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TOPIC: Is ADHD A Real Disorder?

Is ADHD A Real Disorder? 01 Feb 2013 21:22 #27

Is ADHD A Real Disorder?
Posted by Claudia M Gold January 22, 2013

I have deliberately given this post a provocative title to offer a counter weight to the outpouring of news covering the California study demonstrating a close to 25% increase in ADHD diagnosis from 2001 to 2010. I will say at the outset that I am not against medication, and recognize that a small percentage of children who have the diagnosis of ADHD may have a well-defined neurologically based difficulty with focusing and attention. If such a child is already school-age and falling behind academically, treatment with stimulants may protect that child from the damaging effects of low self esteem.

However, for the vast majority of children who have this label, things are much more complex. ADHD is diagnosed by DSM criteria that define the disorder by symptoms alone. In clinical setting in which these diagnoses are made, usually with one 50-minute visit for diagnostic evaluation and subsequent medication checks in 15-30 minutes at 3 month intervals, the child's story is usually not heard.

This story may be of an active, curious boy too restricted by the highly structured setting of today's kindergarten classrooms (a November 2012 study showed that the youngest in the class was 50% more likely to be treated with stimulants for ADHD), or of a child with sensory hypersensitivity who is unable to manage the barrage of sensory stimuli in a lunchroom or hallway.

The story may be one of a child who witnesses domestic violence or a parent who actively abuses alcohol, or both. A child may herself have been abused. In my behavioral pediatrics practice I have listened to countless stories of children, some as young as 2, who has been suspected to have ADHD. I find almost without exception a mulilayered story, sometimes involving multiple generations, that represents a complex interplay of biology and environment. The dignosis of ADHD as defined by DSM in these cases represents an artificial construct.


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