Is ADHD a mental health crisis, or a cultural one? -

Is ADHD a mental health crisis, or a cultural one?

The reasons behind the rapid rise in diagnosis rates

Photo illustration by Daniel Ehrenworth

Photo illustration by Daniel Ehrenworth

Any visitor to North Carolina and California will know that the two states have their differences. The former is a typically “red state”; California is staunchly “blue.” Each has certain geographic, ethnic and cultural peculiarities, different demographic makeup, family income levels, and more. Yet perhaps the most surprising divide, one many wouldn’t expect, is that North Carolina appears to be a hotbed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD—especially when compared to California. A child who lived in North Carolina instead of California in 2007, according to U.S. academics Stephen Hinshaw and Richard Scheffler, was 2½ times more likely to be diagnosed.

In their forthcoming book The ADHD Explosion, Hinshaw and Scheffler—a psychologist and health economist, respectively, at the University of California at Berkeley—examine the causes behind the startling and rapid rise in diagnosis rates of ADHD, a neurobehavioural disorder that has somehow become epidemic. In the U.S., more than one in 10 kids has been diagnosed; more than 3.5 million are taking drugs to curb symptoms, from lack of focus to hyperactivity. While ADHD typically hits middle-class boys the hardest, rates among other groups are steadily rising, including girls, adults and minorities. Kids are being tested and diagnosed as young as preschool. In North Carolina, as many as 30 per cent of teenage boys are diagnosed. Scheffler says, “It’s getting scary.”

According to psychologist Enrico Gnaulati, who is based in Pasadena, Calif., ADHD is now “as prevalent as the common cold.” Various factors seem to be driving up the numbers, factors that extend from home to school to the doctor’s office and beyond. “So many kids have trouble these days,” says long-time ADHD researcher L. Alan Sroufe, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “I doubt it’s a change in our genetic pool. Something else is going on.”

A closer look at the case of North Carolina and California may be instructive. According to Hinshaw and Scheffler, North Carolinian kids between the ages of four and 17 had an ADHD diagnosis rate of 16 per cent in 2007. In California, it was just over six per cent. Kids with a diagnosis in North Carolina also faced a 50 per cent higher probability they’d get medication. After exhaustively exploring demographics, health care policies, cultural values and other possible factors, they landed on school policy as what Scheffler calls “the closest thing to a silver bullet.”

Over the past few decades, incentives have been introduced for U.S. schools to turn out better graduation rates and test scores—and they’ve been pushed to compete for funding. North Carolina was one of the first states with school accountability laws, disciplining schools for missing targets, and rewarding them for exceeding them. “Such laws provide a real incentive to have children diagnosed and treated,” Hinshaw and Scheffler write: kids in special education classes ideally get the help they need to improve their test scores, and (in some areas) aren’t counted in the district’s test score average.

The rate of ADHD diagnosis varies between countries; as Hinshaw and Scheffler have shown, it even varies significantly within countries. This raises an important question: Is the ADHD epidemic really a mental health crisis, or a cultural and societal one?

ADHD is a “chronic and debilitating mental disorder,” Gnaulati says, one that can last a lifetime. It’s believed to affect between five and 10 per cent of the population, and boys still seem especially prone. (Nearly one in five high school boys have ADHD, compared to one in 11 girls, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) Kids with ADHD can have a hard time making and keeping friends. In one study of boys at summer camp, Hinshaw found that after just a few hours, those with an ADHD diagnosis were far more likely to be rejected than those without one. The disorder can persist into adulthood, raising the risk of low self-esteem, divorce, unemployment and driving accidents; even getting arrested and going to jail, according to a report from the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada.

In fact, the brains of people with ADHD are different. They’re short on receptors for the neurotransmitter dopamine, and their brain volume looks to be slightly smaller. But no medical test or brain scan can yet give a definitive diagnosis. The gold standard comes from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, from the American Psychiatric Association. The latest version of this “bible of psychiatry,” released in May, lists nine symptoms of inattention (making careless mistakes on homework; distractibility; trouble staying organized), and nine of hyperactivity or impulsivity (interrupting others; climbing when it’s inappropriate; and excessive talking, to give some examples). They’ll sound familiar to anyone who’s spent time with kids. “Every child is to some extent impulsive, distractible, disorganized, and has trouble following directions,” says Gnaulati, author of Back To Normal, an investigation of why what he calls “ordinary childhood behaviour” is often mistaken for ADHD.

The DSM specifies that a child should be showing many symptoms consistently, in two or more settings (at home and at school, for example), a better indication that he isn’t just acting out because of a bad teacher, or an annoying sibling. “Studies show that if you stick to the two-informant requirement, the number of cases falls by 40 per cent,” says Gnaulati. Surprisingly often, the diagnoses seem to be hastily given, and drugs dispensed.

It was once thought that stimulants affected people with ADHD differently—calming them down, revving up everyone else—but we now know that’s not the case. Virtually everybody seems to react the same in the short term, Sroufe says. “They’re attention-enhancers. We’ve known that since the Second World War,” when they were given to radar operators to stay awake and focused. Those with true ADHD show bigger gains, partly because their brains may be “underaroused” to begin with, write Hinshaw and Scheffler. (About two-thirds of U.S. kids with a diagnosis get medication; in Canada, it’s about 50 per cent.) Stimulants have side effects, including suppressing appetite, speeding up the heart rate and raising blood pressure. Kids who take them for a long time might end up an inch or so shorter, according to Hinshaw and Scheffler’s book, because dopamine activity interferes with growth hormone. And those who don’t need them will eventually develop a tolerance, needing a greater and greater quantity to get the effect they’re after.

“Brain doping” is by now a well-known phenomenon among college and university students across North America. Many students don’t see stimulant use as cheating: One 2012 study found that male college students believe it’s far more unethical for an athlete to use steroids than for a student to abuse prescription stimulants to ace a test. “Some red-hot parents want to get their kid into Harvard, Berkeley or Princeton,” Scheffler says. “They’re going to need a perfect score, so they’re going to push.” With an ADHD diagnosis, students can seek special accommodations at school, like more time on tests including the SAT, a standardized college entrance exam. With parents, students, and even school boards recognizing the potential benefits that come with diagnosis, ADHD is occurring with increasing frequency among groups other than the white middle class, where rates have typically been highest: according to Hinshaw and Scheffler, African-American youth are now just as likely, if not more, to be diagnosed and medicated.

Drug advertisements could also be driving rates of diagnosis upward. Hinshaw and Scheffler describe one ad from Johnson & Johnson, maker of the stimulant Concerta, which shows a happy mother and a son who’s getting “better test scores at school” and doing “more chores at home,” the text reads. “The message is clear: the right pill breeds family harmony,” they write. Sometimes, another underlying health problem will be mistakenly diagnosed as ADHD. In his new book, ADHD Does Not Exist, Richard Saul documents 25 conditions that can look like ADHD; most common are vision and hearing issues. “Until you get glasses, it’s very hard to understand what [the teacher] is speaking about if you can’t see the board,” he says. “Same with hearing.” Conditions ranging from bipolar disorder to Tourette’s syndrome can also be mistaken for ADHD, Saul writes. Despite the strongly worded title of his book, he believes that 20 per cent of those diagnosed are “neurochemical distractible impulsive,” and have what we’d term ADHD. The rest are being misdiagnosed, and as a result, he says, “the right treatment is being delayed.”

Sleep deprivation is another big cause of misdiagnosis. “It’s paradoxical, but especially for kids, it does create hyperactivity and impulsivity,” says Vatsal Thakkar of New York University’s Langone Medical Center. Given mounting academic pressures, and the screens that populate virtually every room, many kids simply aren’t getting enough downtime. A child’s relative immaturity can factor in, too. In 2012, a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that the youngest kids in a classroom were more likely to have an ADHD diagnosis, and to be prescribed medication. Those born in December are nearly a full year younger than some of their peers, a big difference, especially in kindergarten. (In the U.S., half of all kids with ADHD are diagnosed before age six.)

Gnaulati, who has a son, worries the deck’s been stacked against boys, who are more prone to blurt out an answer, run around the classroom, or otherwise act out. “During the kindergarten years, boys are at least a year behind girls in basic self-regulation,” he says. Gnaulati notes that school teachers, pediatricians and school psychologists are all more likely be female—which he argues could be a contributing factor. “In a sense,” he writes, “girl behaviour has become the standard by which we judge all kids.”

