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Stupid, lazy, or ADHD?

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A lot of people don't know the difference between stupid, lazy, or ADHD. Misinformation abounds. This article is the first in a series to help clear up some of the confusion.

ADHD Facts and Fiction

Stupid, lazy, or ADHD?

I am pretty open about my late diagnosis of ADHD and the difficulties I have faced because of it. A lot of the hardship I have faced stems from the fact that there is so much misinformation out there about the disorder. There are a lot of disreputable people out there preying on the vulnerable and pushing unscientific "cures" and treatments. There are just as many good-intentioned people who are trying to "help" but have no clue. This article is the first in a series that I hope will shatter some of the misconceptions and bring the facts of ADHD out into the open.

ADHD FACTS

ADHD stands for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. It is one of the most common mental illnesses. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), it affects an estimated 5% of children and 2.5% of adults.

Usually, it is diagnosed in childhood, when the affected child starts having trouble in school. The condition is diagnosed more frequently in boys than girls. Unfortunately, there are some people who do not get diagnosed until much later in life.

ADHD is broken down into three types: hyperactive-impulsive, inattentive, and combined type.

Hyperactivity is defined by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) as when "a person seems to move about constantly, including situations in which it is not appropriate, excessively fidgets, taps, or talks. In adults, it may be extreme restlessness or wearing others out with their activity."

The NIMH defines impulsivity as when "a person makes hasty actions that occur in the moment without first thinking about them and that may have high potential for harm; or a desire for immediate rewards or inability to delay gratification. An impulsive person may be socially intrusive and excessively interrupt others or make important decisions without considering the long-term consequences."

According to the NIMH, inattention is characterized by a person who "wanders off task, lacks persistence, has difficulty sustaining focus, and is disorganized; and these problems are not due to defiance or lack of comprehension."

ADHD severity and type vary per person. Males are more often diagnosed with the hyperactive-impulsive type. Females are more often diagnosed with the inattentive type.

ADHD FICTION

There are a great many misconceptions about what ADHD is, and isn't.

"There's no such thing as ADHD. That child is just spoiled." ADHD is a condition, not a result of poor parenting. According to the CDC, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder.

"Everyone has a little ADHD." According to the APA, even though ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders, it only affects approximately 5% of children and 2.5% of adults.

"All children act that way!" While all children may display the symptoms of ADHD occasionally, affected children have the symptoms more severely, more often, and the symptoms reduce social function, school function, and quality of home life.

"Only boys have ADHD." It is true that males are diagnosed more often, but females also have ADHD. Obviously, since I am female!

"All kids with ADHD are hyperactive." Children with inattentive type ADHD often appear dreamy or lost in their own world.

"There's nothing wrong with you, you just need to try harder." Believe me when I say that those with ADHD are most likely already trying as hard as they can.

References

What Is ADHD?

NIMH >> Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Facts | ADHD | NCBDDD | CDC

Data and Statistics | ADHD | NCBDDD | CDC

I have been a nurse since 2012. I have worked in four different hospitals in several services and am currently an agency/travel nurse.

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23 Comment(s)

pixierose, BSN, RN

Specializes in ED, psych. Has 4 years experience.

Great article. I especially like that you brought attention to the variation among those diagnosed with ADHD/ADD.

My daughter has ADD (inattentive type), and although she receives excellent services NOW within the school, it was a *nightmare* getting to that point. Even among educators, inattentive type can be frequently misinterpreted as "she's just quiet/shy/introverted" and pushed to the side she was. People often think of the hyperactive part of the disorder, whereas some kids just don't have this at all. As a former educator myself, I had to flex my professional educator muscle during PPT meetings to not get pushed around by the district. Not cool.

Looking forward to the rest of the series!

mmc51264, ADN, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in orthopedic; Informatics, diabetes. Has 9 years experience.

I was just diagnosed recently, although it was no surprise LOL. My oldest child and I are the inattentive type and hubby and youngest are hyperactive type (hubby undiagnosed, but totally obvious).

