This site is intended for health professionals only

ADHD: excuse or misunderstood?

New research conducted this year shows that over half of the British public believe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is merely a term for excusing unacceptable or uncontrollable behaviour. This latest set of data suggest that the public's perception of ADHD as a legitimate clinical condition has not improved since 2006, when this view was held by 54% of respondents.

ADHD is a well-established and serious condition that causes people to lose concentration quickly, act impulsively or be generally overactive. Despite this, it is still often seen as an excuse for poor parenting or a "lack of control" by a large proportion of the public.

Dr Graeme Lamb, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist working in the field of ADHD, has voiced his concerns surrounding this misconception. "ADHD is a serious and underdiagnosed medical condition." Dr Lamb also commented: "Living with this condition is distressing for the patient, but it also places an enormous strain on parents who have to deal with the stress of coping with their child as well as the stigma associated with the disorder. Often parents are accused of poor parenting when this is simply not the case."

The latest survey results suggest this misconception continues to have an impact on the management of the symptoms. Four per cent of parents surveyed reported that if they suspected their child suffered from ADHD they would do nothing as they thought their child would grow out of the condition. However, in reality the symptoms of ADHD can continue into adulthood for three in five children. 

And, more worrying, 16% of parents revealed they would try and deal with ADHD in the home, without seeking any advice or professional help. This approach can be detrimental as ADHD not only affects a child's behaviour, it can also cause developmental difficulties which can present in various ways.  

For parents who have children with ADHD it is not just the school day that is of concern. Unsurprisingly, 31% of respondents reported that weekends and holidays are a concern, with the early evening, (breakfast time and) before school and late evening also proving to be a problem (24%, 23% and 15% respectively). 

Without the proper attention, children and adolescents with ADHD may continue to experience problems with school performance as well as social and family relationships. If a child is diagnosed with ADHD, it is important that their condition is managed appropriately to ensure that they achieve their full potential.

What do you think? Are parents using the term ADHD for excusing their children's conduct? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"No, it's not an excuse. My son has ADHD." - Julie Wild, Wigan