In Canada, we don’t track ADHD diagnosis rates as closely as in the U.S. But the rate of diagnosis does look to be picking up here, and elsewhere, too. A study by Hinshaw and Scheffler compared the use of ADHD drugs to countries’ per capita gross domestic product. “Richer countries spend more [on ADHD medications],” Scheffler says. “But some countries still spend more than their income would predict.” They found that Canada, the U.S. and Australia all had a greater use of these drugs than GDP suggests. A 2013 paper in the British Journal of Medicine notes that Australia saw a 73 per cent increase in prescribing rates for ADHD medications between 2000 and 2011. The Netherlands had a similar spike—the prevalence of ADHD, and the rate at which ADHD drugs were prescribed to kids, doubled between 2003 and 2007.

Peter Conrad of Brandeis University, outside Boston, is studying how the DSM definition of ADHD (which we use in Canada) has been exported around the globe, leading to more kids diagnosed and treated. “Until the late ’90s, most diagnosis in Europe was done under the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases,” which is much more strict, he notes. (The ICD, for example, required symptoms of inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity, while an older version of the DSM required only two.)

European countries began to adopt the DSM definition, a response to the fact that so much research on ADHD comes out of the U.S.—and the DSM began to be seen as the standard. “France and Italy still have low rates,” says Conrad, “partly because they don’t use the DSM.” A 2013 study from the University of Exeter found that U.K. kids were much less likely than those in the U.S. to be diagnosed with ADHD, which may be due to tougher criteria, or to parents’ resistance to medicating their kids. Even so, other countries are catching up. According to Hinshaw and Scheffler, the use of ADHD medication is rising over five times faster around the world than in the U.S.

Many of the same pressures that motivate diagnosis in the U.S. are at play in Canada, although in different ways. Given the tight job market and increasing academic demands, students are under more pressure to succeed than ever. And while our school test results aren’t tied to funding like in the U.S., “high-stakes testing” is increasingly important, says Elizabeth Dhuey, a University of Toronto economist who studies education.

For one thing, it’s a point of pride for schools. Results from Ontario’s EQAO standardized test are reported in the media, and used to rank and compare institutions. (“EQAO: How did your school fare in Ontario’s standardized tests?” reads one 2012 Toronto Star headline.) What constitutes an “exceptionality” and triggers special services also varies between provinces. In Newfoundland, ADHD has been an “exceptionality” for the past two decades; in Ontario, it isn’t considered a special category, but ADHD students can access special education and other extra help on a case-by-case basis. And in B.C., school districts can get supplemental funding for students with ADHD, according to the ministry of education.

These pressures aren’t abating—if anything, many are getting stronger—and so, it seems likely we haven’t yet reached peak ADHD. Scheffler and Hinshaw raise the possibility that, within the decade, ADHD rates in the U.S. might reach 15 per cent or higher; and that as many as four-fifths of those diagnosed could have a prescription.

The hope lies in finding better scientific markers—a definitive test that could confirm true cases of ADHD, and those who will benefit most from treatment, including medication. Otherwise, we’re facing the prospect of a generation of kids living with a serious mental health diagnosis, and quite possibly taking powerful drugs long-term into adulthood, with all the potential side effects they entail. Whatever is contributing to ADHD’s startling rise, it’s clear that this isn’t a contagious disease kids are swapping on the playground. In many cases, we’re giving it to them.

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Is ADHD a mental health crisis, or a cultural one?

  1. More cultural nonsense. This isn’t happening in China or Germany or anywhere else.

      • LOL a western media report.

        ‘naive, inappropriate behaviors’ Really? Snort.

          • What is accurate is that different countries are using different approaches to deal with the diagnosis.

          • Yes, it’s all ‘western’ and cultural…..we don’t need to be drugging our kids.

            A few years ago it was autism… epidemic we were told….damage from vaccines we were told…..and look at the damage THAT did.

            Turned out doctors were overdiagnosing it….and vaccines had nothing to do with it.

            We don’t even know what ‘normal’ is for kids across the world, much less what ‘problems’ there are….we lose 20,000 kids a day to starvation and yet here we are worrying about rambunctious ones!

            Don’t ‘play’ with this stuff. It’s not a game.

          • Oh we know, just that the politicians don’t want to hear it. Reality is public schools are for cookie cutter kids. We expect all kids to be compliant and be the same. And we are not the same. Get a kid with a high IQ they get board. It is known that many who have the AD[label] are exceptionally brilliant at something and deficient in other ways. So the easy out is to dope them up, when we both agreed here, its the WRONG thing to do.

          • I agree….school is for cookie cutter kids….. ‘tribe kids’. They are all supposed to act, think and talk the same way. What we recognize as ‘normal’

            Anything outside of that….and everybody has a fit.

            We still teach kids the same way they used to do in Babylon….so no wonder there are more bored ones.

            Hyperactive or day dreaming….they are simply expressing boredom.

            Drugging them is a stupid response.

          • Hold on, Emily……
            I agree with you 100% in this case.

          • I agree. I have ADHD, having been diagnosed as a young adult. They have tried several types of medication on me and the stimulants do work very well but the side effects, especially on sleeping patterns, can be terrible. I try to take them once per week or less. I still think its not a disorder, just “the way my brain is wired.”

          • This comment was deleted.

          • For some of us with ADHD the lack of mental alertness and a lack of attention go hand-in-hand. Some physicians still use the older ADD term for people like me who exhibit little hyper-activity. It does sound paradoxical to use stimulants. It sure shocked me the first time she prescribed them. But when I use them I am able to read and write and organize thoughts much more easily and for longer periods of time, but I limit my intake due to the side effects. I was able to get through school and a university degree (with very good grades) before I was even diagnosed, which is why I think its not a “disorder,” or what we generally think of when using that term. Mental disorders are hard to classify because there are no anatomical clues, almost no distinct chemical markers in the blood, no DNA markers (that we know of). Its a spectrum, where personality traits grade into mental symptoms, which then grade into mild then more serious mental disorders, which grade into outright serious mental disease.

          • Okay, thanks for that. If you were diagnosed after university, what made anyone suspect a problem?

            What happens if you go without drugs? And have you ever had an IQ test?

            If this is too personal, just say so….I’m being curious here but you certainly don’t need to tell me.

          • I started my own business and could barely organize all the paper work, accounting, etc. I became very depressed. Actual depression. They tried nine different anti-depressant drugs before one had a small positive effect. The Placebo Effect does not work on me, I’m a skeptic.

            I am able to perform nicely by doing small bits of effective work, and stopping to rest or jumping to some other task before the one in front of me grinds my brain to a halt. That’s why I’m jumping on Macleans ten times a day to comment on different topics. IQ ??? somewhere between idiot and ultra-genius (depends on the day of the week! or maybe the weather!)

          • Hmmm. In thinking on this I have a hundred questions, but it’s your private life so I’ll refrain. LOL Sounds like a very active brain with no patience for bogging. Good that you’ve found you can zip back and forth like that.

            I’m guessing you have a high IQ…you should have it tested. Just the knowledge of what it is could help you.

            High IQ has very little patience for humdrum

          • On PBS television late at night they occasionally run “ADD and Loving It,” by Canadian comedians Patrick McKenna and Rick Green, which, while goofy and sometimes unfunny, is surprisingly informative.

          • Okay, I’ll see if I can catch it.

            Meantime, thank you for sharing. I very much appreciate it.


            Sig…I attended a talk given by Dr. Sam Chang about ADHD and you are kind of a textbook case in terms of his description of the illness in adults. Thank you for sharing your experience.

          • It is NOT an illness.

          • Okay??? If you insist…..tell us what you would classify it as in your expertise.

          • A perfectly normal human being….just one you don’t understand.


            Sorry, this one (ADHD) is even on Wikipedia…your go-to for all things real. Now of course I figured out today that you yourself have only one litmus test that you do when deciding whether or not you will agree with the validity of research that is presented to you. You decide if it agrees with what you consider your own enlightened viewpoint because although you profess not to believe in a higher being, you believe yourself to be omnisicient.

          • Ordinary people discussing things they don’t understand

          • So when you discussed Sig’s symptoms with him and he explained problems he encounters and blamed them on the way his brain is wired. You decided he is an “ordinary person discussing things” he doesn’t understand but you do understand it.

          • Sigh….no, YOU are an ordinary person discussing things you don’t understand.

          • ….and what are you?

          • It’s complicated. LOL

          • I’m sure.

          • With the best will in the world, an ordinary teacher cannot teach a class of gifted students…..anymore than a developmentally disabled person, with the best will in the world, can teach a class of average ‘normal’ students.

            They simply don’t understand what they’re dealing with.