I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist that runs our pain clinic. Being dx older, he asked about my reaction to different medications to determine that I am an "opiate-stimulant" ADD. I have a paradoxical reaction to certain medications. I cannot take an SSRI or an SNRI (or any of the "others") Up for days.

ADD/ADHD is a very tricky disease.

One thing that is a benefit to me is that I am very good at multi-tasking :) I have a schoolaholic issue too. I am on degree #5, career #3 and about to change paths within nursing (in the next year or so).

I feel bad for my kids though. They struggle. The oldest has "executive dysfunction" which makes it very difficult for him to stay organized. He is gifted, has an almost photographic memory-for what he wants, but would lose his behind if it wasn't attached.

The other is just "on-the-go" all the time. Has been since the day he was born.

Funny how we are all different.

I was just diagnosed recently, although it was no surprise LOL. My oldest child and I are the inattentive type and hubby and youngest are hyperactive type (hubby undiagnosed, but totally obvious).

I was diagnosed by a psychiatrist that runs our pain clinic. Being dx older, he asked about my reaction to different medications to determine that I am an "opiate-stimulant" ADD. I have a paradoxical reaction to certain medications. I cannot take an SSRI or an SNRI (or any of the "others") Up for days.

ADD/ADHD is a very tricky disease.

One thing that is a benefit to me is that I am very good at multi-tasking :) I have a schoolaholic issue too. I am on degree #5, career #3 and about to change paths within nursing (in the next year or so).

I feel bad for my kids though. They struggle. The oldest has "executive dysfunction" which makes it very difficult for him to stay organized. He is gifted, has an almost photographic memory-for what he wants, but would lose his behind if it wasn't attached.

The other is just "on-the-go" all the time. Has been since the day he was born.

Funny how we are all different.

Hahahaa!! It sounds like we have a lot in common. I'm on my 3rd round of college, 3rd or 4th career, and I usually either go to school and work or work two jobs.

It's crazy how we can all have the same diagnosis and present differently. My mom was diagnosed as an adult and she was primarily inattentive. I'm combined. My dad is hyper and has learning disabilities. My one brother is combined and my other is straight up hyperactive. We all have different symptoms.

My next article is going to be about recognizing ADHD symptoms in yourself and others. I'm looking forward to the comments on that one!!

I was diagnosed as an adult also. I have had particular problems with paperwork - being very creative I would rather do the fun creative things but dread the mundane paperwork!! It has cost me a few jobs. I love the independent roles but found I reguired more structured ones in order to get my job done & get out on time so I could still have a life.

Started as diploma nurse returned to get my BSN & BA in social work then MA in social services/mental health. I have changed jobs in nursing a lot!! Until my current job, 6 yrs was the longest I had been in one place. I even left nurse to co-own a photography & photo finishing shop till it end in bankruptcy. Have returned to hospital nursing on nights & have been here going on 9 years. Recently retired & started working per deim.

ADD has been both an asset & a handicap for me. It has spurred on my creative, quick actions, Multi-tasking, sensitivity to others etc. however it has also contributed to my distractions, inability to focus or follow-thru, keep my mouth shut & think before speaking.

For sure ADD has a role in nursing - it was a relief for me when I discovered what I had - it was a revelation to learn all the benefits of this condition & to learn to take advantage of them.

Judy the nurse. Graduated 1970.

I have adhd combined type. I'm 22 years old and a new nurse. I'm pretty open about it because it took me years to find out what was wrong with me. Years of therapy thinking I was depressed, different anti-depressants that messed with me in all types of ways and years of feeling like a social outcast and failure. I was tested two years ago and it was like finding grace. I had answers to why I couldn't control certain things, or why I couldn't focus. I began taking proper medications and did therapies directed at helping me cope and learn to change my ways of doing things. I am now a new nurse and- as it goes, I'm struggling as a new nurse, but not as much as I thought I would. Having ADHD has aided me at learning 5 things at once and retaining that information. I'm a very fast learner, which is one of my strong suits which I thank my disorder for.

