If you have ADHD or ADD, you know how your condition makes daily life a battle. Is it necessary for societal stigma to add to the struggle?
Everyone plays a role in transforming public perception and getting people with these conditions the support and understanding any human being needs when tackling a challenging problem. Here’s why there is so much stigma surrounding ADHD and ADD and how you can fight back every day.
Why Is There So Much Stigma Surrounding ADHD and ADD?
The stigma related to ADHD and ADD often begins in childhood. Many children receive a diagnosis after academic troubles related to inattentiveness develop. However, some researchers question how much influence modern environments have on the disorder.
Research performed in New Zealand and published in The Lancet indicates that children raised in rural and green environments were less likely to develop ADHD. Critics often argue that doctors overdiagnose the condition when in reality, children allowed adequate access to outdoor exercise can reduce or eliminate symptoms holistically. Such misdiagnoses often result from the insistence of teachers and parents pressuring physicians for answers to poor academic progress.
However, both ADHD and ADD are real conditions that cause trouble throughout a patient’s lifespan. For example, those with ADHD may struggle with organization and miss vital appointments. Others interpret their behavior as laziness or carelessness when it only reflects a symptom of their disorder.
The issue is complex — modern lifestyles do contribute to the development of ADHD and ADD. However, individual susceptibility also plays a role in how well each person copes with lengthy school and work days and electronic interruptions. The challenge is to find treatments and coping strategies that work without punishing sufferers or making them feel guilty about behaviors they can’t control.
5 Tips for Fighting Back Against the Stigma
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help combat the stigma against those with ADHD and ADD. The following five tips will help you become a better ally.
1. Watch Your Language
It’s challenging to strike the right balance between encouraging and invalidating at times. For example, saying “everyone gets distracted sometimes,” can feel harsh to someone panicking because they haven’t finished a massive report due tomorrow. Instead, try, “that sounds incredibly stressful. Is there anything I can do to help?”
Likewise, it’s easy to slip into the trap of believing that someone who can focus for hours on a computer game can apply the same principles at work. A better analogy is this one — while both a 250-pound bodybuilder and a 110-pound cubicle dweller can lift 5-pound weights, one of them might struggle with the heavier dumbbells on the rack.
Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean the individual with ADHD doesn’t have to work harder to accomplish similar tasks. Applaud their efforts when they succeed instead of saying, “Was that so hard?”
2. Educate Yourself
Perhaps the most painful stigma that those with ADHD or ADD face is the misconception that they use their disorder as an excuse to get out of doing things. Few things are further from the truth — most patients suffer severe economic hardship due to their condition.
If you love someone with ADHD or ADD, learn everything you can about the condition. If you share a close relationship, accompany them to doctor’s appointments and learn how you can help.
3. Assist With Organization
Many people with ADHD and ADD struggle with organization. A set of lost keys can set them on a distraction-laden witch hunt that takes up their entire morning. Then they panic when 5:00 p.m. arrives, and they still have a mountain of work.
Assist with an organization as much as possible. If you share a home with someone with ADHD or ADD, create defined spaces for things like keys and cellphones to help eliminate distracting losses.
4. Minimize Distractions
To you, “what do you want to do about dinner,” seems like an innocent question. To your partner trying to work from home with ADHD or ADD, it takes them off-task long enough to extend their workday into the evening.
Please respect the need for a distraction-free environment for completing tasks. Write down your questions if you must and establish a system — like a closed office door or a special “thinking cap” — that indicates “do not disturb” time.
5. Share Information
Finally, help spread awareness combating ADHD and ADD stigma. Post informative articles to your social media profiles. Participate in ADHD Awareness Month in October by donating to organizations or participating in outreach activities.
Fight Back Against Stigmas
There’s no need for the stigma related to ADHD and ADD, or any stigma related to mental conditions. Everyone can do their part to spread awareness about what is appropriate and respectful behavior when it comes to health conditions with stigmatized public perceptions.