Be Careful With that ADHD Diagnosis

young boy sitting alone looking down at hands

ADD, ADHD…today these terms get thrown around like synonyms and like candy. Everyone has it, or knows someone who has it or who thought they had it but don’t anymore. Are therapists leaning too heavily on this diagnosis when they don’t know what else to say? Are they misdiagnosing because it’s an easy and vague way out? Now, more than ever, it’s important to listen to your therapist but also to do your own research and make sure that your outcomes relate to what you’re being told in your session.

A new European study suggests that ADHD can be significantly over-diagnosed; but, it can also be under-diagnosed. So, the bottom line is to pay close attention so that you’re not part of either category. Researchers from Ruhr-Universitat Bochum and University of Basel show that children are typically over diagnosed because these therapists are basing their diagnosis on a checklist rather than on observation. Boys are especially prone to misdiagnosis.

The ‘check-list’ for kids with ADD and ADHD can often be too close to the definition of childhood: interrupts, blurts out answers out of turn, fidgets, talks a lot, can’t focus. Most nay-sayers cite these ADD attributes as signs of childhood or intelligence and label it an over-drugging of children when they are treated with drugs for the condition. They also argue that conditions of child abuse, neglect and otherwise complicated home life can lead to the same symptoms of ADD but can really just be a matter of environment and poor circumstance.

In a study conducted by Drs. Silvia Schneider and Jurgen Margraf and Dr. Katrin Bruchmuller, therapists were given various cases throughout Germany. They were asked to diagnose and recommend therapy.

Only one of four cases were actually ADHD, and therapists diagnosed more boys than girls. A boy will often have part of the characteristics of ADHD and lead to a misdiagnosis, a jumping to conclusion on the part of the therapist while the girl’s case will not be further considered because the obvious ‘checklist points’ are not present. Not much work is being done on improving means for doing tests on this illness, though plenty of therapists are jumping on the band wagon. Thirty percent more ADHD diagnoses have been made in Germany in the last decade.

With new diagnoses, it’s important to realize when your therapist or psychologist is depending on an easy out or if they’re actually concerned about the well-being of your family member. It’s important not to discount the legitimacy of the disease, which is real and which does affect many adults and children, but it’s just as important to make sure that your family member is not misdiagnosed because of the laziness or miseducation of the therapist.

Children who have ADHD very rarely outgrow it in adulthood. In fact, they will often get worse. But if your child has, for example, anxiety and not ADHD, it’s important to make sure they’re getting treated for the specific disorder and not for a blanket cop-out diagnosis. Or, if your child is simply acting out because he or she is not getting enough attention at home or at school or has another health problem, physical or mental, he/she might be acting out because there is no way to communicate the paint that’s being caused. Be careful that you’re not overlooking the real cause of the trouble because it’s an ‘easy’ answer. Likewise, if it is really and truly ADHD, don’t write it off. It’s a real disorder and needs attention like any other health problem.

Connie Young writes for medical blogs and journals. She writes for www.adultadhd.net where you can find useful information on medications used to treat adult adhd. Click here to compare pemoline and dexedrine.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want an accurate diagnosis.

Image courtesy of kellyhogaboom via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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