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“Is ADHD Really Real?” 6 Ranked Responses to ADD Skeptics

ADHD symptoms are often pervasive, crippling, and invisible, which invites far too many ignorant doubters and statements like “ADHD was made up by the drug companies” and questions like “Aren’t we all a little ADHD?” It isn’t your responsibility to correct every ADHD doubter, but it does help to have a few good responses at the ready. Here, ADHD expert Rick Green shares his favorite retorts.

“ADHD was made up by big pharma.”

“There was no such thing as ADHD when I was her age!”

ADHD is just an excuse to get drugs.”

Unqualified, uneducated people seldom hesitate to spout ‘facts’ to prove you (or your child) cannot possibly have ADHD. Does it matter what these people think? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t mean that dismissive, nasty, know-it-alls can’t undermine your self-esteem and your trust in your diagnosis.

You have a limited energy reserve; don’t waste your precious time and creativity arguing endlessly with people who are willfully ignorant about ADHD. At the same time, when myths aren’t rebutted or debunked, they get to live on and on. It isn’t your job to educate everybody, but it is important to be able to defend yourself. Here are the six strategies that I use with people who doubt or judge my ADHD diagnosis, ranked in order from least to most effective.

Strategy 1: Fight Back (Effectiveness Score: 1/10)

Refute, rebut, or demolish their statement with facts. Quote studies and statistics. Talk about neurology. Give the history of the disorder. Name famous people with ADHD.

Strategy 2: Play Dumb (Effectiveness Score: 4/10)

Expose their statements (opinions or beliefs) by asking simple, naïve questions:

“ADHD is way over-diagnosed? Really?! By how much? What are the diagnosis levels today and what should they be?”

Strategy 3: Seek Clarification (Effectiveness Score: 7/10)

When someone claims that ADHD isn’t real, ask them, “What about DRD4.7? DRD4.7 was the first gene that was identified as being a suspect for ADHD.” This a fact that most ADHD doubters won’t know.

Strategy 4: Concede a Point That May be True (Effectiveness Score: 8/10)

If someone argues that college students are faking ADHD in order to get stimulant medications, you can say, “Yes, some do fake ADHD to try to get an advantage, and that really hurts the students who really need medication to regulate their neurochemistry.”

Strategy 5: Been There Done That (Effectiveness Score: 9/10)

When a person argues that ADHD is just a manifestation of poor diet and poor parenting, begin by agreeing that this is, indeed, a very popular misconception — one you actually believed, too. And then you began actually educating yourself, and you learned the truth.

“Yes! That’s exactly what I thought. Then I found out…”

Strategy 6: Say Nothing

Remember, not everyone is trying to hurt or humiliate you. The Internet is overflowing with scary myths and, yes, real medication abuse does exist. They may actually be deeply concerned about your welfare; don’t assume they are not.

Learn More About How to Respond to ADHD Naysayers

  1. Read: How to Respond To ADHD Haters and Naysayers
  2. Download: Your Free Guide to Responding To ADHD Doubters
  3. Listen: The ADHD Guide to Fighting Stigma: How To Defend Your Diagnosis and Build Your Self-Esteem

The content for this article was derived from the ADDitude webinar, “The ADHD Guide to Fighting Stigma” by Rick Green, which broadcast live on May 26, 2020.


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Updated on November 20, 2020

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  1. This is just one man’s opinion, so take it FWIW.

    If you don’t want a fight, then why pick a fight? Who cares what someone else thinks? To try to engage in a debate with someone over this topic will reveal your own condition and that’s one thing I never want to do even if waterboarded. In this COVID-19 Era this is a particularly unpropitious moment to out yourself.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Option #6, just keep quiet. It’s none of anyone else’s business. You are not legally required to disclose this, especially not to prospective or current employers, unless you want to risk getting fired. News flash: there are now 30 MILLION unemployed out there, just itching to take your place. So don’t be reckless and don’t be stupid!

    Yeah, there are famous Hollywood celebrities who have this brain quality control defect but here’s the thing that a lot of people JUST DON’T GET: These celebrity types are millionaires! Duh! They can afford to tell the world to go screw themselves. I can’t. My reputation is more important to me than to reveal my embarrassing, ugly little secret.

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