            Like you.

          • We are not discussing “gifted students”, we are discussing children with difficulty focusing/concentrating. It is not necessarily the same thing. You assume their problem is due to boredom but that is not necessarily the case. I DO know all about it because I too suffered from ADHD as did my one daughter. Do not tell me I do not understand. I was just like Sig. I have intimate knowledge of his situation because I lived it.

          • Oh now you think you know what ADHD means?

            Difficulty concentrating

            Noop sorry.

          • What do you think it stands for? I was under the impression it stood for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (with or without the hyperactivity component) but perhaps you know better?

          • It means kids being rambunctious or day dreaming….or in some way not paying attention to what’s going on ….in class or at home.

            What you’re doing right now.

          • What you are describing can be symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder….being rambunctious, daydreaming, not paying attention……difficulty concentrating or focusing…How exactly, is this different from what I described?
            Adults do not typically exhibit hyperactivity as a symptom. Many children do not either but in the DSM V, it is now referred to as ADHD (with or without a hyperactivity component). There is no longer an ADD.

          • Because it’s not an illness, a disorder or a disease.

            It’s just bored kids.

          • Right? Bored kids who are flunking school…..

          • A great many school drop-outs are gifted kids.

          • It seems some educated folks aren’t too bright, either.

          • Provide one source that says ADHD only affects gifted children.

          • Again you’re confused. I didn’t say that.

            I said ADHD is not a ‘disorder’ or illness…’s bored kids.

          • Do you have a source for your assertion that ‘ADHD is not a disorder or illness….it’s bored kids?”

          • Again you’re trying to make an illness out of something that’s normal behavior. Something they probably need a swat for, but normal behavior. Medical people don’t recognize what they’re seeing….therefore….to them…. it must be an illness.

          • Well they’re starting to look…..and they hope they can see something.

            Even if they see something, they don’t know if it’s good or bad….nor do they know how to change it.


            They get referrals from physicians as the behest of parents because children are struggling with symptoms. From there, they can do testing to see what the scans reveal.
            Certain schools have programs which are geared for children with ADHD….very structured. There are different therapies, not all pharmacological. This of course is decided by the parents. If the children were doing well, they would never be referred in the first place.

          • Yes, I saw that the first time.

            Someday they may know what they’re seeing, and know how to fix it…at the moment they’re guessing.

          • The EEG scan is the same type of scan they use to diagnose epilepsy. I imagine they were “guessing” about that too right?

          • Yes, that is what I just said….epilepsy is diagnosed through an EEG. They are using a specialized EEG to diagnose ADHD.
            In regard to your concern that medical people don’t know how to fix”ADHD”, I would be interested in you providing even one psychiatric illness or illness such as epilepsy that medical people CAN fix. Some types of epilepsy are conducive to surgical intervention, but not all. Most if not all disorders of the brain or not fixable and require ongoing treatment.

          • Actually they diagnose epilepsy when someone has a seizure. We still don’t know why, or how to cure it

            So since we can’t do any of that stuff….I don’t know why you expect we can with ADHD.


            Sorry, that is not quite accurate. As seizures can occur for different reasons including withdrawal from narcotics, a sleep deprived EEG is the gold standard for diagnosing epilepsy and they never make a diagnosis of epilepsy without doing one.
            The point is not whether we can cure ADHD or whether we know why it occurs. We cannot cure some cancers and we are not certain why they occur. That does not stop us from diagnosing them or providing what comfort we can to those who suffer.

          • Over and over and over again….yet you lost the plot long ago.

            You can’t even read articles.

            ADHD is not an illness….it’s another medical fashion trend.

            Don’t you have anyone else you can argue with? Maybe you can go punch your pillow?

            Because I’m not spending my afternoon listening to your repetition of the same ole things.

            Am I going to change my mind? No. So move on.

          • Funny how the FDA would approve a brain scan to diagnose a fashion trend….but you go ahead with your denial. Are you sure you’re not a Con?

          • The FDA has approved a lot of things….that doesn’t mean they’re true. ADHD will disappear in a few years, and you’ll live to see it scoffed at.

            Now move on.

          • What exactly has the FDA approved in recent history that has proven to be invalid or unscientifically supported?
            As for ADHD being scoffed at…You act like it is new on the books. It isn’t. The symptoms have been described since the 1800’s. It has been in the psych dsm since 1957 under another name. Your belief that it is ‘in fashion” leads one to believe it has a short history. It does not. The first time it was treated with a stimulant was in the 1930’s.
            You have not provided one source for any contention you have made with regard to ADHD. I am sure the vaccine haters would love to have you on their team…just for your sheer doggedness in the absence of any scientific support for your point of view. Meanwhile, I am happy to not converse with you further on the topic.

          • HI….we don’t bleed people anymore, we tossed the stress theory of ulcers, we discovered where AIDs came from….science moves on. What is fashionable in one era is proven wrong in another.

            I told you to move on as well….kindly do so.

          • ….after you…age before beauty.

          • Beauty was a horse.

            Now do you want to play high school some more……….

          • deleted.

          • How about the dungeon….you can join the rest of the Twilight Zone crowd…Adios.

          • …..just a an old joke ….i deleted. have a pleasant rest of your day.

          • Sure thing…..btw they just tossed dyslexia out the window.

            It doesn’t exist.

          • Hahaha! One person writes one ‘controversial book’ encouraging parents to “get rid of the label of dyslexia” and you announce that dyslexia as a reading disorder is ‘tossed out the window and ‘no longer exists”. Hahaha! Gawd you are desperate! What an idiot you are!
            If I might repeat what you always do…”focus…the article is about ADHD!” Hahaha! Thanks for the belly laugh! You are too funny!

          • As you’ll notice it states everyone is aware of it [except you apparently] and they’ve only been keeping the label for the parents

            Every few years they toss out everything they’ve been telling you all along, HI The same will happen with ADHD….starting to already.

            Perhaps if you didn’t worship doctors and love the sound of your own voice? LOL

          • LOL not quite.

            In other news they’ve found the gene that determines how neat you keep your house. Then of course there’s ‘junk DNA’….oh and whether you’re shy or not…..

            We have no idea how it all works yet.

          • Pretty typical behaviour for Em. She even makes up her own definitions.

          • I can’t imagine being related to her and having to listen to her beliefs in person.

          • Yes, I read it…they don’t like the name “dyslexia” because it is not specific enough. Big whoop. It doesn’t mean reading disorders don’t exist. It means they think dyslexia describes too many different issues kids have with reading.
            They are just a couple of people who have AN OPINION. They can’t “toss it” because they don’t run the world.

          • It means some kids have trouble with reading and writing….like they always have. And parents don’t like that so they gave them another awesome new disorder that sounds better.

          • No…….it means that these experts would like to see the different reading problems more differentiated. They don’t find the term dyslexia helpful.
            Why don’t you look up ALL of the other books that experts have written prior to this, suggesting that the label dyslexia be TOSSED. Imagine your surprise when you find out that it has not happened yet.

            BTW: Were you aware the Church of Scientology claims they can cure dyslexia? Tom Cruise apparently cured himself. Now kindly go away!!!!

          • That’s because dyslexia doesn’t exist. Never did.

            It just sounds better than saying Johnny can’t read. Makes more money too.

            If you’d ever thought about Chinese or Japanese you’d have figured it out yourself.

          • Hey, I have an idea…go tell Dave he never had dyslexia like he said he did. I am sure he will appreciate you informing him that he was wrong. Bye!

          • How would he know? Most people listen to doctors.


          • Easy to cure something that doesn’t exist.

            PS If you don’t want me to answer you….don’t comment to me.


            Eisenberg was not the father of ADHD. He was more interested in autism. He didn’t give the interview on his deathbed but rather 7 months prior to his death. Further, the interview was given to a man to hates psychiatry and he is the only person claiming that Eisenberg told him that ADHD is a fabricated illness. All in all, there is not a whole lot of credibility for this so-called story.

          • A fashion trend that’s lasted for over 150 years? That’s pretty amazing staying power.

          • 150 years ago we were still bleeding people.

          • Epilepsy is real only because Emily knows a seizure when she sees one. BTW, the EEG is also used in epilepsy to direct surgeons when they are trying to correct it surgically by directing them to the areas of the brain with abnormal neuronal firing.

          • As someone who has had seizures unrelated to epilepsy, I fully trust Dr. Emily’s diagnoses.

          • it what universe are they using brain scans?
            not here.

          • Not really. ADHD is a polygenic condition. DRD4 is not even a determinant gene for everyone.

