Wrong, Wrong, Wrong: How the Media Butchers the Facts About ADHD

The misinformation about attention deficit in the public arena is more than annoying. It can harm people.
Speak Up, Please | posted by Katy Rollins
Newspaper, News

it’s become almost a sport to publish and broadcast biased, incorrect, and ultimately harmful information about ADHD. Why is this OK?

— Katy Rollins

I am perplexed, disappointed, and angry about inaccurate, unresearched, and bad reporting about ADHD.

It’s as though the writers, reporters, and personalities who manufacture this garbage have either no comprehension, or concern, that they might harm people. How does misinformation harm people?

> Would you try medication for ADHD if you heard from a seemingly authoritative source that it wasn’t researched, and was almost always dangerous? (Both of which are quantifiably not true.)

> Would you try medication for ADHD if you were told by a seemingly authoritative source that most people who take it don’t like it because it changes their personality? (Anecdotal, and, when divorced from the discussion of problems with doctors mis-prescribing ADHD medication, useless information.)

> Would you be interested in exploring treatment options if a seemingly authoritative source told you that having ADHD means you are gifted and there is no reason for you to learn coping strategies?

> Would you believe facts about ADHD if a seemingly authoritative source told you that there are none?

These statements are acceptable (though still incorrect) as part of an ordinary conversation, but when they are presented in an article in the New York Times, or explored on a radio show, they take on extra weight. It becomes even worse when you realize that these “experts” are woefully under-informed about the condition (when you compare what they say to the body of research available) and opposing viewpoints are often not presented to round out the dialogue.

I’m sure there are other topics that journalism does disservice to, but I’m not clear as to why it’s become almost a sport to publish and broadcast biased, incorrect, and ultimately harmful information about ADHD. Why is this OK? ADHD research advances, and the media manufactures information to talk about. People who live with it everyday exist, and yet the debate about its existence rages.

I listened to a radio show tonight. A father called in to talk about his daughter being diagnosed after college. She tried ADHD medication and thrived. The radio host told the father that his daughter was an exception because most people who try ADHD medication don’t like it; it causes people to question their self-efficacy.

There was no research cited to back this up. This was the opinion of the “expert,” and she didn’t find it strange that she was offering this opinion as fact. I sat there with my late-diagnosis, medication-taking mouth agape. I’m sure people exist who don’t like ADHD medication; in fact, I know that they do. That’s fine. What’s not fine is tossing fact and opinion in a blender, and serving it up as the truth.

The public and the ADHD community deserve accurate information on this topic. We deserve fully rounded public conversations, not what we often get in the media.

Katy Rollins juggles a family of five, a herd of pets, social compulsions galore, a mortgage, and two small businesses.

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