ADHD Stigma: How It Affects Children, Adults, and Caregivers – Healthline

Imagine being unable to read a paragraph or follow a conversation without your mind wandering.
Losing track of time is something you’re known for among family and friends, and you can’t seem to meet deadlines despite your best efforts.
Your tendency to speak without thinking sometimes bruises feelings. You may occasionally interrupt people so you don’t forget what you want to say.
Now imagine your friends and family telling you that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) isn’t a real condition, and you should just try harder.
Stigma is a negative stereotype or perception about certain characteristics, often based on misinformation or misunderstanding. It can lead to harmful consequences, especially when health is involved. Mental health conditions are frequently subject to stigma.
Despite growing public knowledge and awareness of mental health conditions, there are several common misunderstandings about ADHD that lead to stigma.
According to Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD), these myths include the following:
Stigma can make it challenging to live with ADHD. It can also make it difficult for parents or guardians who care for children with ADHD.
ADHD stigma might cause challenges in social, job, and school settings. It may also affect how a person with ADHD views themself, especially if they start believing the negative stereotypes about ADHD. This is called internalized stigma or self-stigma.
ADHD symptoms, such as impulsivity and inattention, affect everyday functioning and interactions with others. According to research from 2019, this means people with ADHD can sometimes be perceived as:
Stigma can lead people with ADHD and caregivers to avoid seeking care, which means delayed diagnosis and treatment. Untreated ADHD is linked to several negative outcomes, according to a 2015 research review. These include:
There’s also stigma attached to treating ADHD with medication. Misperception about medications being an “easy fix,” or compensating for inadequate parenting, may make people with ADHD less likely to seek treatment.
ADHD is a condition that affects people of all ages. Therefore, stigma can affect people at any stage of life.
For example, adults with ADHD may fear disclosing their diagnosis at work due to stigma. Children may feel judged by their classmates at school for behaviors related to ADHD, finding it difficult to fit in and make friends.
Some research suggests children with ADHD are four times more likely to be rejected by their peers compared with neurotypical children. This can happen after even just a few hours of interaction.
In adulthood, different kinds of stigma can make it more challenging to live with ADHD. Participants in a 2018 study reported experiencing effects from:
In addition, the media generally covers stories about ADHD in children in classroom settings. This creates the impression that adults don’t experience the effects of ADHD and reinforces the notion that ADHD isn’t a real condition or that it always ends after childhood.
In reality, estimates suggest 50 to 70 percent of children with ADHD will continue to have it in adulthood.
Caring for a child with ADHD can have its own challenges. Many caregivers in this situation navigate stigma.
It’s possible you’ve felt scrutinized by other parents, the child’s teachers, and even healthcare professionals. Stigma can affect the caregiving and treatment choices you make, such as deciding whether or not to have your child take medication.
These feelings may be caused by affiliate stigma. Affiliate stigma is a type of internalized stigma that affects family members or caregivers of people with a condition, such as ADHD.
Research from 2020 suggested affiliate stigma can:
Education is a powerful tool that can reduce stigma. Research has found that personal contact with people who have ADHD and education about ADHD myths are two effective ways to reduce stigma.
If you want to help combat ADHD stigma, consider sharing:
For many people, the stigma connected to ADHD makes the condition more difficult to live with. Stigma can interfere with diagnosis and proper treatment, leading to worse health outcomes.
Sharing accurate information about ADHD is an effective way to reduce stigma. Whether you offer stories from your own experience or facts and statistics from reliable sources, you’re helping to build a bridge between people with ADHD and those who have stigmatized feelings toward it.
Last medically reviewed on April 28, 2022
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Current Version
Apr 28, 2022
Written By
Nancy Lovering
Edited By
Rachael Beairsto
Medically Reviewed By
Nathan Greene, PsyD
Copy Edited By
Jen Anderson
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