          • No, scans cannot diagnose ADHD.

          • h

            Are you saying the FDA approved specialized EEG does not work?

          • EEG has been approved for Clinical Trials by the American Academy of Pediatrics. That’s not the same as being recognized as a valid diagnostic tool. This is just a preliminary step.

          • Read the article. It’s been approved to *assist* in diagnosing. By itself, it’s still not an effective diagnostic tool.

          • Again you’re trying to make something that impairs functioning in every area of life into something “normal” that just needs a swat. My husband has never once in the 24 years we’ve been married helped my ADHD behaviors by hitting me – are you saying that maybe he should?

          • It would have helped when you were a kid. As an adult it’s up to you.

            Everyone needs discipline and self-control.

          • No, it wouldn’t have. I know, because it didn’t. I was born in 1960 – believe me, I got plenty of that kind of “discipline.”

          • That kind of discipline was out of fashion in the 60s…..but the kind of discipline you need comes from inside. Self-discipline.

          • You have quite the pulse on fashion, EmilyOne. Nobody told my father that his belt was out of fashion. Personally, I wish someone had clued him in.

          • Oh, the irony of that last statement…

          • Are they dropping out because they are not passing the courses? Are they frustrated and depressed with inability to organize and focus, like Sig described?

          • No, they don’t care about the courses….they are bored by them.

          • Whoa, am I feeling marginalized now. No, it’s much more than that. I’m 53, been living with it all my life, and rambunctiousness or daydreaming or not paying attention is not even scratching the surface of why this is a problem. I’m combined type, so I have the bonus of some of all the symptoms. Hyperactive – sitting through an entire movie or even a tv show is so incredibly difficult that it’s almost physically painful. I can’t talk on the phone without also cleaning the house or surfing the web or some other kinetic activity. Impulsive – very little thought goes into starting something, like the time I decided to take all the shingles off my house to see what the clapboard and trim looked like underneath (and it was a three story house that was over 100 years old. I just got out the ladder and the cat’s claw and dove right into it.) Inattentive – I lose the beginning of conversations all the time, and I’ve “read” as many as a dozen pages of a book before realizing that I was turning the pages, but not absorbing anything I saw. My memory is horrible, no matter how hard I try or how important something is to remember. If I can’t finish something in one sitting, or if I get distracted or interrupted in the middle of it, I might as well throw it away, because I’ll never be able to pick it up again.

            Yeah, that’s just normal stuff, caused by society, etc. – trot out the tropes.

          • Well it’s not a disease, disorder or illness. Lots of people do some or all of those things.

          • I should get a Bingo card made up for this stuff.

            If you do some of these things some of the time, then it’s not a disorder. When you do this stuff all the time and you can’t stop it no matter how hard you try and impacts your entire life, that’s when it turns into a disorder.

          • No, that’s when it turns into lack of willpower….probably because you enjoy the attention.

          • Yeah, it’s really appealing to be known for being distractable, forgetful, hyper, impulsive, disorganized. . .We really crave that kind of recognition.

          • People fuss over you, sympathize, notice you….it all works

          • Yeah, you have just conclusively shown that you don’t get it right there.

          • Like I said….you wanna play victim feel free…

          • I thought that was your realm.

          • Emily, you’re a real piece of work!

          • try chocolate and caffeine instead,they are natural stimulants

          • Thanks. I do enjoy dark chocolate, but the boost is not nearly enough to be effective. My digestive system reacts badly to caffeine so it is ruled out for me, but others I know do get some positive results from it.
            I get the most satisfying results by altering my work methods. Short bursts of effort on a task, then moving to another task. Once I slow down or get bogged down, or start to daydream after staying too long on one large task then I’m done for.

          • when my son was in grade school, I used to give him chocolate before school and it lasted for about 6 hours. in grade 6 and 7 he had teachers that trained him to concentrate better without getting frustrated

        • Of course there are a few psychiatrists and psychologists who do not believe ADHD is a disorder…..”a group of symptoms”….whatever. I know a psychiatrist who does not believe that personality disorders exist.
          What is important for one to realize is that these people are not among the mainstream in the field they work in. They are like the physicians who are anti-vaccine. They are not part of the majority of physicians who believe that ADHD is a disorder with a set of typical symptoms.
          I am not sure why people are so invested in arguing that ADHD does not exist. If children were thriving and doing well, physicians would not be seeing them in their offices. Parents would not be seeking out help. It is always the public’s prerogative to pretend that disorders don’t exist. It is a little harder for those who afflicted, their families and the physicians who are called on to fix them.

    • Yeah, it is. PubMed is full of international studies, and pretty much all around the world the rate is about 5-8% of the population, with somewhat higher rates for boys than girls. Africa is a great proving ground because it uses the same guidelines as the US for diagnosis and has a number of different cultural structures to compare and contrast. Even in nomadic groups, small farming villages, and more tribal-type societies, they find the same average percentages of people who test positive for ADHD. And. . .even in these “primitive” cultures, the ADHD causes people to have problems functioning.

      • LOL you don’t ‘test positive’ for ADHD

        And the experts have just decided that Autism has been over-diagnosed by at least a third. So we are returning to sanity.

          • When psychiatry learns how to cure anything, let us know.

          • There are plenty of things besides psychiatric problems that can be treated but not cured. Type one diabetes, for example. So that’s not real because it can’t be cured? Interesting idea.

          • Most things….even simple things….can’t be cured. Playing games over ficticious illnesses doesn’t help….it just makes big bucks for the health crowd.

          • What is your criterion for an illness or condition being “fictitious?” Just curious, because it’s very, very real to me and has filled my life with difficulties that most people don’t seem to have. I think maybe you’ve never known anyone with ADHD. If you had, you’d find it much more difficult to deny its existence.

          • Things like hyperactivity or daydreaming are ordinary human conditions….they may be a nuisance at times, and the person involved needs to learn some self-control…..but it doesn’t involve blood, vomit, death or anything else that’s serious.

            There could be something physical….genes, birth defect, hormonal or some other chemical imbalance, but it’s an Occam’s razor sort of thing. The simplest explanation is usually the right one

            We used to believe in demons… we just call them by initials….equally ficticious.

   (click on the .pdf brochure on the right.)
            And Dr. Joel Nigg explains the mechanisms and causes in this video:

            Of course, I don’t expect any deniers to actually look at these, because they contain factual information that will contradict their confirmation bias, but maybe other people will find them useful and informative and learn the true “value” of the arguments against the existence of ADHD.

          • And a good deal of money is being made

            Try a more objective source

            Look if you want to hug this idea to you….feel free. But this article is all about a ‘crisis’ or ‘culture’. I say culture.

          • You are wasting time & pixels.
            Misguided belief & narcissism will trump logic.

          • I never expect to convince people who comment – they are thoroughly invested in not learning anything that might correct their misconceptions. However, there are readers and lurkers who might not be sure what to believe, and providing factual information will sway them in the right direction.

          • The problem, Em, is that someone with ADHD has otherwise normal traits but at extreme and uncontrollable levels.

            From the sound of your posts, you seem to think mental illnesses of any kind do not exist… which explains a lot.

  2. The article touched on what I suspect is the biggest factor in ADHD diagnosis – lack of sleep. Kids need much more sleep than parents seem to realize. They should probably be getting 12 hours per night until they’re at least 7 or 8, and at least 10 hours per night until they’re teenagers. Families lead busy lives, and it’s easy to fall into a trap of disrupted routine and letting kids stay up late.

    • What is very interesting about ADHD is the kind that often afflicts girls where there is no sign of impulsivity or hyperactivity but only an inability to focus. The girls who have it, rarely are problematic in the classroom because they spend all of their time daydreaming. Thus they do poorly in school but aren’t identified because they are easy to get along with.

    • 12 hours of sleep??? Good lord no.

    • One of the hallmarks of ADHD is insomnia. And it starts in infancy. It’s really hard for a kid with ADHD to get a good night’s sleep when most of the night is spent waking up and then having trouble getting back to sleep, spending 10 hours in bed and actually sleeping only 4-6 hours out of that.

  3. Talking drugs is the wrong answer. I used to tongue them then spit them out later. The reality is instead of dealing witht he real issues they push drugs for the ease of it. Wrong thing to do.

    From a school point of view, its because of a bad fit in the public system. In my case I was doing math/science 3 grades ahead of my current level but failing reading….confused them teachers to no end, confused me too at the time. They did tests, and more tests, found out I wasn’t AD anything, but genious IQ with dylexia. Took me years to deal with dyslexia.

