Is ADHD Fakery On the Rise?

Faking ADHD has become the latest strategy high school students use to gain the upper hand in the college admissions game, says a January 25th Daily Beast article. Parents (and in particular those whose children attend “elite Manhattan” private schools — I’ve known at least one) have become “amenable to lightweight diagnoses like ADHD that won’t brand kids with a scarlet letter while applying to schools” and seek out neuropsychological testing for children whose “ADHD” may be more perceived, if not pretend, than actual. The reason is the “accommodations” a student with ADHD can receive, such as more time to take standardized tests like the SAT, more time for assignments and even alternative assignments and access to medications including Ritalin and Adderall.

The Daily Beast cites a 2002 study by the College Board (which administers the SAT) that indeed shows that there has been an “increase in the number of applicants who take tests in nonstandard conditions.” Certainly, the number of students diagnosed with ADHD has increased in recent years, with nearly 1 out of 10 children in the US now diagnosed with the condition. More students may be diagnosed with ADHD because parents, pediatricians and teachers are better informed about it and aware of how accommodations can a help a child succeed. But as the Daily Beast suggests, greater awareness of ADHD can also mean that more parties will seek a diagnosis, whether a student really has had lifelong struggles with focusing, controlling impulsive behavior and hyperactivity.

Faking ADHD: Easier Than You May Think

A 2010 study in the journal Psychological Assessment found that it is not too difficult for college students, armed with some quick Google research, to feign ADHD. Professor David Berry of the University of Kentucky and his colleagues had a group of college students — some who had ADHD and were not taking their medication, and some who had been instructed to pretend to have ADHD — take two self-report tests, the ADHA Rating Scale (ARS) and the Conners Adult ADHD Rating Scale (CAARS). The researchers found that such self-report assessments had “no value” in detecting those who were only pretending to have ADHD.

Saying that you have “attention issues” or “problems focusing” has become commonplace, but there are plenty of children, teenagers and adults who have ADHD — whose brains are “differently wired” — and who have faced immense challenges not only in taking tests and completing homework, but in everything from social interactions to sports, with effects on their self-confidence and sense of self-worth.

Growing Up With ADHD But Without a Diagnosis

My husband Jim has really severe ADHD and would tell anyone in a second that he’s had it all his life, as did his late mother. Jim was pegged with having “minimal brain damage” by a school psychologist in high school after spending his childhood being censured, and worse, by his parents for being unable to pay attention, sit still and stop talking. In those days (the 1960s), such behaviors were met not with testing, services and compassion, but with nuns (Jim attended Catholic school) taping his mouth shut and punishing him by keeping him after school to write “I will not misbehave in school” hundreds of times.

When Jim (he’s now a professor of cultural studies and religion in New York) visited a psychologist some years ago, he was told he definitely has ADHD (in contrast to a number of other people who had self-diagnosed themselves with ADHD and sought out the psychologist’s stamp of approval).

If the “faking ADHD college admissions strategy” is indeed the case — if an ADHD diagnosis is being understood as another tool to give a student an “advantage” in getting into a top college — it is a regrettable sign of the lengths students, and their parents, will go just to be able to put a sticker with [insert name of Ivy League school here] on the back of their SUV. Faking an ADHD diagnosis simply to “get ahead” in college admissions and in one’s educational performance does a real disservice — is a slap in the face — to those individuals who actually have ADHD and real, documented learning disabilities such as dyslexia and whose struggles in the classroom need to be taken seriously rather than discounted.


Related Care2 Coverage

A Bicycle Built For School

Identifying the Causes of ADHD

Will New Diagnostic Criteria End the “Autism Epidemic”?

3 Million Kids on ADD/ADHD Drugs: Not a Long-Term Solution



Photo by j_lai


K B.
K B4 years ago

Thanks for the article , following is a petition which asks the schools to educate their teachers and staff about adhd, I've had a few teachers sign because they care ..

