“Oh come on, you really believe the doctor? You don’t really have that. It’s just the latest fad diagnosis,” you hear as you walk past an arguing pair.
Any guesses what they were talking about? I think you and I know all too well..
As someone who’s been diagnosed with the condition, and who hangs out with many others afflicted by ADHD, even sometimes we question it. That’s how skeptical society has become.
So let’s examine the facts from both sides, and see if ADHD is a real condition or not:
The case against ADHD
A leading pediatric neuroscientist, Dr. Bruce D Perry, M.D. PhD, recently announced publicly that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was not a real disease. In comments to The Observer, Dr. Perry noted:
“It is best thought of as a description. If you look at how you end up with that label, it is remarkable because any one of us at any given time would fit at least a couple of those criteria,” he said.
Dr. Perry goes on to warn against the use of medications:
“Taking a medication influences systems in ways we don’t always understand. I tend to be pretty cautious about this stuff, particularly when the research shows you that other interventions are equally effective and over time more effective and have none of the adverse effects. For me it’s a no-brainer.”
Is it true that one can rid himself of attention deficit issues without the use of medications? I and many others have done so. And I also agree with Dr. Perry that many who go to medications as a first option may have found even better results with changes to their lifestyle.
But before we dismiss ADHD entirely, let’s see what the pro argument compares.
Pro: A biological basis
WebMD reports on an interesting study that compares identical and fraternal twins for signs of hyperactive and impulsive behavior. The study found that the more closely a pair of twin’s genes matched, the more likely they were to share ADHD (or not, if neither had it). This is a strong indication of a biological basis for ADHD.
Further studies of the brain have also shown that the frontal regions of the brain are underactive compared to normal nonaffected brains of people without the illness. We know that the final regimens of the brain act is the executive control centers on the primitive rear/internal regions, again supporting the idea that ADHD is a brain-based disease.
The bottom line
As with many things, the truth most likely lies somewhere in the middle. An analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found a 43% increase in ADHD diagnoses between 2003 and 2011. That’s a huge increase in diagnoses over relatively short time period.
Are we truly seeing an ADHD epidemic? It could just be that we’ve gotten better at spotting the illness in school-age populations. Or maybe our doctors are overdiagnosing.
Despite these suspicious numbers, and a popular belief set from the skeptics, under close examination there really is no question that ADHD is an actual illness that affects the brain on a biological level. To make a difference in the lives of the people it impacts, we should to acknowledge this truth act act accordingly.