SCT myths

There are some myths and misconceptions about the nature of individuals with SCT. I would like to address some of those below.

  • SCT is not about laziness or poor willpower. The popular media propagates this distortion by painting a picture of the lounging couch potato who gets excused by the SCT label. The misinformed general public then describes SCT as a “fancy way of saying indolence.” These assertions are due to a lack of information or due to unsavory intentions. To counter this myth with a personal example, I strongly associate with SCT though I have never failed a single class in college, and not only did I hang around long enough to finish school, I even managed to average a GPA of 3.7 because I strived deeply to do well and valued good grades.
  • SCT – Sluggish Cognitive Tempo – is not a euphemism or politically correct way of saying mental retardation. This was a conclusion that one commentator on the ADD forums has made in the past. Judging a label by its cover is rarely a good idea, but some have come to the conclusion that SCT is the latest term in the “euphemism treadmill” Judging by the online community outpour of people who relate to SCT, I think it is fair to suggest that SCT can occur in people of abilities and levels of education. I have written some commentary on this issue called “SCT and intelligence” and I have also gathered some quotes from the ADD community to counter this myth as well.
  • SCT is not a personality disorder, Asperger’s, or an emotional disorder, nor is it fully characterized by any particular disorder already defined. There may be overlap and comorbidities between SCT and other disorders, but they are not the same condition. Some people with SCT symptoms have been mistaken for Asperger’s, but I think this is due to increased awareness of Asperger’s and related conditions (and the support communities have done a fantastic job raising autism awareness.) However, misconceptions about AD(H)D still run amuck in the wild.

For example, one person tries to discredit SCT’s validity all together:

“If it walks like a duck and if it quacks like a duck… Guess what? It’s a duck. In the wiki, it says people with SCT “appear to be lacking in motivation.” This sounds like another name for depression. Depression does the same thing and affects memory and learning in the same way.”

To say that the lack of activity that occurs in inattentive ADD is due to depression is like saying that the hyperactivity in ADHD is due to an ecstatic state of mania! Dr. Adele Diamond has stated that children with ADD without hyperactivity may appear lethargic, but this is not necessarily due to depression. 2 (Indeed, ADD and depression can occur together but they are not one and the same.)

Watch Dr. Russell Barkley discuss what SCT is and what SCT isn’t in a segment of “Management of ADHD symptoms.”

    • SCT (as well as ADD and ADHD) are not just childhood disorders that people “grow out of” once reaching adulthood. In recent years, more research is being done that ADHD and related disorders may continue long after elementary school and persist into the adult years so that individuals are left having to deal with their symptoms during their college, career, family, and personal lives. Typically, if hyperactivity occurs in ADHD then the physical restlessness tends to go away with time, but what remains are the inattentive symptoms which are not as obvious but strongly effect productivity.

      Dr. Barkley has done the first ever research on SCT in adults and has found out that SCT occurs in 5% of the population (based on a threshold of five or more SCT symptoms) and this means that SCT is just as common as ADHD. Unlike physical ADHD symptoms which change over time, Barkley has stated that the SCT adult has very much the same symptoms as the SCT child; the traits are persistent and lifelong. 1

  1. Barkley, R. A. (2012). Distinguishing Sluggish Cognitive Tempo from Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in adults. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 121(4), 978-990. doi: 10.1037/a0023961

  2. Diamond, A. (2005). Attention-deficit disorder (attention–deficit/hyperactivity disorder without hyperactivity): A neurobiological and behaviorally distinct disorder from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (with hyperactivity). Development and Psychopathology, 17(3), 807-825