    Public system works only for average to slightly below average commodity kids. Add in any differences to your kid, bingo, you kid is labeled and tunes out.

    How many know Einstein dropped out of High School at 16 and was dyslexic? If he was in grade 3 today they probably would have labeled him AD something, doped him up and move on ignoring the real issues. Use of drugs is wrong in 90%+ of the cases. Its the lazy way out and ignore the issues.

    Its in our culture and public school system, as we are far too much into conformance training, never question government and individual needs are ignored.

  4. Some notable people who dropped out of “cookie cutter” school that are famous, and today might get a AD[label]:

    Albert Einstein, dropped out at 15, dyslexia, genius.
    Thomas Edison, sickness, wandering mind, lack of attention.
    Benjamin Franklin, dropped out at 10, never graduated.
    Princess Diana, dropped out at 16, returned later, known for people skills.
    Bill Gates, Harvard droppout.
    John D. Rockefeller, high school dropout
    Walt Disney, high school dropout at 16.
    Richard Branson, Virgin mobile dyslexic billionaire dropped out at age 16.
    George Burns, dropped out of grade 4.
    Colonel Sanders, KFC fame, a elementary school dropout.
    Charles Dickens, dropout at age 12.
    Elton John, London’s Royal Academy of Music dropout at 17.
    Harry Houdini, dropout at 12 years of age.
    Ringo Starr, dropped out at age 15, barely could read and write.

    Few realize that alphabet reading is rather new to mankind and it is known many briliant minds have great difficulty in reading skills, and they can tune out …

    Take dyslexia, we treat it as a handicap, yet they could be Einstein.

  5. ADHD – a creation of big pharma, and lazy teachers.
    I had ADHD occassionally when I was a kid…..but a good smack usually cleared it up for a few days.

    • If a good smack “cured” you, then you didn’t have ADHD. And it existed long before there were pharmaceutical companies, with the first medical recognition of it as a condition appearing in the late 1860s.

  6. This comment was deleted.

    • We are eating better healthier food today than we have done in all history.

  7. Masculinity, in all its forms, is seen as undesirable in the west. Patriarchal, rigid, gender defining, etc. The only solution is to medicate the masculinity out of boys, turn them into pre-teen eunuchs. Sit still. Be quite. No rough play. Rough play is patriarchal and reinforces gender stereotypes. No competition. Competition leads to hurt feelings and low self esteem. It’s more important that the worlds most mediocre feel good about themselves than it is to ensure the best and brightest succeed. Medicate the desire to compete out of those who are the most aggressive, embrace mediocrity.

    • “Masculinity, in all its forms, is seen as undesirable in the west. Patriarchal, rigid, gender defining, etc.”
      This is a stereotype. You have only defined the conservative paradigm of masculinity which is stupid, brutish and homogeneous.

      There are many attibutes of being a man. Intelligence is one of them.

      • I know it’s a stereotype, and feminist rhetoric is replete with it.

        I agree that there are many attributes to being a man, intelligence being one of them. Until the narrative is changed however, that won’t be as important as drawing attention to: boys=men, men=patriarchy, patriarchy=bad. When, as a civilization, we return to celebrating rather than castigating men, we will see less of a need to medicate the masculinity (and success) out of boys.

        • …”medicate the success out of boys.”

          There is the rub. The people with ADHD are not typically experiencing success in school. Although hyperactivity and impulsivity gets kids noticed, their inability to focus on what is being taught means that aren’t experiencing success.
          Further, it isn’t only occurring in school. They are having problems at home with organization, distraction, hyperactivity, pestering their siblings to the point that their parents are seeking out help.

          • It should be clear that it is the structure that is failing boys. So much so that they need to be medicated more than twice as often as girls in order to “deal” with it. How much interest, or success for that matter, is anyone going to have in a civilization where they need to be medicated just to participate in its most fundamental steps?


            What about the girls then? How do you explain the girls? This is about in ability to focus. In boys it tends to couple with hyperactivity and impulsivity. This is not seen in girls. Yet in both genders there is an inability to focus.
            Yes, boys are more obvious in their presentation but not necessarily are they afflicted more often. They are only more noticeable because more tend to have the hyperactivity and impulsivity component than girls do.

          • It disproportionately affects boys negatively. It affects some girls too, but by and large boys are the victims here. With young women attending university at twice the rate of young men, it’s pretty hard to argue that girls are struggling in school.

          • Girls with ADHD are struggling in school. By your own admission, for every two boys diagnosed with ADHD, one girl is diagnosed with it so how could girls not be struggling if the boys are? If ADHD diagnosis is keeping boys out of university than it is keeping the girls with ADHD diagnosis out as well. Perhaps your theory about why boys aren’t succeeding and getting to university needs more work.

          • If the tables were reversed there would be zero discussion of struggling boys while two thirds of girls failed to make it beyond a very basic education. You can’t even address the fact that boys struggle in school, are more likely to be medicated, and by and large don’t seem to go on past high school. It’s more important to you that 100% of women succeed while a measly one third of men enjoy similar success. If you were concerned about people having success in life, you would care about helping those least likely to succeed. You have demonstrated zero sign of that.

          • Not at all. If I might re-cap. You claimed that “masculinity” is seen as undesirable and if I am not mistaken, you suggest ADHD diagnosis is a way for teachers to do away with masculinity (the expression of boys being boys) in schools. What I am saying is that for every 2 boys who are diagnosed with ADHD, 1 girl is diagnosed. Therefore, if there is an over-diagnosis of ADHD happening, it does not really make sense that it is about teachers attacking masculinity in boys because 1/2 of the time, they are attacking girls.

          • Once they hit college, boys learn the full extent of the pogrom.

          • It has nothing to do with gender….it has to do with culture.

          • The culture of demonizing masculinity.

          • I’d bet anything that at least 80% of the children diagnosed with ADHD just need more physical activity and less sugar.

          • My daughter was a competitive swimmer. She swam almost every day of the week and she ate a very good diet. She was not hyperactive in the least bit. She was very distracted most of time though unless it was something that really captured her imagination. She struggled with school and all kinds of lessons outside of school…most sports as well because she was always off in a day dream. She lost herself in books and movies. She couldn’t concentrate enough to get dressed to go out places so we had to really structure things and be constantly reminding her to keep her on task. She didn’t play video games either.

          • Sounds to me like you’re a good parent who taught their child how to focus and function in life. Children need structure, your comments leads me to believe that you provided it. I notice you didn’t mention her being on ADHD medication? If that’s the case, hats off to you, you put in the extra effort instead of drugging your child.

          • I am niot sure that I did my daughter any service. I spoke to a public health nurse about my concerns and she told me that if my daughter could concentrate on anything, she did not have ADHD. Years later, I went to a talk given by Dr. Sam Chang, a psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD and I asked him about my daughter’s behavior and he told me it was textbook for a girl with ADHD (without the hyperactivity component). My daughter did very poorly in some areas of school and as a result she had low self-esteem with regard to her abilities even though she was intelligent and excelled in other areas. She believed herself to be incapable of doing certain kinds of course work. She is now an adult and she has outgrown her ADHD as Dr. Chang said can happen. She has a top management position. However, she still feels she is not “smart” in certain areas of study. ADHD can be devastating for a child because they want to succeed but their brain is working against them. Now they have discovered genetic markers and brain scans to confirm the diagnosis for those who are skeptical of a diagnosis based on symptoms. Because ADHD tends to have a strong genetic component and I too had trouble in my childhood, I have no doubt that my daughter’s children will also have struggles. I will support her in whatever choices she makes for treating her children.

          • You did fine with the behavioral interventions, it looks like, but sometimes those alone are not enough. If you had opted to try medications, you *still* would have wanted to be just as vigilant about teaching the coping and compensation skills.

          • I was no stellar parent but I didn’t know any different until years later when I had another child who was a total opposite. One who never lost her belongings; who got dressed and who did her homework. It was a shock for me and I realized at that point that “wow, something was different with my older daughter.” My older daughter was never a behavior problem. She was a teacher’s pet until one year when the teacher took umbridge with her “pathetic skills” in certain subjects and her messiness (poor organization skills) and inability to focus. We ended up home schooling then because the teacher was a bully and my daughter was becoming very down on herself. Otherwise, she was this sweet, creative, very easy child who couldn’t keep on task but was funny and very well liked. That is why I am really taken aback when people think “swatting or spanking is gong to solve ADHD.” No child would willingly be this way.