Have a good week , love to all

Kenneth L.
Kenneth L5 years ago

(last paragraph cut off)---"What are the ethics of telling people they have biological brain diseases when there's no scientific proof that they do. If you tell somebody they have a chemical imbalance and you have no evidence that they do...and then you say because of the chemical imbalance that's why I'm precribing the medication...that's unethical, it's not scientific, it's not true" Dr. Colin A. Ross, Psychiatrist.

Kenneth L.
Kenneth L5 years ago

“…the carefully crafted image of psychiatry as a progressive medical science has come to supplant the reality of an unscientific, pseudo-medical specialty with imprecise and arbitrary diagnoses and questionably effective medications fraught with toxicities and side effects.” Dr. Philip Sinaikin, Psychiatrist
(regarding Psychiatry) "It's a very dangerous industry that has gone so far overboard in inventing fictitious diseases and drugging our children and population, that I consider it engaged in crimes against humanity" Mike Adams, Consumer Health Advocate
"The pharmaceutical industry reaches right into our living room on a daily basis, and tries to convince us that we have this (psychiatric) problem that they can solve with a pill. That's dangerous! If you can convince somebody that they've got a medical or biological problem, that the only thing to solve it is a pill, it stands to reason you're going to sell more pills" Dr. Martin Congro, Clinical Psychologist
regarding psychiatric mental health screening) "By the time you're 18, you've been screened in utero, you were screend as an infant when you first came out, you were screened in your daycare, you were screened then at school, you were screened at the pediatrician's office, you were screened at high school---you're screened over and over again" Dr. Toby Watson, Clinical Psychologist
"What are the ethics of telling people they have biological brain diseases when there's no scientific proof that t

Karla B.
K B5 years ago

this petition asks for teachers to be aware of ADHD and to undergo an initial 40 minute informational session that will help them sympathize with the child and parent .. ..

Karla B.
K B5 years ago

The argument seems to always be, the teachers have enough on their hands to take care of all the children.. but in fact the schools are propagating the idea that every child is different, every child has a learning style .. and every child is important .. how does the school system live up to these statements, how does it implement these ideals, if the teachers are alway saying that they cannot handle All the kids .. why state that Every kid is important .. it seems to me some kids are getting not too much attention and empathy.. and it's always those who need it.

I Care For The World

ADHD man feels better than ever without drugs

watch video

A man who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder as a four-year-old and spent most of his life on behaviour altering medication has now ditched the drugs and says he feels better than ever.

Barbara S.

Perhaps some of the people truly do have a brain malfunction, and if so, could it be due to the polluted water, soil, air, and all the food we're eating that's grown in this polluted environment?

It's hard to say.

But I don't think drugging children from pre-school on, is the answer. It's been proven that placebos have almost the same rate of change in people as the real drugs. And the drugs we're being prescribed are THOUGHT to change certain functions in our brain, but no one has yet to prove that these drugs actually do... or how they do it.

Jay Williamson
Jay w6 years ago

gee thats disgusting while my daughter fights to get the help she needs these collage students are faking it. this makes me incredibly angry.

Michael C.
Michael C6 years ago

Given the fact that most Americans are susceptible to the many "fads," it is possible that overzealous doctors are prescribing w/o true need but in the name of greed.

I have also come to believe that many "teachers" who view a student as disruptive, have sought the support of the school nurse and the parents, to reign in the child.

Many times that child is merely bored with being held back with the truly mentally crippled mainstream, drug users, Ipod users, so-called athletes and the like.

Christina Carlson

Thank you Rosemarie C. for your supportive comment. I agree also with your point regarding the responsibility placed on the teachers. It's staggering how many people are willing to point their fingers at teachers and call them lazy or merely shills for the pharmaceutical companies. I wonder how many of these people have spent time in the classrooms or had a conversation with a teacher regarding the expectations, curriculum and student-to-teacher ratio? It's easy to point fingers without doing any real research into those statements. Our teachers work for our communities and while I'd never claim all are perfect or that all are victims of the system, I'll gladly stand up and say too many parents expect the teachers to do the parenting as well as the teaching. If a child doesn't receive support at home in completing and understanding their schoolwork, it places a ridiculous burden on a teacher who has many students to care for. Consistency and enforcement are essential to a child's education, and without them, they are being denied tools for success.