Black people don’t get ADHD (and other ADHD myths you shouldn’t believe)
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) affects all ages and sectors of the population equally, say experts in the field – and myths and misconceptions to the contrary are a barrier to diagnosis.
Diagnostic biases in the US show almost 12% diagnosis in white children, while only 6-8% for Latino and African American children respectively. And almost 75% of adults with ADHD remain undiagnosed, as it’s still believed to be a childhood condition – even though experts now agree it’s a neurodevelopmental condition that persists into adulthood. This reality is mirrored locally, as psychiatrists see race and age-related ADHD stigma in action.
Child psychiatrist Dr Ursula Kediemetse (Kedi) says there’s a poor understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders, and a specific misconception exists that ADHD doesn’t affect black children. Dr Kedi has encountered black families in which parents are surprised their child might have ADHD – or even refuse to accept it.
“ADHD is extremely common in children – in my experience, affecting more than 5%. Left undiagnosed, the condition has far-reaching consequences for the individual into their teens and adult life. It impacts their ability to learn, interact socially and function within the family unit,” explains Dr Kedi.
This can be compounded when the parents of the child don’t believe it’s possible for their child to have the condition in the first place – as Dr Kedi has experienced.
Other challenges include the necessity for accurate reporting of symptoms by parents and caregivers for diagnosis (across all race groups) and this can be variable and even contradictory. Added to this challenge is commonly missed diagnosis in girls, who don’t always present with outward, noticeable symptoms, like boys do, and tend to withdraw and become quiet daydreamers.
Dr Kedi frequently treats young patients whose parents believe it’s simply a behavioural problem to outgrow.
“It’s essential to increase awareness of the neurophysiological cause of ADHD amongst those impacted by it – either parents of the child with ADHD, or the individual themselves. With the knowledge that it can’t ‘disciplined out’ and that it’s a pervasive condition, stigmas around ADHD can be removed, which means access to treatment for those who so desperately need it.”