          • One of my kids inherited my ADHD, and while I was in no position to teach her how to plan and organize, I did raise her to like herself (something parents in my parents’ generation did horribly with ADHD children) and it helped enough that she’s managed to cope without medications. Just teaching your child to accept and love him/herself as is can make a world of difference.

          • You would lose that bet. There have also been multitudes of study done on sugar and food additives that have conclusively shown that they do not cause ADHD or significantly impact the symptoms of children or adults with ADHD.

          • We’re discussing overdiagnosis, not the very few people who may actually have some kind of mental disorder. I’d say 80% overdiagnosis is not that gross of an overestimate in this day and age.

          • School equals success?

          • Success in school….as in good grades in elementary, junior and senior high school. If one cannot focus on what is being taught in the classroom, it is difficult to learn the subject matter and get good grades.

    • Rather interesting critique something worth exploring, how gender, culture and modernism impacts the way our children are being streamlined and ‘grouped’

  8. To the right mind, the thing called ADHD is an advantage, not a disability. The problem of course is the fact that conservative culture and mass education excels at homogeneity and stereotypes.

    • If accurately diagnosed, the biggest issue for a person with ADHD is an inability to focus (pay attention). I am not sure how that can be seen as an advantage for anyone.

      • “If accurately diagnosed, the biggest issue for a person with ADHD is an inability to focus (pay attention).”

        Which is only partially accurate.

        At one level a ADHD child will find difficulty paying attention, but at another level the same child ( or adult in both cases) has an extraordinary ability to focus attention. From the neurotypical standpoint of course, we can never understand, but at their level of potential ability we are often surprised.

        Problems are relatively poor ( or non-existent) interpersonal skills and the inability of neurotypicals to deal with them at a neurotypical level.

        Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs….. all absolutely brilliant, self taught and completely incorrigible.

        The problem is us, not them.

        • Yes, they can focus on what interests them. However, it takes great, almost insurmountable energy to focus on ever day necessary activities. Also, many outgrow ADHD. It isn’t always fair to compare what was noticed in childhood to what one experiences as an adult. “Sig” describes very well the struggles of an adult with ADHD. It isn’t an us v. them problem. It is a difficulty focusing on things that don’t grab your passion but require your attention unless you are an Einstein, a Gates or a Jobs and you can hire a lackey to do those things which you find tedious.

        • They were not self-taught, nor were they rebels.

          • They had to be self taught, for the most part, how else…..? Being a rebel is part of being ADHD.

          • The people mentioned were not self-taught, got normal school diplomas/degrees and were standard upright citizens, not ‘rebels’

          • They all were self taught because they had to be. They were/are good citizens and good citizens are often rebels.

            Society is not created by cattle, society is created by the likes of Winston Churchill, Henry Ford, Stephen Hawking, John F. Kennedy, Louis Pasteur, George Bernard Shaw……..

          • I’m afraid they all went to university. Einstein had a PhD

            They weren’t rebels either….nor are any of the other names you now mention.

            Intelligent, absolutely. Rebels, no.

          • Yes, all were self taught. All were rebels. All ADHD.

            You don’t achieve what they did by following the regular flock.

            Live with it!

          • Sorry, that’s just wrong and you’re being silly.

          • your idea that these flunkies of the elite create society is laughable. Destroy society is more like it.

        • I have ADHD and I hyperfocus on things that I enjoy. Even this “ability” has a downside though, because when I finally lose focus I’ll realise that I’d been hyperfocusing for hours and that it was 4am and I hadn’t eaten or slept in a long time.

          • ADHD can be a remarkable ability. Society must recognize this fact, and focus educational systems to help these people recognize their full potential.

    • Um, no. It’s a disorder. If you succeed, it’s in spite of it and because you have other characteristics, qualities, cultural and/or educational exposures that allow you opportunities to focus on things that actually retain your attention. The majority of people who have ADHD have difficulty with social relationships, have comorbid disorders that make it difficult to function on a daily basis, have learning disabilities, and find it hard to keep jobs and avoid substance abuse, along with getting into more accidents. No advantages there.

      • Maybe they have so much trouble because they’ve been on drugs since they were 6 years old.

        • That directly contradicts the volumes of study that finds that children who receive early intervention (especially combined medications and therapy) are significantly *less* likely to have these problems – especially the substance abuse. You might want to look at the science first, maybe get the opinions of professionals who work with ADHD patients or talk to some people with ADHD before coming to conclusions that contradict robust evidence.

          • You can’t say that someone who is permanently on drugs doesn’t have substance abuse issues just because the drug is legal.

          • So someone who takes blood thinner for atrial fibrillation has a substance abuse problem? Someone who takes benzodiazepines for seizures has a substance abuse problem? Someone who takes prescription pain medication for rheumatoid arthritis has a substance abuse problem? Because, you know, none of these drugs *cure* the conditions they treat, and you have to take them for as long as you have symptoms, which is for the rest of your life.

          • Except those are real. “Johnny doesn’t fit in, and he’s not calm and quiet enough” is not a disease. You can’t compare an adult chosing to deal with the side effects of medication over the pain of arthritis to a child being forced to deal with side effects they don’t understand while altering their mind before they’ve fully developed it. We are going to have a generation of people with personalities formed by a lifetime of being doped up because their parents didn’t want to put in the extra effort for an over-excitable child.

          • Again, I ask – on what basis do you determine what is “real” and what is “not real”? Do I get to do the same thing? Because if it’s entirely a matter of personal opinion, then my statement that it’s real because I have it trumps your statement that it’s not real because you don’t.

          • Actually, I believe the statistics show that it is the children who were never treated who are at risk for substance abuse problems in their teen years.

  9. The answer is simple when you actually READ the criteria for diagnosis. Any child burning off a sugar blast from candy or soft drinks qualifies.
    The problem is NOT with children, or even with the unqualified G.P.s that keep jumping to conclusions and providing a diagnosis of ADHD. The problem is that big pharma now owns the souls of those responsible for constructing the diagnoses AND treatments for the DSM (look it up!).
    They tailor diagnoses to exacerbate ‘epidemics’ that of course require their products.

    After all expanding the market for these types of medications would have to be thought impossible after the big pharma promoted abuse of the 60s…remember?

    The Rolling Stones “she goes running for the shelter of her mothers little helper”???

    How about George Carlin… “where ya going mom? shopping at midnight? …well yanno they’re open.

    The problem is the criteria for testing is 100% in the control of the companies that produce the drugs and ‘manage’ the construction of the book used to diagnose.

    • What about the children and adults who are not hyperactive but have an inability to focus? They are not “burning off a sugar blast.”

  10. I see there’s a lot of regurgitation here of the tired old narrative that the problem isn’t ADHD; it’s humdrum schools that can’t cope with brilliant kids (and the usual dubious lists of famous geniuses who supposedly had ADHD and hated school have been trotted out). While such narratives may make us feel like brilliant rebels (and sooth the egos of parents with ADHD kids), rationalizing away the disorder as the symptom of a high IQ doesn’t help kids who actually have to live with ADHD. It’s as misleading as the counterculture romanticization of insanity as an understandable response to a sick world.

    • Excellent comment.

    • You are correct that most people diagnosed with AD(H)D are not budding brilliant rebels.

      But…how could government run schools NOT be playing a part? The children and adolescents in these schools are rigidly segregated by age (totally unnatural in terms of evolution), rather than intellectual abilities and interests, and are made to sit still for hours on end while spending seemingly arbitrary amounts of time on activities designed by teams of bureaucrats.

      Public schools are government run monopolies, whose funding do not depend on the satisfaction of their “customers”. Rather, funding comes from taxation, which is always ultimately extracted at the point of a gun. There is also the troubling origin of public schools, which originated in 19th century Prussia as a way to train obedient factory workers (hence the bells).

      “Although teachers do care and do work very, very hard, the institution
      is psychopathic-it has no conscience. It rings a bell and the young man
      in the middle of writing a poem must close his notebook and move to a
      different cell where he must memorize that humans and monkeys derive
      from a common ancestor.”

      ―John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

  11. Only at an early age is over-stimulation a good thing for development. After that it’s all loss. So the rise of the plugged-in gameboys and gamegirls is a big factor. There are now undergrads who can’t sit still for longer than 15 minutes; reason? they need to see who just texted them. Also, they can’t focus on one human speaker.

    Aside from that, I’m suprised by the absence of the obvious from this article. The chief culprit is conformist, collectivist, and female-privileging teaching styles; the all-female teaching staff, and the single-mom parental model.

