Incredible as it sounds, I still am amazed at how often I hear people say “I don’t believe in ADHD.” You probably have heard it too. And if you are like me, the moment those words come out of their mouth, every hair raises on the back of your neck, the fire starts to churn in the pit of your stomach and your mind feels like it is going to explode. No matter how many times it happens, no matter how many times I hear the words “I don’t believe in ADHD” I am dumbfounded as to how it is even possible to live on this planet and doubt the reality of ADHD.
Not believe in ADHD? Not believe in ADHD??? Bear with me here… isn’t that like saying you don’t believe in the sun or the wind or the stars, or growing older…or love? We can’t “touch” any of those things either, but we know they exist because we see evidence of them. The warmth and shadow of the sun, the movement from a strong breeze, the wrinkles appearing on our face, and the miraculous indescribable feeling of love. Do people not understand that believing that something is not real, doesn’t make it not true? Not believing in ADHD doesn’t make it not real.
Knowing what to say and do in these moments has taken years of understanding and practice which I am hoping to pass on to you here. First, it helps to understand that these people are CHOOSING not to believe in ADHD despite the evidence. Despite the percentages, studies or personal stories that support the existence of ADHD they really don’t want to hear that. They really don’t. In fact, I bet if you tried to share with them this logic, they will start answering back with “evidence” of their own. Second, don’t go there. Keep away from the bait of getting hooked by their remarks into trying to defend the existence of ADHD. Remember, it takes two to have an argument. Instead, practice staying in the perspective of curiosity. Be curious about how “interesting” it is that they don’t believe in ADHD in this day and age. It’s almost impossible for someone to not be engaged when we are asking them about themselves. Learning this has spared me from wasting oodles of energy that I have then been able to use to make a difference in the very real lives of people with ADHD.
You see, most people who don’t believe in ADHD either 1) probably have ADHD themselves and it’s scary as all heck to take a look at that, 2) they know someone very close to them that has ADHD and it’s scary as all heck to think that they or their loved one is anything like that person or 3) they have just landed on earth and are from another planet and are really confused. Being scared or confused doesn’t allow someone to be open to learning or hearing the radical possibility that ADHD is real.
Instead try this:
Practice taking three deep breaths and then responding with:
- “Really? What do you know about ADHD?” or
- “Really? Who do you know that has ADHD? or
Stay away from convincing, advising or trying to get them to see your point of view. It will just be frustrating. Rather remain curious, about how in the heck they ever came to that conclusion (sorry, I couldn’t help myself), works much better to open up the possibility for new ideas to emerge. Try it. You will be amazed at how often the “non-believers” are just like we were at one time. Trying to make sense of this ADHD thing. Scared, confused, unsure.
Hi! Thank you for this. I’ve just been diagnosed with ADHD and to be honest I see my diagnosis so positively, it gives me a new set of eyeglasses trough which I can understand my past and let go of shame and guilt. I’ve just been diagnosed and have already faced the “I don’t believe in ADHD” people. And I felt exactly as you described it here!
Hi Andrea! Thanks for your comment! Exactly! “Knowing” can make all the difference in our lives…I am thrilled that has been your experience. Keep in touch.~Laurie Dupar
I have many of the symptoms of ADD but I have chosen not to get a medical diagnosis for just that and be labeled as such. For those who don’t believe in it, it’s important to be compassionate to their view, as I believe that many with ADHD/ADD have symptoms part of a larger neurological disorder. Most of my family is ADD oriented and many have Lyme and 2 siblings have ALS. The ADD symptoms are just part of the larger picture so that may be reasons why some people like me do not truly agree with the singled out ADHD disorder. The main way to reduce the symptoms are with lifestyle changes and diet and detoxification and programs like Laurie encourages!
Thank you for the great article!!
Thanks Laurie, I get that all the time. People are afraid and some just don’t know enough. People also always say “I believe in it but I just don’t believe it should be medicated.” Again, that just tells me they don’t know enough. Certainly not all people need or want meds but
it sure opens a can of worms when you try to tackle that one too. So I like your suggestion to keep it curious. JC
HI Lynn! Thanks for your comments. I am glad you found value in the article. Keep in touch!~Laurie
Hi Joanne! Thanks for your comment. It’s true…they may believe in ADHD, but not in particular treatment strategies. And I think you are right…this also comes from a place of fear. Remaining open, non defensive is the best approach. Keep it curious! ~Laurie
My mother doesn’t believe in it but she has it and since my dad doesn’t have it, guess who my sister and I inherited it from?! I just say things to her like, “I have a hard time paying attention” or “I’m always losing things” or “I’m always late, no matter how much I plan ahead or how early I wake up ahead of time.” She’ll agree and say she has that problem, too. She’s 77 so it really isn’t important to convince her. I quit trying when she first said it was “just an excuse.” We get along great though so it really doesn’t matter to me new.
HI Robin! Thanks for your comments. I am glad you and your mother have a good relationship despite the differences you have with regards to if ADHD exists. You mom is in a generation when we knew even less then now about the brain and how differences are common. We can’t always make someone believe that ADHD is real. It sounds like you are focusing on yourself and understanding that her understanding that she has similar challenges isn’t as important. Great job! Keep in touch. ~ Laurie Dupar
Thank you for article! I completely understand your frustration.
I have a brother with ADHD and it can be quite an ordeal coping with people like you’ve described.