To some people, a discussion about ADHD is like discussing Bigfoot or the tooth fairy. There are simply those who do not believe ADHD exists. It seems astonishing that this is so when ADHD is one of the most researched disorders and according to The National Alliance on Mental Illness, it is also the most commonly diagnosed behavior disorder among children. NAMI estimates that 3-5 percent of school age children are affected by ADHD. Here on ADHD Central we have an informational page dedicated providing the results of research on the genetic and biological causes for ADHD. We report that: “A study reported that 90% of children with a diagnosis of ADHD shared it with their twin.” We also cite the research about differences in the brains of children who have ADHD and those who do not: “Research using advanced imaging techniques shows there is a difference in the size of certain parts of the brain in children with ADHD compared to children who do not have ADHD.” This is not to mention all the children and adults who are affected by ADHD who say, “This is very real”
Despite all the research, information, and advocacy about ADHD, the debate still rages on that ADHD is a made up diagnosis with no credibility or justification. Just do a search on the Internet as I did to write this article and you will find endless “conversations” on this very topic. PBS Frontline hosted one of the most comprehensive debates, bringing in experts with a vast difference of opinion, to answer the question, “Does ADHD Exist?” One of the challengers to the existence of ADHD is Fred Baughman, a child neurologist, and a medical expert for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), an advocacy group founded by the Church of Scientology in 1969. Baughman argues on Frontline that: “Psychiatry has never validated ADHD as a biologic entity, so their fraud and their misrepresentation is in saying to the parents of the patients in the office, saying to the public of the United States, that this and every other psychiatric diagnosis is, in fact, a brain disease.”
Another critic of the ADHD diagnosis is Tony Zizza, the Vice President in Georgia of Parents for Label and Drug Free Education. Zizza has been quoted as saying, “I’d like to know how we got to the point in our advanced culture where we drug millions of children to combat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) when this alleged disorder has no medical validity whatsoever. No blood tests to prove its existence.”
One of the best discussions I have seen on this topic was initiated by Michael B. Laskoff, this past August, on the Huffington Post. Laskoff, who has ADHD himself and reports that he is greatly helped by ADHD medication, took issue with a Bill Maher show where Maher and guest Arianna Huffington talk about our over medicated society with respect to ADHD. In his post entitled, “Being Famous Doesn’t Make you an ADHD (ADD) Expert” Laskoff blasts both Arianna Huffington and Bill Maher for “…talking about ADHD (ADD) like experts when clearly they’re not.” Laskoff defends the use of medication for ADHD despite what comments are made from who he sees as non-experts: “Unfortunately, none of this changes the fact that over 10 million adults have ADHD or the reality that medication can help many of them to lead happier, more fulfilled lives. Of course, if you don’t have ADHD, it’s hard to imagine what a difference the right medication makes.” What may be even more interesting than his rebuttal are the many comments this post received. One commenter states that there were no kids with ADHD when he went to school and that discipline is the answer as is shown on the TV show, “The Nanny.” Needless to say, this comment did not go without a response.
So what do we make of all this?
There will always be naysayers and critics about the diagnosis of ADHD just as there are about virtually any diagnosis, especially ones pertaining to behavior and/or mental health. It is my personal belief that there is an undercurrent of “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality which perceives conditions and disorders like ADHD as some sort of excuse for getting off easy. I think it makes it especially difficult for people who do suffer from ADHD in terms of stigma and self blame. One of our members pointed out recently that ADHD is an “invisible disorder.” I wholeheartedly agree with this. It isn’t like a person with ADHD has some physical characteristic you can easily identify as being a marker of the disorder. And as such it makes the person who has it constantly on the defense to justify and to explain their ADHD. But education only goes so far. And as you have seen in my article, there are plenty of people who dismiss ADHD as some sort of grand hoax.
So many questions still linger on ADHD forums and on-line discussion groups. Are we all dupes of the big pharma companies? Should ADHD be considered a disability? Are we over medicating and over diagnosing our children with ADHD?
In my next post I will follow up with some of the reasons why the diagnosis of ADHD may be debated.
Please do express your thoughts and opinions here. We want to hear what you have to say!