I am thankful for my diagnosis in the weirdest of ways. Sure I have my flaws due to my inability to concentrate, but I also have a ridiculous memory, which I account for the disorder. I am a social butterfly and I can talk to just about anyone that I cross paths with thanks to my lack of shyness and hyperactivity. I have turned my ADHD into a positive and I hope others can too with more awareness. 😁

Thank you for this article. As a female with inattentive type ADHD (formerly referred too as ADD, dropping the Hyperactivity component of the acronym), I struggled a great deal as a child, especially once it came to middle and senior high school. The amount of organizational skills required to be successful here proved too much for me to assimilate. After my grades dropped to Ds and Fs on a consistent basis, I finally gave up, dropping out of school in the 9th grade.

Now in my final year of nursing school, at 38 years old, I am extremely concerned about how I will ever be a competent nurse. I have struggled almost more in adulthood due to the gross misunderstanding of this affliction. I have been called stupid, lazy, deaf, and a whole host of untrue and extremely discouraging things in my work environment, and throughout my whole life. I believe if there was more accurate comprehension of, and tolerance surrounding this disease, I would not be so apprehensive about taking steps to better myself through a career.

I am not unwilling, and I am extremely intelligent (a high IQ is common in people with ADHD). I simply seem to lack the support of other people who do not understand that I am not ignoring them, trying to get out of doing work, or on another planet. I just sometimes need a little extra patience from others, because, even though a task that needs completed may seem obvious to you, I might not even notice it. Something that you said to me, as clear as day, and I maybe even agreed, might have gone right over my head. But I work hard every day to minimize this, I am in constant consultation with doctors, and am consistent with a daily regimen to reduce the negative effects of ADHD in my day to day life.

It is extremely frustrating to me that I cannot control it entirely, and wreaks havoc on my self esteem that, to others I appear like I "just don't even care" even after all the work i do every day. So please, have patience if you know anyone like me. They may just be a person at work who "annoys you" but you can't even put your finger on what their problem is. Consider that it might actually be a problem for them, and that, as much as it bothers you, it might be ten times worse for them.

OldDude

Specializes in Pediatrics Retired.

Well written. Nice Job.

Thank you for this article. As a female with inattentive type ADHD (formerly referred too as ADD, dropping the Hyperactivity component of the acronym), I struggled a great deal as a child, especially once it came to middle and senior high school. The amount of organizational skills required to be successful here proved too much for me to assimilate. After my grades dropped to Ds and Fs on a consistent basis, I finally gave up, dropping out of school in the 9th grade.

Now in my final year of nursing school, at 38 years old, I am extremely concerned about how I will ever be a competent nurse. I have struggled almost more in adulthood due to the gross misunderstanding of this affliction. I have been called stupid, lazy, deaf, and a whole host of untrue and extremely discouraging things in my work environment, and throughout my whole life. I believe if there was more accurate comprehension of, and tolerance surrounding this disease, I would not be so apprehensive about taking steps to better myself through a career.

I am not unwilling, and I am extremely intelligent (a high IQ is common in people with ADHD). I simply seem to lack the support of other people who do not understand that I am not ignoring them, trying to get out of doing work, or on another planet. I just sometimes need a little extra patience from others, because, even though a task that needs completed may seem obvious to you, I might not even notice it. Something that you said to me, as clear as day, and I maybe even agreed, might have gone right over my head. But I work hard every day to minimize this, I am in constant consultation with doctors, and am consistent with a daily regimen to reduce the negative effects of ADHD in my day to day life.

It is extremely frustrating to me that I cannot control it entirely, and wreaks havoc on my self esteem that, to others I appear like I "just don't even care" even after all the work i do every day. So please, have patience if you know anyone like me. They may just be a person at work who "annoys you" but you can't even put your finger on what their problem is. Consider that it might actually be a problem for them, and that, as much as it bothers you, it might be ten times worse for them.

((((Hugs))))

I think it's harder for the intelligent people with ADHD because people expect more out of us. When we can hyper focus, we are superstars, and that's what people expect ALL the time.

