By in Family

ADHD Stigma: Pressure Not to Medicate

ADHD. What other condition involves such a stigma?

Go without medication, and everybody gets frustrated with your lack of focus, disorganization, and poor memory. Take your meds, and people judge or pity. Forget about the fact that the drugs help you cope. All anybody wants to talk about is how bad the drugs are, and how they're going to make you lose weight, make you gain weight, get you high, or turn you into a zombie.

If your chemo makes you sick, people try to cheer you up. Stick with it , they say. The doctors know what's best. Keep up your treatments! If you need drugs for heart disease or high blood pressure, your family and friends will check up on you. Did you take your meds? It's important to follow the doctor's orders. We want you to stay healthy. If you have ADHD people seem to think it's not a medical condition, and if you talk about medication suddenly they're all suspicious of the doctors and the companies that make the drugs.

Not Taking ADHD Seriously

This kind of reaction begs the question, do people take ADHD seriously? Maybe they think it's all in your head? Suck it up, gather up your willpower, and you can beat it on your own. No need for doctors and drugs.

Or maybe they think you can magically stop having ADHD, if you only follow some popular diet or stand in some really strange pose while grasping a pair of old rabbit ears while praying that the noise in your head will stop and you'll be able to tune in like a “normal person.” You probably just eat too much junk food. My mother's hair dresser's cousin put her kid on an ADHD diet. Or, Just stop eating everything that's red and you'll be cured.

Writing Off ADHD as 'Bad Behaviour'

It's easy to dismiss ADHD if you don't live with it. For years it was written off as just so much bad behaviour, or a lack of parenting skills. There's nothing wrong with that kid a good spanking wouldn't cure! Or, Have you considered family counselling? You just need to spend more time with your kids, and turn the TV off, you know? There are still some people who think that way, even after medical research showed us the brains of people with ADHD are different.

But attention deficits are real . And the anxiety and embarrassment that go along with not being able to follow along in class or get the punch line of a joke are real too.

Coping Without Medication

No, not everybody with ADHD needs meds. Some cope well enough without them, much like some diabetics can stay healthy with diet, exercise and a pill that helps them break down the sugars. Not everyone needs insulin, but we sure wouldn't tell anyone to try to get by without it.

ADHD is a for really, bona fide medical condition. It needs to be treated by a qualified specialist, and yes, sometimes medications are indicated. If these drugs improve the quality of life of a person living with this disability, there's no good reason to withhold them. There's also no good reason to stigmatize a person who chooses mediation as part of a treatment plan. Don't presume to judge until you've walked that mile in your brother's shoes.

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Image credit: ADHD medication by FtWashGuy/Wikipedia ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Note: This content was migrated from Bubblews by the author

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Soonerdad3 wrote on February 16, 2015, 11:29 PM

In my humble opinion ADHD is being horribly over diagnosed these days and kids and adults are being prescribed drugs they absolutely don't need.
We had a personal experience without going into any details, but I know the drugs they prescribe are powerful and should not be messed around

CoralLevang wrote on February 16, 2015, 11:33 PM

When I was diagnosed with this stage IV carcinoid cancer, and as I have learned more about it and the ailments I have lived with for years, I realize that I have been misdiagnosed with many things; all my symptoms have been related to this cancer. When I think of all the medications that I have used over the years, I find myself angry at who-knows-what-or-whom for not digging deeper. I am also angry at myself for not becoming a squeaky wheel, but I was simply tired of fighting. Today, I take one shot monthly to help to control the symptoms. I no longer take any other prescribed medication other than an occasional Imodium to control some of the symptoms, and an Aleve PM to control some of my pains, and to help me to sleep. Heart meds, GERD meds, inhalers, and so many other things were never needed, if they would have listened to me instead of trying to come up with a quick fix.

