Stigma of ADHD still an Issue for Many

Survey suggests many, especially men and older people, would not discuss an ADHD diagnosis with their employer.


We tend to think of hyperactivity as something that affects just children. One of the images that inevitably comes to mind when the condition is mentioned is one of a child screaming at a restaurant next to seemingly helpless parents.

In reality, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can follow a person well into adulthood.

This month includes ADHD Awareness Week, so Insights West did a survey of how British Columbians perceive the disorder. The results show that most residents are remarkably open to different options for treatment, but are deeply worried about the effect the revelation of an ADHD diagnosis could have on their careers.

British Columbians were asked how “comfortable” they would be disclosing to specific people or groups that they had ADHD.

As expected, large majorities of respondents see little difficulty discussing this issue with their family (83 per cent) and their friends (77 per cent).

When it comes to the workplace, the results are decidedly different. Just half (51 per cent) say they would be “comfortable” disclosing an ADHD diagnosis to their co-workers, and an even smaller proportion (44 per cent) would be “comfortable” talking about the disorder with their boss.

The groups that are most likely to be worried about disclosing an ADHD diagnosis to their co-workers and bosses are men and people aged 35-to-54 — a large component of our province’s workforce.

The views of those aged 18-to-34 provide a silver lining, as these younger workers were less likely to feel uncomfortable talking about ADHD. This generation has grown up with many open references to the disorder. Their older counterparts are clearly more preoccupied with the stigma that would accompany any public acknowledgment of an ADHD diagnosis.

The biggest discovery from the survey is the realization that many British Columbians would opt for silence at the workplace, thereby foregoing the support they would need to deal with ADHD. There may be plenty of resources available from employee assistance plans, but if employees are uncomfortable addressing the disorder at work, they will have no access to that help.

A separate question asked people what steps they would take to manage ADHD. The answers show a willingness to engage in a holistic approach to deal with ADHD, while steering clear of a “silver bullet” solution.

Exercise was the top choice for British Columbians to deal with ADHD (71 per cent), followed by cognitive behavioural therapy (65 per cent), other behavioural therapies (60 per cent), coaching (54 per cent), support groups (53 per cent) and meditation (49 per cent). Less than three-in-10 (28 per cent) would include stimulant medications as part of their routine to deal with the disorder.

Compared to other Canadians, British Columbians have always been ahead of the curve on physical activity and the variety of approaches they take when it comes to their health. Faced with an ADHD diagnosis, the survey suggests our province’s residents would be more likely to give exercise, therapy and coaching a try, while considerably fewer would look at medication as the only option.

Still, it is important to raise awareness about the disorder, to ensure that British Columbians are not afraid to discuss it in the workplace.

Click here for the full data tables of this study.