When we return to our baseline of "absentminded professor," then others get upset at us.

We have a condition that is defined by inconsistency, and a society that depends on predictability. The clash is often volatile.

One thing to remember is that most of the time it's just as hard for our loved ones and coworkers as it is for us. They literally cannot understand what is going on with us and we seem totally alien to them.

Well written. Nice Job.

Woot!! An endorsement from one of my fave school nurses. Joyous day!!

I work with a few people who claim the diagnosis of ADHD. One in particular is an ER tech. I don't know enough about his particular disorder to classify it, but it is obvious to all of those who work with him that he lacks focus. He is good at his job when you can get him to do it and in a timely manner, but more often than not the nurses end up doing his tasks themselves once we discover that he hasn't done it. He is always engaged in a conversation with someone, staff or patients, and can never tear himself away from that conversation immediately to do the task assigned, frequently taking 20-30 minutes before starting a task when he could have completed several in the same time frame. Every shift finds him having gotten "lost" for ridiculous amounts of time on the way back from transporting a patient to the floor or some other location, resulting in having to look for him in the event that he is needed. He is never proactive in doing his work but always waits for someone to assign him something to do. Staff, nurses and other techs alike are frustrated with his behavior and joke that we might as well not have a tech assigned to our area at all. Regardless of whether his behavior is completely a result of his disorder, a lack of willingness to attempt to control his behavior/disorder, or whether it's just plain laziness the results are the same. No amount of understanding has made a difference and if someone can't do the job for whatever reason, they shouldn't have that job at all.

I work with a few people who claim the diagnosis of ADHD. One in particular is an ER tech. I don't know enough about his particular disorder to classify it, but it is obvious to all of those who work with him that he lacks focus. He is good at his job when you can get him to do it and in a timely manner, but more often than not the nurses end up doing his tasks themselves once we discover that he hasn't done it. He is always engaged in a conversation with someone, staff or patients, and can never tear himself away from that conversation immediately to do the task assigned, frequently taking 20-30 minutes before starting a task when he could have completed several in the same time frame. Every shift finds him having gotten "lost" for ridiculous amounts of time on the way back from transporting a patient to the floor or some other location, resulting in having to look for him in the event that he is needed. He is never proactive in doing his work but always waits for someone to assign him something to do. Staff, nurses and other techs alike are frustrated with his behavior and joke that we might as well not have a tech assigned to our area at all. Regardless of whether his behavior is completely a result of his disorder, a lack of willingness to attempt to control his behavior/disorder, or whether it's just plain laziness the results are the same. No amount of understanding has made a difference and if someone can't do the job for whatever reason, they shouldn't have that job at all.

A bad employee is a bad employee. ADHD can pose problems, but does not give someone carte blanche at work.

You sound contemptuous of people who have ADHD. Be glad you don't have it and don't have to deal with other's poor opinions of you over something you can't get rid of.

A bad employee is a bad employee. ADHD can pose problems, but does not give someone carte blanche at work.

You sound contemptuous of people who have ADHD. Be glad you don't have it and don't have to deal with other's poor opinions of you over something you can't get rid of.

There's nothing like having people jump to conclusions.

How do you know I don't have a condition that I can't get rid of and haven't dealt with other's opinions???

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

Thanks for bestowing this informative article upon us, canigraduate!

There's nothing like having people jump to conclusions.

How do you know I don't have a condition that I can't get rid of and haven't dealt with other's opinions???

I don't. I don't know you at all. Rather than getting upset and defensive, perhaps you would like to share?

I only meant that you don't have ADHD. I didn't mean that you haven't had your own share of troubles.

Thanks for bestowing this informative article upon us, canigraduate!

You're welcome! I'll post another one, soon.

pinkiepieRN

Specializes in adult psych, LTC/SNF, child psych. Has 8 years experience.

I'm finally back on meds and my functioning level at work was the main reason I decided to go back into treatment. I'm on night shift, so there's not as much stimulation and distraction, but I still lose and forget things. It's so frustrating!