The Rise in ADHD: Simple Answer or A Web of Reasons?


ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is now considered a common child and adolescent diagnosis. A recently published study at Northwestern University revealed that in 2010, 10.4 million children and teens (under 18) were given a diagnosis of ADHD during doctor outpatient appointments. Ten years earlier, the number was 6.2 million.

The author of the study, Craig Garfield, M.D., attributes the speedy rise in diagnosis to an increase in ADHD awareness. During the past 10 to 15 years, he (and others) believes that expanded awareness has resulted in more physicians recognizing and diagnosing the symptoms. Even parents, teachers, and the general public are now aware that poor concentration, high activity, and impulsive behaviors can be signs of ADHD.

Dr. Garfield may be correct but not all doctors, researchers, or parents agree. There is a multitude of other ADHD increase-theories and subsequent research studies to sift through, and a multitude of conclusions.

Suggested Reasons for Increased ADHD Diagnosis

  1. Video and computer games; excessive time in front of screens, including TV.
  2. Being exposed to second hand cigarette smoke.
  3. Artificial food dyes and processed foods.
  4. Doctors make too many diagnoses without consulting the standard criteria necessary for the diagnosis. Instead, they diagnose “intuitively.”
  5. Lack of consistent, effective discipline in the home. (Don't shoot the messenger.)
  6. A phase in brain development that most child will out grow.
  7. Some children, teens, and young adults may fake ADHD either for attention or to acquire the medication.

No Answers, But Some Thoughts

There are reputable studies and statistics to support these reasons, also some research that failed to duplicate the original supportive outcomes. What floats into mind while sorting through all the data is:

  1. Each child and adult is unique and needs to be carefully diagnosed using the accepted criteria for diagnosis, after ruling out other possibilities.
  2. Research studies, which look at separate aspects of things, need to be viewed as part of a holistic picture.
  3. In any study, the intentions and unconscious bias of the researchers may affect the results. This is not a criticism; quantum research has shown this is possible.
  4. Our education system is likely outdated; everything around us affects our brain development, including technology. Whether you find this to be good or bad, our traditional way of teaching children may no longer work for many students.

ADHD is a Reality for Many

Despite studies and opinions, ADHD is a daily, problematic reality for many children and adults. There may be some over-medicating going on, but as with depression or bipolar disorder, some people benefit from using prescription medications. There may be over-diagnosing, but there are those who fit the criteria for the ADHD diagnosis.

“Here in the United States, there is a tendency to over-prescribe in some instances. But it pales in comparison to the under-prescription or under-recognition of these problems in children, ... We know from a variety of epidemiologic and other related studies, that as many as half of the children with conditions such as ADHD are not being treated at all.” ~ Peter Jensen (likely Dr. Peter S. Jensen, MD, author of Making the System Work for Your Child with ADHD.)



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