Friday, May 3, 2013

ADHD? Maybe not.

I've often asked if ADHD is a fictitious epidemic.

Because I teach in a children's inpatient psychiatric assessment unit, I am well acquainted with how easy it is to diagnose young children, particularly young boys, with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

I've also become aware of how harmful or misguided such a diagnosis can be. This can be true for lots of reasons but one big one is that if we get the diagnosis wrong, then we are more apt to subscribe to "solutions" that make the problem worse.

Sometimes ADHD is nothing more than a symptom of a developmentally inappropriate learning environment. Misbehaviour in the classroom is rarely ever the problem -- it's usually a symptom of a much larger problem. Show me a class with chronic misbehaviour and I'll likely be able to show you a boring curriculum.

Sometimes ADHD is not ADHD -- it's actually a chronic sleep deficit.

I've seen with my own eyes how talk therapy doesn't pay, so psychiatry turns instead to drug therapy. Too often the manta is: Can't focus? We've got a pill for that!

Sadly, I have an acute understanding for what is meant by the observation: "We've decided as a society that it's too expensive to modify the kid's environment. So we have to modify the kid."

When I hear that Asberger's Syndrome will no longer exist when the DSM-V (psychiatrist's bible for mental illness) is released on May 22, I wonder how disorders like ADHD are conceived.

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