It had been widely accepted that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (A.D.H.D.) and Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.), while being on the rise, affected only about 4 percent or 5 percent of the juvenile and adult populations in the United States. This reasonably low percentage felt, well… reasonable when dealing with such disorders that impact a person’s ability to maintain attentiveness as well as control impulsivity. There were prescriptions, therapies, and a laundry list of things to avoid while addressing the particular needs of this small percentage of the population. But now this small percentage has apparently ballooned to more than double, if not triple, of what was previously estimated.
According to new data from the CDC, about one in five high-school-aged boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “The figures showed that an estimated 6.4 million children ages 4 through 17 had received an A.D.H.D. diagnosis at some point in their lives, a 16 percent increase since 2007 and a 53 percent rise in the past decade,” as reported in The New York Times.
While boys make up the lion’s share of those with the diagnosis, rates for girls have been on a marked rise as well. Many critics of such findings see this uptick as a result of over diagnosing the disorder, as well as over-medicating the symptoms. And the likelihood is that even more teenagers are likely to be prescribed medication in the very near future because the American Psychiatric Association has plans to change the definition of A.D.H.D. to allow more people to receive the diagnosis and treatment.
To be clear, an A.D.H.D. diagnosis (same goes for A.D.D.) is wholly subjective, and there exists no definitive test that lands you with a clear diagnosis of any sort. The diagnosis is determined by speaking with patients, parents, and ruling out any other possible causes. Such diagnosis not only label children, but also set them up for a course of medications to modify behavior.
While some see the rise in such diagnosis as a positive sign toward widespread treatment of a disorder that used to be largely ignored, others view it as too many bad calls and the rampant and increasing medicating of our young people. Are we jumping to conclusions that may not serve our children in the long run? What message are we sending to our children when we meet adversity with a label and a bottle of pills? Where do you stand on the A.D.D. and A.D.H.D. controversy?