Why It Matters That Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles Has ADHD
Olympic gymnast extraordinaire Simone Biles recently opened up about the fact that she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and takes medication for it. As someone who was diagnosed with inattentive attention deficit disorder (ADD) at the age of 7 and has been taking medication for it ever since, it made me extremely happy to see another young woman with ADHD speak openly about her diagnosis. However, this wasn’t just a big deal for me and Simone. This was a big deal for everyone with ADHD, and everyone who’s ever doubted its legitimacy as a condition or thought negatively of people who have it.
The stigma of ADHD is real. So real, in fact, that some parents are reluctant to seek help for their children for fear they might have to carry around such a diagnosis. The stigma is so prevalent that it’s easy for it to be internalized by people with ADHD. Is it any wonder that nearly half of all children and adults with ADHD have some sort of co-morbid disorder like anxiety or depression?
There’s nothing shameful about having ADHD. It just means our brains work a little differently. Speaking out and ending the stigma is so important for the for the 9 percent of U.S. school age children and 4.4 percent of U.S. adults living with ADHD. By speaking out about her diagnosis and making it clear she is not ashamed, Simone Biles is doing her part to end the stigma.
There’s another aspect to Biles’ statement as well. Something she can do by talking about her diagnosis that I can’t do by talking about mine. Simone Biles is a visible, prominent person who just told the world she has ADHD. As an elementary school girl with ADD in the early 2000s, my diagnosis sometimes felt lonely. I didn’t know a lot of other kids who had it, and I didn’t know any adults who did. I certainly didn’t know of any famous people who had it.
However, for kids today who are growing up with ADHD, they will be able to look to Simone Biles as a role model. This is important because when you have a condition that is as doubted and stigmatized as ADHD, having a role model who shares your diagnosis can be a big deal. It’s especially significant that our new ADHD role model is a young woman who is practically the epitome of success.
For many of us with ADHD, especially women and girls, ADHD can feel like failure. We internalize messages that tell us having ADHD means there’s something wrong with us or we can’t be successful. Well, Simone Biles just showed the world there’s nothing wrong with having ADHD and having it can’t stop you from winning five Olympic medals or succeeding in anything else you want to do.
Image via Simone Biles Official Facebook page.