ADHD Diagnosis Controversy
Few psychiatric diagnoses have incited as much debate as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
While some people debate the causes or treatments of ADHD, others are primarily concerned with the diagnosis itself. Some critics charge that the medical label is merely a crutch for frustrated parents wanting a quick pill-shaped fix for their children’s disturbing behaviors.
Others concede that ADHD exists but maintain that it’s widely overdiagnosed. At the other end of the spectrum, some researchers believe that ADHD is firmly based in biology and possibly underdiagnosed.
Those who consider the label a crutch believe ADHD is a social construction. In other words, it is something that people have made meaningful, and we could make it less meaningful as well.
Since ADHD is simply a list of behaviors such as hyperactivity, forgetfulness, and poor impulse control, it’s difficult to define in the traditional medical sense using terms from biology, genetics, or neurology. Many social constructionists insist that the list of ADHD symptoms is merely a list of normal childhood behaviors, and they advocate enhancing learning environments before medicating our children.
On the other hand, some people focus on biology when considering the ADHD controversy. They note that twins are likely to exhibit similar symptoms and that genetics factor into about 75% of ADHD diagnoses.
However, even these proponents admit that ADHD is associated with a variety of interacting genetic and environmental factors, not a single gene.
Meanwhile, neuro-imaging studies have also been offered in support of a biological basis for ADHD and even to suggest new candidates for diagnosis. These studies add an interesting variable to the debate – the thickness of one’s brain cortex – but reports available thus far have not controlled for participants’ use of ADHD medication, which could also explain differences found in the brain scans of people diagnosed with ADHD. In conclusion, when discussing ADHD, two people may give you three opinions.
ADHD has found a controversial home in modern medicine.