Raising awareness of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) helps create welcoming, accessible schools and workplaces. It also ensures doctors can properly treat ADHD, reduces the impact of the condition, and may encourage people with symptoms of ADHD to seek a diagnosis.

ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders. It affects both adults and children.

A 2021 study notes that approximately 5% of children and adolescents worldwide are affected by ADHD. The study suggests the prevalence of symptomatic adult ADHD globally is 6.76%. During October, ADHD Awareness Month aims to heighten awareness of this condition, which can affect a person’s work, school performance, relationships, self-esteem, and more.

Raising ADHD awareness improves quality of life for people with ADHD and those close to them. Because ADHD is so common, everyone likely knows someone with the diagnosis.

Keep reading to learn more about the importance of ADHD awareness, what organizations are doing to raise awareness, and what individuals can do.

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Although ADHD is one of the most common developmental disorders, it is also one of the most misunderstood. Myths about ADHD can harm people living with the condition.

The belief that ADHD is not a real illness warranting treatment might deter treatment. The notion that children take unnecessary medications may make parents feel guilty about seeking treatment for a child with ADHD.

A 2021 paper found that ADHD stigma and myths are pervasive and that these myths affect the self-perception of people with ADHD. These myths may also deter people from seeking treatment or cause them to feel guilt and shame when they do.

People with ADHD are about three times more likely than those in the general population to attempt suicide, according to a 2019 study. When stigma and myths interfere with treatment, it can cost people their lives.

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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ADHD commonly occurs alongside other mental health conditions, and some research suggests there might even be a connection between the occurrences. For example, a 2020 study found that childhood ADHD increased the risk of depression in adulthood. Treating ADHD may improve overall mental health.

Improving knowledge of symptoms

Although ADHD is widely associated with inattentive and hyperactive behavior, it can cause other symptoms. People with these symptoms may not realize that ADHD plays a role. Some lesser-known ADHD symptoms include:

  • frequently interrupting others
  • the tendency to hyperfocus on some things
  • excessive talking
  • fidgeting

It is also important to note that although it may present challenges, there can be several benefits to having ADHD.

ADHD symptoms can affect many aspects of life. Raising awareness may increase empathy for people who exhibit ADHD symptoms. It may also increase the likelihood of a person with ADHD getting a diagnosis and treatment. This can improve many aspects of their lives, as well as the lives of those around them.

ADHD guides frequently advise people who think they have ADHD to consult a doctor. However, the level of knowledge doctors have about ADHD can vary.

Awareness campaigns can help. A 2020 study found that an intervention to promote awareness of ADHD in general practitioners increased their knowledge of the condition. This suggests that awareness campaigns that target doctors may improve access to quality, evidence-based treatment.

Awareness campaigns can also help adults with ADHD. Media coverage of the diagnosis often focuses on children, creating the impression that this is a childhood diagnosis. But ADHD can persist into adulthood and may even appear for the first time in adulthood.

During ADHD Awareness Month, organizations such as Children and Adults with ADD (CHADD) host educational seminars, awareness campaigns, and events to draw attention to ADHD and how it affects people.

Some medical organizations, including hospitals and mental health systems, also raise awareness with posters, brochures, educational campaigns, and ADHD-focused events.

The ADHD Awareness Month website shares stories of life with ADHD, offers resources to people who think they might have the condition, and provides a wide range of information. The site also addresses common myths, such as the idea that doctors overdiagnose ADHD and overprescribe medication to children, and that ADHD is a choice or a behavioral problem.

The 2021 Awareness Month campaign used the hashtag #ADHDperspectives2021 to share experiences of living with ADHD.

More generally, scientific education and public health campaigns attempt to dispel myths about ADHD and encourage diagnosis and treatment.

For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes treatment recommendations that emphasize the role of medication and behavioral interventions. The CDC also highlight guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which emphasize that behavioral strategies should be the first line of treatment for children aged 4–6.

CHADD recommends the following strategies for raising awareness during ADHD Awareness Month:

  • Plan an ADHD walk to raise funds or awareness. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this walk might need to be virtual.
  • Post on social media.
  • Schedule another event, either virtual or in-person.

Both during October and in daily life, people can also raise awareness in the following ways:

  • People with ADHD who feel comfortable doing so might share their experiences, including how treatment has helped them.
  • People who do not have ADHD can ask friends and family with the diagnosis how they can help.
  • People can share information on social media dispelling ADHD myths and centering the experiences of people with ADHD.

ADHD is more than just a difference in behavior. It is a medical condition with implications for virtually every aspect of a person’s life.

While awareness of the existence of ADHD is widespread, awareness of how it affects people, how severe it can be, and the potentially life-changing role of treatment is less prevalent. Instead, myths about ADHD often substitute for scientific facts.

ADHD awareness helps dispel these myths so that people living with ADHD can gain support, access treatment, and realize their full potential.