings, and body and can ease anxiety.

Myth: ADHD medications are addictive.

The medicines that doctors typically suggest to tame the symptoms of ADHD are a class of drugs called stimulants. Studies show there's no connection between ADHD medications and substance abuse, as long you take them the way your doctor tells you to.

Also, one study that followed a group of teenagers into young adulthood found they were no more likely to abuse drugs than other teens.

Myth: ADHD is something you outgrow.

Chances are, if you had ADHD as a child, it will follow you into adulthood. But if you work with health care professionals to carefully manage your ADHD, you can ease symptoms that keep up with a happy and productive life.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on July 08, 2019



ADDitude -- Inside the ADHD Mind: "Adult ADHD Treatment Options -- An Overview."

BMC Psychiatry: "Personality profiles in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)."
HelpGuide: "ADHD in Adults."

Journal of Family Practice: "Adult ADHD: Addressing a unique set of challenges."

National Institute of Mental Health: "Could I Have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)?"
National Resource Center on ADHD, A Program of CHADD: "Diagnosis of ADHD in Adults."

NYU Langone Health: "Diagnosing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Adults."

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