Why is ADHD diagnosed so readily in today’s society? Are there other ways to deal with issues related to the symptoms other than diagnosis and medication? Many feel that ADHD is misunderstood and that either a) it is diagnosed by doctors and mental health professionals too quickly and possibly inaccurately, or b) it is given a negative connotation and the symptoms are not taken seriously enough. ADHD (or ADD — they are used interchangeably) is short for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and is classified as a neurobehavioral developmental disorder. It is primarily characterized by the “co-existence of attentional problems and hyperactivity or impulsivity”, with symptoms typically beginning before age seven. The criteria for diagnosis for this disorder is subjective and symptoms may be caused by a variety of factors ranging from brain defects to allergies to giftedness. With an array of possible causes stemming from physical reactions (allergies) to high intelligence, to a defect in the brain, it seems that ADHD would be very difficult to pinpoint in individual circumstances!
ADHD is diagnosed in 2-16% of school aged children and is a chronic disorder, with symptoms continuing into adulthood for about 30-50% of individuals. Controversy has swirled around ADHD diagnosis since it began to gain notoriety in the 1970s. One factor in this category is the statistic that ADHD is diagnosed two to four times more frequently in boys than it is in girls, prompting some parents and participants to think that teachers have a bias in their conceptualization of the disorder. Management of ADHD typically involves medication, lifestyle changes, behavior modifications, and counseling. Vitamins and exercise have been known to be helpful to counteract the effects of ADHD. I am curious about the percentage of how many cases are treated with medication initially, and how many cases are fully assessed, offering options such as psychotherapy and behavioral modification before medication is used. I would like to know more about the statistics concerning what type of treatment is most effective — and specifically the efficacy of medication.
I am not anti-medication. I fully realize and understand that medication is essential for daily functioning for many individuals and from my own past experience with medication for a different issue, I found it to be helpful. Sometimes our brain chemistry is slightly out of alignment and medication can help rebuild those bridges and raise our serotonin levels. I just wonder at the prevalence of medication prescriptions these days and am curious if taking medication without going to therapy simultaneously (as I know is frequently the case) will truly get to the root of the issue.
To help me understand a bit more about the ways that ADHD affects peoples’ lives, I talked to one of my clients who had been diagnosed with this disorder and for which she takes medication. She told me that it has helped her concentrate but that it is also aligned with other issues such as OCD and anxiety and the interconnectivity of these issues does not allow medication alone to help ease them. A friend of mine related to me the almost debilitating effect that ADHD has had on her life, causing her to cry at moments when she could not organize a drawer. ADHD poses challenges while trying to focus on reading, and she is amazed and proud that she finished grad school while managing this life-altering disorder. I am sure that there are millions of others in this world that can relate to this accomplishment and the hard road to get there. I would be grateful to hear the stories of others who have lived with and flourished in the midst of a disorder that affects their daily functioning, and to learn their tools for success.
I found a quiz that can be useful for trying to determine if you might have some symptoms of ADHD. There are also blogs written by those who are living with ADHD and who give support and tools for success in school and work. As I was doing research, I was curious about the question of how ADHD affects interpersonal relationships. Some blogs talk about how self-esteem and self-confidence can be improved by treating ADHD, which I am sure improve communication and intimacy in personal relationships. An interesting fact I learned is that 20-45% of criminals in jail have been diagnosed with ADHD, and that those with this condition are 4 to 9 times more likely to commit a crime (this statistic makes me a little wary and I would like to know more about what other conditions are co-morbid with ADHD if this is true).
It seems that we are still deep in the trenches of understanding what causes this disorder and how best to treat it. I think that when we might suspect that someone has ADHD, we must do a full assessment of them before we diagnose. Symptoms of ADHD such as hyperactivity and difficulty focusing can also be symptoms of other issues, such as trauma. Living with a chronic condition creates a huge impact on one’s life, and I am in admiration of those who thrive daily in the midst of this and other life-altering disorders.