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Debunking ADHD myths: it’s not just laziness

ADHD not just laziness

It’s an unfortunate fact that people with ADHD are often labelled as unmotivated and lazy.

They might struggle with activities they don’t enjoy, but find the time for activities they like. You might see a child with ADHD having trouble completing their homework in their least favourite subject, but no problem focusing on a video game. This can make them appear lazy.

It’s not intentional. ADHD is caused by a problem in the brain’s wiring.

People with ADHD suffer from inattentiveness, hyperactivity, lack of organisation, and difficulty completing tasks. It’s a medical condition that affects their everyday functioning. Children with ADHD are not choosing to misbehave on purpose.

People with ADHD might feel immobilised or sluggish when faced with tasks that they don’t feel motivated by. They might feel paralysed – they want to get started, but just can’t. This is caused by impairments in the executive function of the brain, which means they struggle to get started, organised, and keep their efforts focussed on tasks. As hard as they try, they just can’t get the task finished.

It can be a vicious circle, and they may start to become less and less motivated. This can cause stress and anxiety. Worries about having to struggle through and that they will do badly can make the problem worse.

It can be frustrating for others who see them focussing well on tasks that are new, exciting or interesting.

Coping Strategies

Here are some ways you can help your child motivate themselves to complete less interesting activities:

  • Break down tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks, one at a time
  • Set smaller goals
  • Try not to criticise, praise their efforts when they are trying: positive consequences or rewards can help
  • Set aside a short, less overwhelming time period (for example, 10 or 15 minutes) to commit to working on activities
  • Encourage physical exercise
  • Manage your own expectations of what they may be able to achieve.

If your child takes medication, try keeping a log of when they seem to be struggling so that you can track any patterns. If you have any concerns, always speak to your GP.

And remember there is help out there. If you need support, you can call the YoungMinds Parents Helpline on 0808 802 5544 (Monday to Friday 9.30am – 4pm) or find resources for parents of children with ADHD. Parenting Special Children provides specialist support for parents in Berkshire. 

And we also have lots of information on our ADHD pages.


About the author

Claudia Swain is a Speciality Doctor in Child and Adolescent Mental Health