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Monday, October 18, 2021

How myths surrounding ADHD fuel stigma of condition


Despite what you may have heard, ADHD is not just a ‘fake excuse’ for sloppiness or laziness.

For someone without ADHD, leaving the house in the morning can be an easy task. Just how hard can it be to get out of bed and get dressed in the morning? However, for a person with ADHD, these same tasks can be exhausting, especially if you add up the numerous distractions that can take hours shake off.

To clarify, it could go a little something like this: Will I need my headphones? But where are they anyway? I wonder if it will rain today. How will the rain look like? Let me sit on the bed for just a minute to watch this football video. Well, now I am two hours late, and I don’t feel like going. And I cannot get myself to get up anymore.

It’s these impulsive, chaotic, and moody behaviours typical of a person with ADHD that can make everyday activities exhausting and stressful, often leading to a stigma of “laziness” or “slopiness” surrounding the mental illness.

But first things first, what is ADHD?

ADHD is an acronym that stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. As the name suggests, a person with ADHD exhibits symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity/impulsiveness, disorganisation, low frustration tolerance, and other symptoms that impair normal functioning. If left unrecognised or left untreated, it can often lead to years of low self-confidence and even psychological damage.

If those symptoms seem familiar, then chances are you might have or encountered someone with ADHD. But unlike the false image movies and stigmas attach to those with the disorder – caffeine addicts, fidget lovers spinning around the room, etc – some may not exhibit any hyperactivity at all, but rather show symptoms of carelessness, forgetfulness, and zoning out quite often than usual.

There are three major types of ADHD. The first one is the impulsive/hyperactive type (ADHD -PH/I), which is characterised by impulsive and hyperactive behaviours without inattention and distractibility.

This means that the person may fidget excessively, interrupt others in conversations and activities, move excessively, and carry out impulsive actions.

Read also: Deceased organ donor helps save three lives.

The second one is the inattentive and distractible type (ADHD-PI), which is characterised predominately by inattention and distractibility without hyperactivity. This means that a person with this type may lose things frequently, forget important events, and get distracted quickly.

The third, and most common, is the combined type (ADHD-C), which means that the person exhibits both inattention and hyperactivity.

Why does ADHD carry a stigma?

Despite the research and scientific evidence supporting ADHD, many people still don’t believe that it is a medical condition, especially that symptoms may come and go depending on the situation.

Abeer Eissa, a consultant psychiatrist at Al-Ahli hospital, says that many people brush off ADHD symptoms as an excuse for laziness or disobedience, especially when it comes to kids.

“Sometimes, ADHD can undermine academic performance, which worsens the stigma around it. If someone’s grades are low or they appear to be distracted a lot, then the first thought for many is always ‘they’re just lazy’ or ‘they need to put more effort,’ when it’s their ADHD,” Eissa said.

ADHD can cause problems in how well children do in school, in their ability to make and keep friends, and how they function in society, Eissa added.

“Hyperactive and impulsive kids, and even adults, sometimes have trouble taking turns or not getting their way. They can also be too loud, or maybe too aggressive, which makes making friends and communicating hard.”

“For adults with ADHD, sometimes they learn social skills with time. They learn more control over it, but it is still often very difficult for them.”

This, along with other factors, contribute to the stigma surrounding the disorder that falsely suggests it either does not exist or is an excuse for sloppiness.

Are stigmas harmful?

Yes. Research on the stigma surrounding attention deficit hyperactivity disorder found out that the contribution of the stigma associated with ADHD “can be conceptualised as an underestimated risk factor, affecting treatment adherence, treatment efficacy, symptom aggravation, life satisfaction, and mental well-being of individuals affected by ADHD.”

Not only that, but recent investigations emphasise that stigma may even initiate a transition from “formerly light deviant symptoms to full psychiatric, thus clinical significant disorders.”

This means that it can affect someone’s treatment and make it harder for them to cope with the disorder. In addition, research has also found that stigmas affect people with ADHD’s motivations and make them more susceptible to giving up on trying to be successful or finishing a task that is important to them.

Coping with ADHD

ADHD is different for everyone, thus coping ways vary depending on the person too. However, these are essential ways to help you cope with it, according to experts:

  • Research more about ADHD. This will help you understand yourself better and find ways to cope with it, whether naturally or through medications.
  • If you’re a parent and have a child with ADHD, make sure they understand what that means. Also, make sure that your child’s school understands that ADHD is a legitimate disorder, and ask them to accommodate their needs, if necessary.

Read also: Mental health awareness ‘significantly increases’ in Qatar, survey shows

  • Find an ADHD support group in your area, or join something as simple as a Facebook group. Talking and meeting people who share the same experience might help you understand yourself better and reassure yourself that these emotions are normal. Qatar ADHD support group, which is part of Hamad hospital, provides information, training and practical help on the services, benefits and other resources available to carers and people with ADHD in the country.
  • Try out new organisation methods. Even though it might be hard to follow, developing a set structure and neat habits can help you monitor and control your symptoms.  Plan early, set timers and most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself.
  • Consider going to a psychiatrist. Qatar has several psychiatrists that you can choose from. If your ADHD affects your daily life, then going to a professional and getting medication might be the best option for you.

Living with ADHD can be very hard, but working on monitoring your symptoms and actively working toward finding what works best for you can greatly help improve your day to day routine.

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