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ADHD and Me: Breaking the stigma

It's one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. But what happens when those children grow up?

NORFOLK, Va. — More than one in 10 -- or 11 percent -- of children have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD or ADD), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, many people often forget the symptoms associated with the disorder like trouble sustaining focus, decreased motivation, and forgetfulness doesn’t suddenly disappear when a child becomes an adult.

According to the CDC, 4.4 percent of the adult population has ADHD, but less than 20 percent of these adults get help for it.

13News Now anchor Philip Townsend was diagnosed with ADD as a child in the 90s, and he still lives with many of the common symptoms associated with the disorder.

As part of our report on the disorder, Philip sat down with Dr. Kawanna Ward-Hall, Senior Clinical Director of Providence Psychological Services in Suffolk.

“There is compassion around sadness, but there really isn’t compassion around a lack of motivation or what we perceive to be laziness,” said Ward-Hall. “I think that when we have more awareness about what this disorder looks like and how it does have some sort of genetic component, I think we can be a little more sympathetic.”

In just the last year, we are a step closer to that happening. For the last few decades, diagnosing the disorder has been partly subjective, based on interviews with a child and their parents.

But researchers in Denmark, in an international effort with Harvard and MIT, have found 12 locations in the brain where people with ADHD stand out from others.

They’re essentially figuring out the biology behind the disorder, which will make it easier to diagnose, treat and accept.

“There are people who suffer in silence, who need to get treatment, who may even need medication,” said Ward-Hall. “But because of the stigma associated with [ADHD] they will not.”

Be sure to watch the full story May 9 on 13News Now at 11 p.m.