    • As a mother of a son who will be 30 this year and was diagnosed at 8 with ADHD and border line tourettes, we lived a total nightmare with him and the education system, my son has a exceptional IQ but would get bored very easy and could not focus long periods of time, the school notified us that if we did not put him on ritalin he would no longer be able to attend that school, with the greatest thanks and help from Beach Groove in Kingston they came to our aid and went to our sons school and not only stated that the medication would bring out the tourettes more but that our son could learn to deal with this with the help of the school making adjustments ie let him get up every hour and quietly just stretch for a minute or two then sit back down, the school did not like this and fought tooth and nail, so our sons specialist from Beach Groove showed up one day to quietly observe him in the class without warning to see how he was acting, the Dr was refused admittance without proper notice.
      You have to understand from the inside of the childs mind the war that is going on, my son was told to walk down the hall and not touch the lockers, he walked and I watched as he twitched and finally let go and hit every 3rd or so locker and as he got to the end he just sobbed ” i tried so hard mommy, but i just had to” these children dont ask to be like this, and life for them in school is a living hell, making friends is a nightmare, so they learn to cope in what ever way they know how, in my sons case he became the class clown as he got older because he discovered if they thought he was funny they at least paid attention to him and he had “friends”.
      Learning to adjust as a adult in the real world is not any easier, trying to keep a schedule and organize yourself and people wondering why you dont show feelings, it is a long endless road… for you people that sit in your big cushy chairs and spout your great intelligence and knowledge of how its just made up and doesnt exist…..walk in these shoes and then come back and shoot your mouth off til then i suggest you clamp it!
      Oh ya as for where it comes from, I never drank, smoke or took any sort of drugs perscription or other and wouldnt be around 2nd hand smoke, I suggest we look in to all the stuff being pumped in to our food sources our shampoos soaps and the list goes on then look in to vaccinations etc there is going to be a certain amount of bad with the good always.

      • I agree with you but you lost me at the “look into vaccinations”. Children have been receiving most vaccinations since the early 1960’s. To not vaccinate your child is just creating a whole other set of problems.

      • Nobody’s talking about the accurate diagnoses; we’re talking about the abuse of diagnosis. You have my support in your ongoing struggles.

      • Oh ya as for where it comes from, I never drank, smoke or took any sort
        of drugs perscription or other and wouldnt be around 2nd hand smoke,

        You are a liar. It’s that simple.

    • Wow. So if we took women out of society, ADHD would clear up? (Actually, it kind of would, since the species would die out. No new humans, no new ADHD.)

      • So let’s see if we have your argument straight. Repairing wall-to-wall hostility to men means “taking all women out of society” eh? Wuul sure, if society is all on the Island of Lesbos.

        • Hey, you said it, you should own in instead of backpedaling.

      • I think his point is that we shouldn’t try to force boys to be like girls. Generally, girls are gentle and thoughtful and boys are rough and impulsive. I think it’s a really good point to think about.

        • So we should enforce one kind of gender stereotype on all children and that will fix everything, as long as it’s the *right* gender stereotype? I think we have historical precedents to show that’s not the answer.

          • I’m saying the exact opposite of that. It’s not a gender stereotype that girls tend to be more gentle and boys tend to be more boistrous, have you ever met children? I never said we should force any gender stereotype on children, I said, currently, there is a lot of pressure on little boys to be more like little girls TEND to be.

    • Except that AD/HD appears in girls at the same rates as boys but is just extremely underdiagnosed.

  12. All his crap on adhd and drugging the kids if there was any real parenting or punishment like there used to be itwouldnt happen, kids are hyperactive so kick there ass outside and off the damn tv are people really this stupid? Kicking and screaming and jumping around spank them whats so hard about that kids have no respect because in western culture its no longer ok to punish yur child without CPs getting involved and yes there is a huge difference between punish and abuse people. Drugging your kids because your to damn lazy to deal with them is not only retarded but just fills the already rich poketsof pharmecuticle companies and the physicians of those perscribing the so called medication

    • A good number of the children diagnosed with ADHD do not have a hyperactivity component. They are not “kicking and screaming and jumping around.” Rather they are quietly daydreaming and completely missing what is going on around them….mainly what is being taught to them, in school; in swim lessons; in other organized sports. They are completely distracted but they are not a behavior problem and so they go unnoticed…except they do poorly come examination time because they haven’t be paying any attention to the instructions. They are the children people describe as always distracted.

      • That was me in school and not a finger was lifted to help me, not even when I later OBVIOUSLY had hypothyroidism and I was sleeping through ALL my classes, going home and sleeping and not doing any homework.

        I managed to get Cs and was only diagnosed with hypothyroidism when my doctor was delighted my heart rate was below 70. My mom knew something was up and explained that all I did was sleep and I definitely wasn’t an athlete.

        Schools definitely don’t do enough to help students in need.

    • Abusing your children because you don’t trust science is a way worse method of dealing with ADHD than using medication to help them succeed in school: an environment they are not suited for but society upholds as a necessity.

      • There is no scientific test for ADHD. You sit them in a room with a drug pusher, and the drug pusher gets a diagnosis to stick. The day ADHD shows up on a CAT scan is the day I’ll believe it actually exists.

        • What are your opinions on other mental health disorders….depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia? Do you know that none of these disorders actually have “scientific tests” yet to diagnose them? Do you also know that medication is not the only way to treat ADHD? The FDA has licensed a specialized EEG to diagnose ADHD (it is a version of the test used to diagnose epilepsy.) Physicians can also see differences in the brains of people with ADHD on PET scans.

    • Do you punish your kids for not being able to see the board, or do you get them glasses? Which do you think works better?

      • We can easily tell if someones vision is not 20/20, all optemitrists check your vision the same way. ADHD diagnosis is left to the discretion of individual phychiatrists and psychologists, based on their interpretation of a book, written partially by shareholders of pharmaeutical companies. The whole point is that they are throwing around this diagnosis left and right and changing the course of a childs life when most of these children really just need more exercise.

        • No. I have ADHD. I know other people who have ADHD. It’s a completely different way of thinking, and it’s not “cured” by anything. I was diagnosed back before there were medications for it, too, as were many of the people I know who have it, and we exercised plenty, because this was in the days before we had electronic distractions and before they were prescribing medications unless you were a budding criminal. It didn’t help in the 50s and 60s, it’s not magically going to help now.

          • You can’t “cure” something imaginary. It would be “cured” by a society that decided individuals need to self regulate. If I don’t plan my meals for the week in advance and only buy the gorceries for those meals specifically, I will binge eat. If I don’t wake up at the same time every day, I will be lazy and sluggish. If I binge eat and get lazy and sluggish, I get depressed. So, instead of running to the dr and supporting big pharma, I stick to the behaviors that lead me to be a productive member of society. People need to try fixing themselves, and use medications as a LAST resort.

          • Ah, there’s the problem. You believe it’s “imaginary.” What makes something “not imaginary” to you? Because let me tell you, it’s not imaginary to me or anyone else who’s got it. Oh, for a machine that would plug people into my head. . .

          • Maybe not you specifically, maybe not a third of the kids diagnosed, but we are teaching people to be weak willed. It is not easy for anyone to force themselves to do things they find boring. It is not easy for anyone to give themselves the amount of structure and regularity it takes to live this mundane same thing every day society we are in with a positive outlook. You are teaching kids from an insanely young age that they do not have control over their own minds and behavior. If you tell a six year old “you can’t learn to focus, here’s pills” they will NEVER get the mental strength to properly cope with life.

            No one has any accountability. Alcoholism is a disease, obesity is a disease, everyone’s depressed, on and on ad nauseum. It makes me sick.

          • I don’t think you realize how difficult it actually is to get a diagnosis and get treatment. There will always be bad doctors out there who are just trying to get as many patients in and out the door as possible, and if that means writing the prescription the patient asks for, then so be it.

            However, those of us who really want treatment that works and have to fight tooth and nail with our insurance companies for every little thing have a really, really hard time getting medications for our ADHD. And once you’ve gone through the process of elimination and hit on the right medication, you need to be on the phone with your insurance company every month because you need to see the doctor face to face every month for the prescription (no refills, so you have to pay for the appointment as well as the prescription each month) and then the insurance company doesn’t want to let you fill the prescription unless the doctor fills out a form saying that his body wasn’t possessed by demons and he wasn’t suffering from temporary insanity when he wrote you that prescription, and he really did prescribe you that stuff intentionally.

