Simone Biles and ADHD
Since she charmed the world at the 2016 Rio Olympics by winning 4 gold medals in gymnastics, Simone Biles instantly became a role model for younger athletes, but while also accidentally becoming a role model for thousands of people around the world as someone with ADHD.
Having withdrawn from the long-delayed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo due to mental health issues, Simone Biles has been the trailblazer for the younger generation concerned about opening up about mental health issues and ADHD. She opened up about her ADHD diagnosis after hackers published confidential medical records in the hopes to downplay her athletic abilities.
Rather than bearing the brunt, she turned the tables and used this as the perfect opportunity to send a personal message about stigma and mental health.
Simone Biles has been taking ADHD medicine since she was a child. But this is one facet of her journey, but as far as her fortitude, determination, and ability to weather the storms is concerned, ADHD has been pivotal in making her who she is.
Since early childhood in Spring, Texas when her birth mother was unable to care for her and her siblings, Biles spent a lot of her early life going in and out of foster care. Since being adopted in 2003 by her maternal grandfather and wife, they have long encouraged her passion for gymnastics. As her teenage years progressed and she showed immense talent, she got bullied in school because of her muscular appearance. And, after a confidence crisis, she consulted a sports psychologist who helped her ease her fears.
Her ADHD was diagnosed as a child, and she says she used gymnastics as a way to help her deal with the diagnosis. She says it was a very good outlet for her to get energy out so she could go home tired and go to sleep easier. But the diagnosis had contributed to significant challenges, especially when it came to the gymnastic side of things. While she was in a group of athletes that made her feel at home, ADHD is something that still carries a certain stigma. Athletes with ADHD are facing a significant number of obstacles but she used it as a way to run off energy and has given her laser focus. This highlights how sports can be a sanctuary for children with ADHD.
Medications like Ritalin can control symptoms like impulsivity and hyperactivity, but do not actually give athletes an unfair edge in competition. People talk about medications such as Ritalin giving people an unfair advantage, but they simply level the playing field. The role of ADHD medications reduces the level of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex so those with ADHD are able to work on the same level as competitors.
Children need sport as an outlet for their energy but it’s also a way to rebuild confidence after a lifetime of negative reinforcement from everyone around. As Simone Biles grew up experiencing knockbacks and a difficult childhood, this all undoubtedly became key to how she defined herself.
Since the group of Russian hackers exposed her confidential medical records, it’s been a blessing for everybody who has ever felt ashamed to have a diagnosis of ADHD. Arguably, this is one of the greatest things that could have happened to her because the attackers wanted to accuse her of cheating because of the medication, but the fact is that she hasn’t broken any rules and it doesn’t give her a competitive edge. Medication is only one aspect of being able to manage ADHD, it’s not the entire component. Disclosing her diagnosis has meant she joins the group of other famous athletes with ADHD, including Michael Phelps.
Athletes and ADHD can go together very well because of the outlet for the energy, but it also helps people to re-discover their focus. With Simone Biles being more than verbal in her diagnosis and her mental health struggles, she is someone that everybody can look up to. She is somebody who has the courage to speak out and confirm that being diagnosed with anything and taking medication is not shameful. We take medication for blood pressure, so why don’t we for ADHD?
For anyone out there that wants to be the next Simone Biles, ADHD is the tool that can help you fine-tune and focus your life. In the world of athleticism, ADHD can help anyone unlock the keys to managing ADHD, while also showing it’s not a stigma in any way.