BarbRad wrote on February 17, 2015, 1:55 AM

I think part of the reason that the meds have gotten such a bad rap is that so many children who do have different learning styles are misdiagnosed and put on meds for the convenience of teachers, just like students are often labeled learning disabled when they just learn differently.

bestwriter wrote on February 17, 2015, 5:38 AM

There are thorough studies on the subject and books written. I found this one

BeadDoodler wrote on February 17, 2015, 6:57 AM

Qualified physician is the key word here. I have a grand daughter with ADHD. Her parents finally found a Dr. that would talk to them, insisted she not take meds on the weekends and during school breaks and found a workshop for parents with ADHD children where they could learn to teach her self discipline. Fortunately her condition was moderate and she was able to learn to modify her diet and do some things to help her concentrate and eventually got off the drugs. Unfortunately some are not able to get off the drugs, even with the help of such qualified physicians.
Many teachers and parents push to have a diagnosis of ADHD rather than discipline a high energy, intellegent, curious child who does NOT have ADHD.

momathome wrote on February 17, 2015, 8:07 AM

I actually wasn't diagnosed until I was in my 20's but the doctor told me that he believed I had always had it based on my history (they just didn't use to diagnose it like they do now). However, I know from experience that while it can be tough, you can cope without medication. I did, I always did great in school and I actually use it to my advantage now -- if I took medication I doubt I could accomplish half of what I do in a normal day. However, I don't judge people who do choose to take the medication. I just don't like taking pills myself and rarely take anything unless its absolutely necessary.

MaeLou wrote on February 17, 2015, 11:55 AM

Supposedly there are oils that help relieve symptoms of ADHD. I can't test them because I haven't ran into it, but that is what some claim for their children.

OnlyErin6 wrote on February 17, 2015, 5:30 PM

When you're an adult and you don't feel like your functioning to the best of your ability then I don't see a problem with medication if you think it's the best option. I should know. I lived with my mother both before and after anti-depressants. Do what you gotta do.

seren3 wrote on February 17, 2015, 10:44 PM

I sympathize with anything a parent goes through over this issue. But I have to say (in my area) I sat in on the testing my child went through and it was total BS. Maybe what you have in your area is better.

bleekley wrote on February 18, 2015, 3:23 PM

Your argument is convincing. Incidents of misdiagnosing symptoms and overprescribing drugs happen with lots of conditions and diseases. It's wonderful when the diagnosis is correct, the medication and dose are correct, and the medication works. In a variety of circumstances, I've seen it both ways, with the wrong diagnosis, medication, or dose being the exception.

I notice that another comment makes the "I did it so anyone can do it" argument. That is the jumping to a big conclusion from a small sample logic fallacy and the taking oneself as the measure and standard for all humanity fallacy.

buzymommy wrote on February 19, 2015, 4:20 PM

I would never judge people based on the meds they are prescribed that help them to function. My only problem with ADD/ADHD is I feel it is often overdiagnosed, and diagnosed too early. My niece was under 3 when the doctor said she might have ADHD and was ALREADY suggesting to put her on meds! Seriously? She wasn't even 3. Three year olds are active, and hyper. Now at 5 she's not considered ADHD, she's doing great in school and reading above her age level. She has her moments but so do all kids. In my opinion, it's something that SHOULD be taken seriously in that it SHOULDN'T be quickly applied as a label on anyone who happens to be active or lose focus easily. Doctors should take time and effort to truly evaluate the case.

On a side note, my coworker's daughter has been diagnosed with ADHD for a few years and I thought it was interesting that the doctor recommended she have a daily mountain dew instead of the meds. Apparently that calms her, you probably knew that :) But I was surprised that something that makes me so jittery will calm someone with ADHD. I don't know if that's the best "medicine" though. It seems like a lot of sugar and other artificial stuff and it seems there should be healthier options out there.

Shellyann36 wrote on February 24, 2015, 8:25 AM

Its the caffeine in the Mt. Dew that calms her down. For some reason caffeine has the opposite effect on people with ADHD. It is not a cure-all but it does help.

Shellyann36 wrote on February 24, 2015, 8:30 AM

I know several people who have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. My oldest sons' best friend growing up was ADHD and he had to drink coffee daily to dull him down a bit. He was also on meds as well. He grew up but did not grow out of it. As far as I know he still takes medication for it but seems to be living a "normal" life. My cousin was also diagnosed with ADHD and a few emotional problems and learning problems along with it. It was a real struggle to keep him out of trouble at school. Things have come a long way since then but I do still see that sometimes teachers/therapists/doctors want to diagnosis children too fast.

buzymommy wrote on February 24, 2015, 11:28 PM

Thanks for the info. I know my coworker is happy he gets to save money on meds now, that's for sure. It's amazing how the body works!