The Misdiagnosis of ADHD

Posted on November 5, 2016

This is the central fact of the journalist Alan Schwarz’s new book, ADHD Nation. Explaining this fact - how it is that perhaps two thirds of the children diagnosed with ADHD do not actually suffer from the disorder - is the book’s central mystery. The result is a damning indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, and an alarming portrait of what is being done to children in the name of mental health.

He spoke with Mind Matters editor Gareth Cook.

What prompted you to write this book?

In 2011, having spent four years exposing the dangers of concussions in the National Football League and youth sports for The New York Times, I wanted another project. I had heard that high school students in my native Westchester County (just north of New York City) were snorting Adderall before the S.A.T.'s to focus during the test. I was horrified and wanted to learn more. I saw it not as a "child psychiatry" story, and not as a "drug abuse" story, but one about academic pressure and the demands our children feel they're under.

When I looked deeper, it was obvious that our nationwide system of ADHD treatment was completely scattershot - basically, many doctors were merely prescribing with little thought into whether a kid really had ADHD or not, and then the pills would be bought and sold among students who had no idea what they were messing with. I asked the ADHD and child-psychiatry establishment about this, and they denied it was happening. They denied that there were many false diagnoses. They denied that teenagers were buying and selling pills. They denied that the national diagnosis rates reported by the C.D.C. - then 9.5 percent of children aged 4-17, now 11 percent and still growing - were valid. They basically denied that anything about their world was malfunctioning at all. In the end, they doth protest too much. I wrote about 10 front-page stories for The New York Times on the subject from 2012-2014.

In what sense is ADHD an "epidemic," and how was it "made"?

ADHD itself is not an epidemic - ADHD misdiagnosis is an epidemic. If the system functioned in such a way as to stay anywhere near the 5% diagnosis rate that the American Psychiatric Association's official definition suggests, we wouldn't be in this mess. But the system doesn't function properly, not by a long shot. About 15 percent of American children turn 18 having been diagnosed with ADHD, 20 percent of boys, and 30 percent of boys in much of the South. It's completely indefensible. It's time to figure out how not to necessarily "fix" it, because the genie long left the bottle, but do a far better job in diagnosing the kids who really fit the construct and help the other kids in other ways. Many kids have problems and need help - but those problems in many cases will derive from trauma, anxiety, family discord, poor sleep or diet, bullying at school and more. We must not abandon them. We must help. But we must also be more judicious in how we do that, rather than reflexively giving them a diagnosis of what is generally described as a serious, lifelong brain disorder.

As for "made," it's clear that whatever ADHD is, wherever it comes from and however it manifests itself in different people, it has been built up into something well beyond reasonable proportions. The disorder can exist and be respected without being misdiagnosed in millions of additional children. It's not the disorder's fault that the grownups in charge have mucked it up. We, the adults, have made it into something it didn't need to be.

To read the full article, click on the link below.


Category(s):Adult ADHD

Source material from Scientific American


Mental Health News