I did not know I had ADHD when I was in high school. Sure I was one of the more easily distracted kids at my high school and I eschewed organization, but I never even considered that I had a neurobehavioral disorder. Once I got to college and faced increased responsibility however, I could no longer compensate for my once-manageable ADHD symptoms and decided to seek out help.

In case you did not know, ADHD is a neurobehavioral disorder characterized by inattentiveness, impulsivity and/or hyperactivity. It primarily affects children during their development, but at least 30% of individuals diagnosed as kids continue to have symptoms into adulthood. Some Adults, like me, are not diagnosed until after adolescence, only realizing their diagnosis after the fact.

While I have significantly improved my ability to successfully manage life with ADHD, I look back on my time in high school as lost time. While I was able to compensate fine at the time, being aware of my condition would have allowed me to develop appropriate habits, be more self-aware of my issues, and achieve more success in college and beyond.

Of course, some individuals would like to deny the reality of a disorder such as ADHD, citing the lack of a definitive test and the fact that “all kids” get distracted to call into question whether ADHD is in fact a real disorder, or whether it is an invention of drug companies to make money. Sadly, while these individuals may have the best intentions, they are a real threat to the successful treatment of those who struggle with the disorder.

By arguing that ADHD does not exist, skeptics stigmatize the disease – this results many who could be helped through treatment to resist seeking out a diagnosis. Even worse, the stigmatization of ADHD leaves individuals who may have the disorder to blame themselves for their symptoms, leading to depression and low self-esteem.

When I talked to my parents about seeking out a diagnosis in college, they were extremely supportive and respected the reality of the disorder; as a result, I was able to receive help make progress towards managing my symptoms. Although I was fortunate to receive the support I did, some with ADHD are not so lucky. To help these individuals, we need to get past the skepticism of a vocal minority and recognize our duty to respect and support those with mental disorders.

This post was written by Evan Oelschlaeger, a recent graduate of Macalester College and member of the Vistelar Group.