You can’t have ADHD because you did so well in school!?, You are too smart.

This myth keeps many adults from receiving an accurate ADHD diagnosis and treatment. Consequently, they continue to believe they must just be anxious and/or lazy.

ADHD happens across all intellectual and ability levels.  Many wonder why their symptoms don’t matter, to clinicians and medical providers, if they have managed to do well in some areas of their lives. Looks are deceiving. One can do well in school and land a great job and still struggle significantly. No one sees what goes on inside the head of a person with ADHD.

Being smart does not protect one from executive disfunction and emotional dysregulation. In fact, according to an article written in ADDITUDE magazine by Ellen Littman, Ph.D. (2022) “ The severity of executive function impairments does not differ from that of adults with average-IQ and ADHD”.

Those who grow up celebrated for their intelligence and great grades quickly understand the expectations put upon them. Anxiety about performing well becomes a deep source of adrenaline that drives them to accomplish. The results are all that matter while anguish, despair, and struggle go unnoticed. When one does finally ask for help, they are often misdiagnosed with anxiety and/or depression. Sometimes they are prescribed medication to treat those symptoms.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. They are still left with being unable to focus, initiate and complete tasks, show up on time, meet deadlines and pay bills. They are also left still feeling like a failure, making careless mistakes, losing their belongings, ignoring the check engine light in their car, and always forgetting to wish a friend or loved one, a “happy birthday”. While none of these transgressions sound like a big deal, imagine it all happening every day.

While a higher IQ can make masking ADHD easier, it comes at a critically high price. Investing all time and energy into presenting a flawless public persona while also relying on obsessive behaviors to guarantee organization and structure, becomes exhausting. Determined to keep anxiety, frustration, shame, and disappointment internalized, requires endless self-monitoring. One becomes hyper-vigilant about hiding all chaos. Eventually, the façade starts to crack and one finally hits a wall that seems insurmountable. Fortunately, a professional who is knowledgeable and experienced in ADHD can provide the right diagnosis and recommend effective treatment. This can be the absolute game-changer. If this article speaks to you, give us a call and let us help you get on your road to better days.

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