Myth #7: ADHD Is A Controversial Diagnosis

Myth #7: ADHD Is A Controversial Diagnosis

Prowl around on the Internet, and you’ll see thousands of Web sites decrying ADHD as a hoax and controversial diagnosis. You’ll see virulent accusations that the psychiatric profession is teaming up with the pharmaceutical industry to drum up business by. “inventing a disorder”.

While visiting these sites, you’re typically encouraged to buy a book or some overpriced, questionable brain remedies. Scare tactics sell, it seems.

If you or your loved one has ADHD, however, you know it is a very real condition. Evidence only continues to mount, even if many mental-healthcare providers have not kept up with the best medical practices.

The International Consensus Statement on ADHD

More than a decade ago, researchers and clinicians became fed up with the widespread myths, misconceptions, and outlandish ideas about ADHD. They feared that inaccurate information portraying ADHD as a fraud or a trivial condition would prevent thousands from seeking necessary treatment.

In 2002, led by psychologist Russell Barkley, they drafted International Consensus Statement on ADHD.

The statement clearly and succinctly documents scientific findings regarding the validity and adverse impact of untreated ADHD on the lives of the many it affects. Its 85 signatories include noted physicians, psychologists, and scientists worldwide.

An excerpt:

Occasional coverage of the disorder casts the story in the form of a sporting event with evenly matched competitors. It is more than a decade later, and the peer-reviewed published literature has at least quadrupled, with 1,000s more serious researchers devoting their work to ADHD.

The views of a handful of non-expert doctors that ADHD does not exist are contrasted against mainstream scientific views that it does, as if both views had equal merit.

Such attempts at balance give the public the impression that there is substantial scientific disagreement over whether ADHD is a real medical condition. In fact, there is no such disagreement….

To be clear, ADHD is a valid diagnosis, with a strong physical, brain-centered basis.

“One of the  Best Researched Disorders in Medicine”

Even a decade ago, the American Medical Association formed a a commission that concluded (see Diagnosis and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents. Council on Scientific Affairs, American Medical Association):

ADHD is one of the best researched disorders in medicine, and the overall data on its validity are far more compelling than for most mental disorders and many other medical conditions.

ADHD is accepted as a noncontroversial, valid disorder by these professional organizations, among others:

  • U. S. Surgeon General
  • American Medical Association
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
  • American Psychological Association
  • Canadian Psychiatric Association

By 1993, 31 countries had adopted the use of ADHD medication, according to one well-regarded study. By 2003, 55 nations officially recognized both ADHD as a valid disorder and medication as a treatment for it.

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Bottom line: There is No Controversy

Your comments welcome.

There are no annoying codes to enter.

—Gina Pera


3 thoughts on “Myth #7: ADHD Is A Controversial Diagnosis”

  1. Hi David,

    Thanks so much for your kind words.

    I grew up in Memphis, which had a great old wooden roller coaster — the Pippin. It was thrilling in a gentle way, I guess you could say. I thought all roller coasters were like that.

    Later, I moved to San Diego, where I rode the coaster at Pacific Beach. Oh man, I thought my neck was going to be twisted permanently out of shape! Those were some jerky turns! Later, I found out from my friend at a nearby hospital ER that all kinds of folks ended up in the ER after riding that coaster!

    So, the moral of this story, I guess, is: Coasters can be wonderful fun, when they aren’t the kind that break your neck and land you in the ER! 🙂


  2. Proof that ADHD is a valid disorder is easily seen in the people who learn to manage and recover from its adverse effects. Like addiction, it never “goes away” per se, but with cognitive and behavioral adaptations, aided by effective medication, life can significantly improve for everyone involved. Maybe it is just so prevalent and insidious, “experts” aren’t tuned in sensitively enough to recognize its signs and symptoms. It’s logical therefore, for them to dismiss it. Most people who live with ADHD partners find it difficult to explain their distress to others who don’t quite “get it.” But “it” is real to anyone who has dealt closely with one who has it.

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