ADHD: The Over Diagnosed Childhood Disease

With increasing awareness of medication of ADHD, many concerned parents, doctors and teachers are called for caution when diagnosing a child with ADHD. While national rates of ADHD in children vary from 3 to 6%, some areas have much higher rates of 15%.

Is ADHD Over Diagnosed?

While the national rate of ADHD diagnosis is 3-6% of all children, one pediatric psychologist from Virginia studied some 30,000 children in her region. What she found was alarming; in two school districts, the rate of ADHD diagnosis and medication was more than double the national average. It is safe to assume this frequency is not specific to just Virginia, but much more widespread than we may think. This study is just one of many which support claims of over-diagnosis of ADHD. However, for every study that supports this theory, there are others who claim the validity of the diagnosis.

Medicating ADHD?

Others debate the use of medication, specifically Ritalin, for ADHD therapy. Ritalin is the most widely used drug to treat ADHD; it's used in almost 90% of the cases. Also called methylphenidate, it's a stimulant which helps the brain control behavior and improves concentration levels. Interestingly, this drug has the same effect on children who do not have ADHD. Some critics of the drug call it cocaine for kids as it can create a similar high when snorted. And indeed, some children do abuse Ritalin. If not controlled by parents or a school nurse, many children sell their Ritalin or run the risk of being bullied and having it taken from them.

Diagnosing ADHD

There are strict guidelines from the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the manual used to diagnose all mental disorders. If you are seeking diagnosis or treatment for your child's ADHD, be sure to consult someone specializing in pediatric psychology. You'll want to talk with the child's teacher and school counselor for advice and input. The psychologist studying your child should take into consideration the input of the teacher and counselor, as well as any other care provider, such as day care or after-school program leaders. The child should exhibit inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive behavior in a variety of situations.

Treating ADHD

Treatment for a child with ADHD should be comprehensive. Medication alone will not be nearly as effective as it would when combined with therapy, behavioral and social therapy, parental education and environmental changes. The child will have to learn to adjust to the medication and to learning new behaviors. They need to understand their condition so they can learn life-long skills to manage and monitor it. As a parent, you'll want to monitor their condition and medication dosage, to ensure the child is receiving an appropriate dose. Sometimes medications will need to be changed as the conditions changes. Some parents find certain things help their child, such as limiting sugar intake, getting more exercise and teaching new ways of performing other tasks. Treatment should be specialized for the individual and monitored closely.


Photo Credit: Gisle's fotostream

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