Myth: ADHD is Not a Real Disorder

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

One of the most well-known, outspoken critics of ADHD is Tom Cruise. He referred to psychiatry as a "quack" field and was quoted as saying, ""You know what? I'm sure drug dealers on the street, in some way, they are making money. That's what I equate it to. Here is the thing: you have to understand, with psychiatry, there is no science behind it. And to pretend that there is a science behind it is criminal." His views on ADHD and Ritalin are just as severe and his comments on national television have been widely publicized. But Tom Cruise is not the only person that believes ADHD is not a real disorder. Dr. Fred Baughman operates the website "ADHD Fraud." According to Dr. Baughman, "They (psychiatrists) made a list of the most common symptoms of emotional discomfiture of children; those which bother teachers and parents most, and in a stroke that could not be more devoid of science or Hippocratic motive--termed them a 'disease.' Twenty five years of research, not deserving of the term 'research.,' has failed to validate ADD/ADHD as a disease."

With such outspoken critics, it is no wonder that, as parents dealing with ADHD in our daily lives; our frustration is compounded with comments from well-meaning friends and relatives, such as:

"I'm sure he will grow out of it."

"He's just acting like a boy, give him time."

"I am sure with a little more discipline, his behavior will improve."

"Maybe you should cut down on the amount of sugar in his diet."

"I would never put my child on medication, that is just a substitute for good parenting"

I use these statements, as I have heard each one of them while raising my son. I am sure many of you have heard these, or similar accusations. Although ADHD is much more accepted than it was 20 years ago, there is still controversy concerning both the diagnosis and treatment.

In 2002, 75 scientists from around the world discussed the continuing inaccurate portrayal of ADHD and, in response, signed an "ADHD International Consensus Statement." In this statement, the group of scientists, including Dr. Charles Barkley, stated, "As attested to by the numerous scientists signing this document, there is no question among the world's leading clinical researchers that ADHD involves a serious deficiency in a set of psychological abilities and that these deficiencies pose serious harm to most individuals possessing the disorder. Current evidence indicates that deficits in behavioral inhibition and sustained attention are central to this disorder -- facts demonstrated through hundreds of scientific studies. And there is no doubt that ADHD leads to impairments in major life activities, including social relations, education, family functioning, occupational functioning, self-sufficiency, and adherence to social rules, norms, and laws. Evidence also indicates that those with ADHD are more prone to physical injury and accidental poisonings. This is why no professional medical, psychological, or scientific organization doubts the existence of ADHD as a legitimate disorder."

This statement further explains some of the major problems facing individuals with ADHD, including: dropping out of school, not completing college, under-performing at work, antisocial behaviors, multiple car accidents and tickets and co-existing conditions. Even with these serious problems, many people with ADHD never seek treatment. One reason for this may be the inaccuracies reported by the media and by outspoken critics such as Tom Cruise and Dr. Baughman.

ADHD is a real disorder. Although there is not yet any definitive physical test to indicate the presence of the disorder, there are specific criteria for diagnosing ADHD. Research continues to show that a combination of medication and behavioral modification program are best to help manage symptoms. ADHD is not curable, but it is treatable.

Those people that believe they may have ADHD and that it interferes with their abilities to be successful should seek the advice and help of their physician.


Access Hollywood. 2005. Tom Cruise: man on a mission.

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.