            Plus, you need to drive all over creation to get it, because if you respond to brand of one formula, you could have a completely different response to a different medication and your regular pharmacy gets a different version every month because the supplier changes its mind about what kind it’s going to carry. I have a generic that works better than the brand, but the other generics either do nothing or give me debilitating panic attacks, so every time I go to the pharmacy I have to remember to ask if they have that generic this month, and if they don’t, I need to call around until I find a store that does.

            Medications are by no means the “easy way out.”

  13. We chose to SPANK our kids, so we wouldn’t have to deal with all the doctors and drugs. They thanks us for it now.

    • “They thanks us for it now.”

      I doubt it.

      • Maybe if you got your HEAD OUT OF THE PARENTING BOOKS you’d realize that kids like to have clear limits on behavior and clear punishments.

    • Yeah, that worked really well for my ADHD, which still troubles me at 53.

      • No, spanking your kids doesn’t help your problem, and it didn’t help mine (which I also still have), but it DEFINITELY helped my kids.

  14. The other aspect we haven’t taken a look at is that North American culture has a lot of people in isolation. As someone who is only diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, I never really thought about the symptoms until I moved here and is far away from the familiar support groups that I have, like family and close friends. Those are factors that did help in my past that help set me straight. Those with ADHD need a lot of structure, and if nobody is providing structure to them then bad things can happen. Being left on your own without close guidance from others will leave someone without the necessary structure, and if no proper habits form around having the structure, then life becomes more difficult for the one with ADHD.

    • Yes, but with that proper structure and training those with ADHD can excel in any field….even better than the neurotypical.

      You don’t harness a race horse to plow fields or use a Maserati to pull stumps.

  15. This has been going on for decades. It happened to me in the 1970s; I was told I was “hyperactive” and placed on medication. I was a really smart kid who got bored easily, but no one apparently noticed that I also had a huge learning disability in math. (It wasn’t diagnosed until 2012!) I do not (and did not) have ADHD. But schools back then barely knew about dyslexia, let alone dyscalculia. And my school was so small–they didn’t have a gifted program (where a teacher might have caught it earlier) and the only resources were for more seriously disabled kids. I wish there had been something or someone who recognized it earlier.

  16. We now live in the most mentally stimulating time in human history, with TV, the Internet, and mobile phone, where we take in more information in one day than someone would in an entire lifetime around 150 years ago; and we wonder why children struggle to concentrate?

    I suspect that a large portion of ADHD diagnoses is purely a calculated shift in blame by the parents (of themselves) and onto their children for bad behavior, simply put if a child is diagnosed with ADHD then the parents don’t take any blame in their upbringing for bad behavior.

    • That only applies to white boys seeing as AD/HD is underdiagnosed in minority boys and extremely underdiagnosed in girls. The issue is with testing which the premier psychologists in the field admit. The current tests for AD/HD leave a lot of wiggle room and misdiagnosis. AD/HD is more than attention problems and hyperactivity and we need to find a way to test for the rest of the issues.

  17. Articles like this have been very prevalent in the media for the last 20 years, and I know myself that before having kids I thought ADHD was made up. Now having two boys with ADHD I know it is a very real disorder and growing in prevalance all the time.
    I think the media needs to take some responsibility in this matter and stop trying to convince people that it doesn’t exist or exists very rarely and instead turn the focus into what enviornment factors are causing this.

    • Whats causing this is stuffing kids full of sugar all day and having them sit still in the classroom and then planting them in front of the tv and expecting them to not get fidgity. How about you tell your kids to go outside and play instead of doping them up so they’ll behave as lazily a middle aged obese person.

      • It’s been found that sugar is not the cause of AD/HD. Neither is bad parenting. AD/HD is far more than just attention problems and hyperactivity.

    • The biggest factor is heritability. 80% of people diagnosed with ADHD have a blood relative with ADHD. I believe it goes up into the 90s if the parent has ADHD. So the most relevant environmental factor is people who have ADHD reproducing. I don’t see a good ethical way of changing that one.

  18. It’s called evolution. Stop trying to shoehorn our kids into and outdated paradigm.

    It’s the “I am Legend” syndrome. When half to most of the kids are testing positive for some flavor of autism, you have to sit back and look at whats going on.

    I’m more concerned that the people who taught our teacher who are teaching right now have not had the proper training to deal with our kids.

    • Except AD/HD has been known under different names for centuries.

  19. cannabis oil has had remarkable results with adhd etc.

  20. such a long and dull article for anyone with ADHD

    • Glad I got meds to help me speed read. NEXT…

    • I didn’t even read the article…>_>

  21. since it is a reason to get a check from ssi adha has become an academic.
    you will see adha is concentrated into the states that opted in to this
    ssi program.about 80% of the kids diagnosed with with adha dont have it.
    its just supplemental income for the families that get it,so they dont argue
    about it.use it for an excuse for the bratty behavior of their kids.
    since minnesota opts in for all these ssi programs adha is pandemic here.

  22. What’s funny is, when I was growing up the two kids whose parents never punished them, and wanted to let them be free spirits are the ones that were diagnosed with ADHD at an early age. Now the medicine has taken them over, and they are completely different people..

    • You say that like it’s a bad thing. A schitzophrenic is completely different on and off medication. As is someone with bipolar disorder or depression.

  23. …the “father” of ADHD, Leon Eisenberg, would presumably say if he were still alive. On his death bed, this psychiatrist and autism pioneer admitted that ADHD is essentially a “fictitious disease,” which means that millions of young children today are being needlessly prescribed severe mind-altering drugs that will set them up for a life of drug addiction and failure.

    • Except that their are distinct brain differences between neuronormal people and those with AD/HD. The issue is more with the name and what is attributed to the disorder than it not being a real disorder. AD/HD transcends attention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. It’s about a failure of self regulation and also includes problems with working memory. Those with AD/HD have problems with time, forgetfulness and motivation as well as the typical aspects you hear about.

  24. Training our children to be addicts earlier and earlier in life can only be a bad practice.

  25. empires are not defeated, they simply self destroy. remember this in a few years when our kids will have become the underdogs to the rest of the world which fortunately doesn’t buy this nonsense north americam approach – which is communism at its worse – of all being equal. east asia got the jobs, growth, a future and are laughing their rears at us. tomorrow they will be in charge with the kids they grow and support while we drug ours…

  26. Could there be a connection between ADHD and modern family life–both parents working, high divorce rates, inadequate parenting?

  27. AD[…] just means use drugs to dope them up for compliance, and to ignore the real issues.

    Hey, if a child was like Einstein with dyslexia, he would have been labled with AD[…] flavor of the day then doped up. Yep, Einstein had AD[…] as school was too slow and he had dyslexia.

    I am glad they didn’t have drugs like today back then as E=MC^2 and relative theories advanced science to our benefit in a huge way. You don’t think E=MC^2 when doped up for conformance issues.

    Public school is about conformance, works well for 75% of the kids, the other 25% takes their chances as drugs are easy compared to facing the reality that the system is not functional for all kids.

  28. Acceptable human behavior is determined by how the current society see “normal”, not by the explanation of human nature. e.g. having a curios mind can be judged by the society.

  29. more vindication for homeschooling

  30. “no medical test or brain scan give a definitive diagnosis” Pretty much says it all. Just another invented label by psychiatrists with no valid medical test to prove this exists. My nephew told me his teacher thought he had ADHD because he couldn’t pay attention in class.(Since when did teachers become doctors?) I asked him how long he plays video games. He says-8,9hrs. So something HE likes, he can put his attention on for hours. Did he like the subject or the class with that teacher? No. Remember, there is no test, and inattention is not a disease.

  31. My twins were diagnosed (by the teachers at school) and I was told they needed Ritalin to calm down and pay attention. It was a major ordeal, especially when I refused to put them on medication. Twenty years later they have long since graduated and have excellent careers and still no ADHD, their only problem was they were typical boys who were bored stiff at school. Teachers (and many others) are too quick to label active / bored children and get them on medication so they can be stuffed in the neat little box! I really think the failing is in the education system as well as society in general . . . not to mention the multi billion dollar pharmaceutical companies pushing all kinds of chemical additives into people (how else do they make their money).

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  45. As a female individual with ADHD I find this article misleading. For one, stimulants do in fact calm us down. Many ADHD people self medicate with caffeine, a stimulant, and it makes them sleepy, not hyper. For another, the dopamine is a theory that recently has been questioned. There are a great number of brain chemicals an which of could single handedly or combinationally be involved in ADHD, or none at all. The traits we see as bad now and call ADHD were necessary for survival at one point in our evolution. So, I think the real question here is why are we even calling ADHD a condition in the first place? Why are we not creating more opportunities for the “ADHD” to do what they are built to do.

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