Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder: Myth or Reality? Health Gavel™

Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder:  Myth or Reality?  Health Gavel™

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Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder: Myth or Reality?

Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder is the most commonly studied and diagnosed disorder in children. In the United States alone, it is estimated that approximately 6 million children are currently diagnosed with ADHD, as opposed to 1985, where that number was just at 500,000. Because of the large and somewhat sudden increase in numbers, there has been much controversy over the diagnosis of this disorder. Is this a true psychiatric disorder or are the good old days of “kids being kids” being exploited as an excuse for another medical condition?

We all have moments of impulsivity. Children definitely spend a lot of their time running around. Students all, at one time or another, shout out answers in class. Kids will climb on furniture and throw things just for fun. They will not all be able to sit through full length movies, or even short television programs. But does that automatically mean that this child has an attention disorder accompanied by a component of hyperactivity? Definitely not. However, when these behaviors become excessive, uncontrollable, and socially hindering, it is time to look into possible reasons why.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is not something that can be as easily diagnosed as diabetes, high blood pressure or a thyroid disorder. While there is no lab test that can conclude that a child has ADHD, the American Psychiatric Association in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), has listed definitive criteria for a diagnosis (for more information on this criteria, visit http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html).

There is no need to be alarmed if you look at these criteria and realize your child has exhibited some, or many of these symptoms. Children are very active and believe it or not, most of these behaviors are quite normal in developing children. It is when these behaviors impede on a child’s ability to learn and socialize that there is cause for further investigation.

While this information alone may leave many still skeptical about the validity of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, there is further evidence that there may actually be a difference in brain development in children with ADHD than in those without it.

Dr. Philip Shaw, who led the research team at the Child Psychiatry Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), released a study in 2007 which offered physiological evidence for ADHD. Shaw found that there was a developmental “lag” or delay in the part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) responsible for functions such as attention, focusing, memory and the ability to suppress impulsive responses, while the primary cortex, or the area of the brain responsible for generating neural impulses which control the execution of movement, develops at a more rapid pace. The inverse development of these two areas of the brain may be the reason why children with ADHD are so impulsive and restless.

Unless you have direct contact with a child with ADHD, this disorder may be far fetched and hard to comprehend. Even Tom Cruise has publically stated his opinion that this disorder and psychiatry as a whole is a “quack”. Unfortunately, this opinion is shared too widely by many people, making it hard for these children to get the attention and treatment they deserve. Is ADHD being overdiagnosed? Maybe. But that still does not take away from the many children whose lives are affected by this very real disorder. Just ask a teacher who has a child with ADHD in her classroom or a competent, firm parent who has a child that is completely impulsive and hyper. Take a minute to become educated on this before you pass judgment.

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