Stigma

Stigma is one of the many issues that people with ADHD experience. The stigmatisation of ADHD can cause people to misunderstand what the condition actually is and can lead to many consequences. People don’t act or think in the same way, so it’s important to reduce the stigma and learn more about ADHD!

Stigma

Stigma of ADHD is influenced by the belief that symptoms are ‘childish’, ‘inappropriate’ and stupid. ADHD is sometimes not regarded as a ‘real’ issue and is often perceived as an excuse to be lazy or disorganised. This can sometimes lead to further stigma as those with ADHD are expected to ‘just try harder’.


Oversimplified language of ADHD such as neurotypical people saying phrases such as ‘oh I’m so ADHD’ which can add to the stigma as it reduces the difficult and complex experiences to an adjective.

Ableism

Ableism is a form of discrimination against disabled and neurodivergent people. Ableist views are often influenced by what is thought to be ‘normal’ where it is assumed that everyone acts and thinks in the same way. As a result of this, people who have ADHD may struggle as they may have to mask their symptoms to fit in with those who don’t have the condition.

What is Masking?

People with ADHD may mask their symptoms. Masking with ADHD is when the person ‘hides’ their symptoms by copying behaviours of those who don’t have ADHD. People with ADHD may mask their symptoms to avoid stigma and to be ‘accepted’. Someone may mask their symptoms by:

  • Being quiet and careful when speaking to avoid interrupting or speaking too much.

  • Trying to control fidgeting.

  • Focusing a lot when someone is talking to try not to miss what is being said

  • Trying to appear to pay attention - this can be masked by nodding.

Women with adhd

Women with ADHD may mask their symptoms to avoid the stigma of going against the idea of stereotypes and expectations that are associated with feminine behaviours. Girls are raised and are expected to be ‘good mothers’, caring, nice and obedient. Girls with ADHD may show disruptive, impulsive or disorganised behaviours may experience stigma as it challenges ‘feminine’ behaviours.

Consequences of Stigma

Stigmatising ADHD can have many consequences for those who experience it. For some this can include:

  • Poor self-esteem

  • Low self-efficiency

  • May struggle with pursuing an ADHD diagnosis

  • May not share their diagnosis to others.


It is often assumed that ADHD is a children’s issue and due to this it can make it difficult for adults to go for a diagnosis. As a result of stigma and how ADHD is represented for example, the stereotype is often thought of as a hyperactive boy who struggles to sit still, it can cause people to misunderstand what the disorder actually is. People who have non-traditional ADHD symptoms may therefore go undiagnosed or even misdiagnosed for another condition.

Sources

Holthe, M. and Langvik, E., 2017. The Strives, Struggles, and Successes of Women Diagnosed With ADHD as Adults. SAGE Open, [online] 7(1), p.215824401770179. Available at: <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/epub/10.1177/2158244017701799>.

Shaw, H., 2021. “I Don’t Suffer from ADHD, I Suffer from Other People”: ADHD, Stigma, and Academic Life. Dalhousie University.

Stewart, N., 2017. Attention Deficit Identity Discourse: Exploring The Ableist Limitations And The Liberative Potential Of The Contested Adhd Self. Ph,D. Wayne State University.

van Vliet, A., 2021. ADHD. [online] Thisisgendered.org. Available at: <https://thisisgendered.org/entry/adhd/> [Accessed 8 December 2021].