Is ADHD Learned?

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More questions from my Facebook friends:

Kelly asked:

a popular therapist in the area believes that ADHD can be a learned behavior – is that true?

And then Molly added:

I’ve read articles about how today’s technology is “creating” a generation of children with attentional issues… maybe that’s what that therapist meant..

So what about it? Is ADHD a learned behavior and/or is it being created by today’s technology?

Wow – how about asking me some hard questions?

The truth is I don’t have any definite answers, just my own opinion, for what that’s worth.

The other day, Tamara asked a similar question about one sibling learning ADHD behavior from another. And in that post, I said that I didn’t think it was possible.

Of course, siblings learn a lot from one another as they grow, and behavior is certainly part of that. But to adopt an ADHD behavior to the extent that the parent wonders if that child has it too seems a bit much. At some point, the child’s real personality will have to come out.

But if you think of “learned behavior” as something more generalized – sort of a sociological thing – then the answer is not so clear.

Certainly all of us as a society have “learned” such ADHD kinds of behaviors as focusing on more than one thing at a time. When you have ADHD they call that inattention to the task at hand, but if you don’t have ADHD, it’s just multi-tasking. And yes, I think all of us have come to expect things to be fast and faster – we get impatient having to wait too long. Remember dial up? Could any of us stand the wait for a page to load now?

I have said for years that the increase in the number of people being diagnosed as ADHD is evolution in action. As the world around us changes, we have to change too.

I don’t believe that ADHD is learned, but I do believe that one day those of us who have it will no longer be considered “deficits” and “disorders”. We’ll be the lucky ones with the advantage.

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Lacy Estelle

Lacy Estelle is the writer of and the Podcast host for An ADD Woman.

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5 Responses

  1. I have Adult ADHD, theres no way its a learned behaviour. I have inherited behaviours from my father whom i have had very little contact my entire life and all are clear symptoms of the disorder. This also includes difficulty in social situations and following conversations say in a group of people. Please dont degrade ADHD. id trade my situation for a broken leg any day of the week.

    Mark from UK.

  2. Mark – I am sorry if I offended you in any way. The article was not meant to suggest that ADHD is learned behavior; perhaps I was too cautious in my efforts to express what I felt was opinion. I do not believe that ADHD is learned, it is, as you pointed out, inherited.

    I leave you with the last lines from that post:

    I don’t believe that ADHD is learned, but I do believe that one day those of us who have it will no longer be considered “deficits” and “disorders”. We’ll be the lucky ones with the advantage.

  3. My name is JoAnn and I feel that I may have ADHD. My daughter is 13 and we feel she may have it as well. Prior to reading this article my husband and I felt she was learning my behavior. You see I often find myself with little to no patience along with angry fits which we see her doing as well. I have not been diagnosed with ADHD but I have done some research and feel that I may have this disorder.

  4. Hi JoAnn – I definitely think that you need to get a diagnosis; that’s the best way to help your daughter. I find your husband’s observation quite interesting. It’s not something I ever considered before, but it certainly bears merit. Getting your ADHD under control – if in fact you do have it – might bring about a change in your daughter’s behavior over time.

    Some aspects of ADHD, however, are not learned. How does your daughter do in school? Does she have trouble focusing on a task for any length of time? Is she restless or fidgety? What about sleep patterns? Does she have trouble making the transition from awake to sleeping and vice versa?

    Your answers to some of these questions will help you gain a better understanding of what motivates your daughter’s behavior. In addition, you might want to have her see a professional at some point.