Critics of ADHD claim that ADHD is over-diagnosed. According to some critics, many children that have been diagnosed with ADHD do not have the disorder. Studies (including Jensen et al, 1999) do not support this theory and actually suggest that ADHD is under-diagnosed.
There are number of reasons for increased awareness of ADHD over the past twenty years. Special education laws made it possible for children with ADHD to receive accommodations in school. These laws helped teachers, school personnel and parents to better understand some of the difficulties their parents were having in school.
In addition, in 1996, ADD, inattentive type was added to the DSM-IV increasing the number of children diagnosed, as hyperactivity was no longer a required symptom.
Public awareness and media attention have increased both the awareness of ADHD as a disorder and the knowledge that we have. This has helped parents recognize symptoms of ADHD and seek treatment when their children struggle in school and with behaviors at home. Professionals are more knowledgeable and can more easily recognize symptoms and common behaviors of ADHD and are able to diagnose the disorder.
According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association, there are approximately 3.5 million children who meet the criteria for ADHD; yet only 50% of them are diagnosed with ADHD. So, although ADHD is diagnosed more often than it was 20 years ago, there is certainly no indication that it is over-diagnosed, just that we are better educated about the disorder and the impact it has on the daily life of individuals with ADHD.
Myths and Misunderstandings, National Resource Center on AD/HD
Myths about ADD/ADHD, Attention Deficit Disorder Association