Are you easily distracted? Impulsive? Hyperactive? Do you have problems focusing or paying attention for extended times? If so, you might believe you have ADHD. Or, you might have been diagnosed with ADHD. According to a new book, ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, by Richard Saul, if you have been diagnosed with ADHD, you have been misdiagnosed.
Saul doesn’t offer up the usual arguments - that your symptoms are made-up and simply excuses for bad behavior. Instead, he believes that your symptoms are real (most of the time), but they are symptoms of an a different, underlying condition. In other words, Saul believes that ADHD is really a cluster of symptoms, not a condition, that indicate one of many other medical conditions that share similar symptoms, such as sleep disorders, vision problems, substance abuse, hearing problems, Tourette’s syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome, learning disabilities, autism, fragile X, and seizures. Saul, based on treating patients and researching attention problems, says careful and thorough evaluations uncover the “real” condition and when that is treated, symptoms once attributed to ADHD disappear.
In some ways, Saul gives the same analysis that other experts, patients and doctors state. He agrees that doctors who diagnose and treat ADHD after a short office visit and a checklist of symptoms are doing their patients a disservice. He agrees that doctors and patients sometimes rely on stimulant medications to take away symptoms. He agrees that some people need medical help to overcome attention problems. But he doesn’t believe that ADHD, as it is currently defined, exists.
Within the book, Saul gives a number of examples:
- A gifted student who can’t focus because he is bored
- A middle school student who had been treated for ADHD without success and was then diagnosed with bipolar disorder
- A young girl being disruptive in class because she couldn’t see the board and needed glasses
- An adult man who had an addiction to online gambling who thought he had ADHD but was suffering from sleep deprivation
Others, Saul claims, had been diagnosed with ADHD but simply needed to make lifestyle changes, such as eating better, cutting back on stressful jobs and exercising more. He does include a chapter on neurochemical distractibility/impulsivity, which he states is not a formal diagnosis and is not the same as ADHD, (but looks a whole lot like ADHD) and recommends stimulants for it.
Treating ADHD, according to Saul, is like treating chest pain with pain killers rather than looking for the source of the pain. It is treating the symptoms only. In his book, Saul states, “The symptoms of distractibility and impulsivity are all too real, but we’re using an outdated, invalid definition of ADHD, one that has been kept in place for decades by physicians and other practitioners, pharmaceutical companies, the media and even the patients themselves. The millions of false diagnoses result in a cascade of consequences including delayed or denied treatment, spiraling health-care costs, and signficant health risks and frustrations for patients and their families. There is no need for patients and their families to continue suffering, and for us as a society to bear the large, mounting costs of the ADHD-stimulant epidemic. It’s time to change our thinking about what really drives the distractibility and impulsivity and help people get the right treatment.” Saul provides information and recommendations for health professionals to look deeper, below the symptoms to find out the cause.
Other books have created stirs, claiming ADHD isn’t real, that it is something pharmaceutical companies have made-up to make money, that those with ADHD simply want an excuse for their “poor” behavior or parents want to be lazy and not discipline their children. All of these books were met with public scrutiny and, in many cases, disdain. This book is set to stir up the same feelings.Saul wrote the book hoping to start a discussion and stir up emotions. Based on the publicity, with write-ups in Time, the New Republic, the New York Post, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, he will get at least that result.
Published On: March 31, 2014