Anyone who knows even a little about psychology knows about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or as it is now officially called ADHD. In fact in 2011 the CDC went as far as saying that there was an epidemic of ADD/ADHD with 11% of children in the U.S. having it. This means that 6.4 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD and 4.2 million children are taking psychostimulants.
Is there really an epidemic?
The truth is that ADHD is actually very difficult to diagnose. Since most parents cannot afford proper psychological treatment for their children, psychologists are given a short period of time to come up with an answer. But this actually does not mean that kids are being misdiagnosed. In a study conducted by Sciutto and Esisenberg (2007) when evaluating prevalence studies and diagnosis, there was not enough evidence found to justify and over diagnosis. However, this does not stop the mainstream media from claiming that ADHD is being over diagnosed.
Kids Popping Pills
What worries the public is that kids are being given medication at a young age. This is something that concerns psychologists as well. Some have felt that if the criteria were changed this would change the prevalence of diagnosis. However, previous research has found that there was not difference in prevalence (4% - 11%) when comparing revisions made to the diagnostic manual (Thomas et al, 2015).
This means that year after year the same percentages of kids are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. However, several research studies have found that with proper treatment, these kids can lead normal lives (Cortese et al, 2013; Faraone, & Buitelaar, 2010; Pringsheim, & Steeves, 2011; Vaughan, & Kratochvil, 2012).
Is it the kids or society?
Although there is a stigma against kids taking medication to treat ADD/ADHD, there is not sufficient research for grounds to prove the patients are not being helped by the medication. There is also not enough empirical evidence to prove that ADD/ADHD are being over diagnosed. Although the number of diagnosis has gone up, this follows the rate of population growth and the percentages themselves have remained constant (Thomas, et al, 2015).
In general the pubic has become distrustful of treatment because of big pharmaceutical companies. Personally I remain a bit skeptical. But at the moment science does not support the claim that ADD/ADHD is being over diagnosed. To be honest when I started doing the research for this article I believed ADD/ADHD were over diagnosed. But as a scientist, I have to follow the research. The beauty of science is that nothing is set in stone. Future peer reviewed studies (not YouTube or Wikipidia or even my blog), may prove otherwise,if they do, I would be more than happy to change my opinion.
My own experiences with ADD/ADHD
As a child I was diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. However, I was not given any medication because it was not severe. I was taught techniques to identify when my ADD/ADHD was effecting my concentration and this was able to help me manage it. But I know that there is not cookie cutter approach to treatment.
I’ve also talked to many people who had severe ADD/ADHD. They reported that there was a big difference between their focus and grades when using medication, when compared to being undiagnosed.
Although it may bother some people morally that a child is taking pills to treat their disorder, if other types of treatment have failed, it may be a viable answer. In my opinion, being hard on parents who have to make this decision is not fair to them, or their children.
For those of you reading this that are outraged.....
Perhaps take comfort in knowing that if your child does not have severe ADD/ADHD, you were lucky enough not to have to go through this yourself.
Social Gelo with Angelo
Angelo Ferrer (M.S. Psychology)
Cortese, S., Holtmann, M., Banaschewski, T., Buitelaar, J., Coghill, D., Danckaerts, M., ... & Sergeant, J. (2013). Practitioner review: current best practice in the management of adverse events during treatment with ADHD medications in children and adolescents. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54(3), 227-246.
Faraone, S. V., & Buitelaar, J. (2010). Comparing the efficacy of stimulants for ADHD in children and adolescents using meta-analysis. European child & adolescent psychiatry, 19(4), 353-364.
Pringsheim, T., & Steeves, T. (2011). Pharmacological treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children with comorbid tic disorders. The Cochrane Library.
Sciutto, M. J., & Eisenberg, M. (2007). Evaluating the evidence for and against the overdiagnosis of ADHD. Journal of attention disorders, 11(2), 106-113.
Thomas, R., Sanders, S., Doust, J., Beller, E., & Glasziou, P. (2015). Prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Pediatrics, 135(4), e994-e1001.
Vaughan, B., & Kratochvil, C. J. (2012). Pharmacotherapy of pediatric attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America, 21(4), 941-955.