The Increasing Trend of ADHD Diagnosis

Term Paper, 2010

7 Pages, Grade: 12


Modern society prides itself in its current fast-paced, multitasking, go-go-go era. Steps are continually taken to make tasks faster and easier, effectively optimizing time and effort. Ironically, the field of medical science runs contrary to this social pursuit through its growing diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a disease that causes lack of attention or hyperactivity. The attempt to end the overactive or inattentive lives of adolescents afflicted with ADHD has increased by 700% from 1996 to 2003, resulting in an increase of 34 million American children diagnosed with the disorder, according to a study by Dr. Sengwe Toh, a master of science employed by the American Psychiatry Association. A rapid growth in ADHD diagnosis has occurred due to the change in practice of diagnoses and treatment, aided by an increased awareness in society.

Initially, this trend began due to increases in the drug based treatment of the disease. Controlled studies made as early as the 1960’s documented the positive effects of Ritalin and other psychotropic drugs on behavioral disorders. According to doctors Mackey and Kipras, widespread use of these drugs grew to a point where 90% of the world’s Ritalin supply was being used in America during the early 1990’s (as cited in LeFever and Antonuccio.) Currently about 85% of children with ADHD are prescribed drug based medication. The increase in Ritalin use is supported by a 70-80% short term improvement of symptoms; however, medical professionals explain how treatment should incorporate therapy as well. Dr. Mary Ann Block explains how “behavioral modification and educational services” should both be used in treating children afflicted with ADHD. As doctors began to stray away from a more fundamental and hands on approach of ADHD treatment, they effectively detached themselves from the curing process. Treatment of the disorder became easier due to the effective, albeit subjective, practice of doling out pills to children deemed sick. What was once a practice of psychiatric analysis of long term treatment grew into psychiatric analysis of the need for a pill. With a powerful drug at the disposal of medical personal, the relentlessly growing snowball that is ADHD diagnosis found a genesis in easier treatment.

As doctors began to prescribe medication more often, due to increased ease in treatment, public observation of the disorder grew. Research compiled by David S. Mandell, Sc.D., William W. Thompson, Ph.D., Eric S. Weintraub, M.P.H., Frank DeStefano, M.D., M.P.H. and Michael B. Blank, Ph.D. explains, “Increased rates of diagnosis of all disorders over time suggest increased ascertainment, perhaps due to increased awareness of disorders or changing practice patterns.” These doctors use statistical evidence of hospital visits to not only prove the increase in ADHD patient visits exists, but they also use this evidence to explain why widespread diagnosis increases throughout the country. If hospitals in many different areas of America all see growing rates of ADHD patient visits, a driving force must propel this increase.

This increase is driven by awareness not only from doctors but from parents and teachers searching for children who appear to be afflicted with the disorder. A national ADHD week is organized September 13th -17th and the Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry helps to provide facts about the disorder. As more parents recognize the growing problem of attention deficiency, they also recognize the need to correct said problem. Ironically, it is the over activity of adults in their examination that causes the search for afflicted children to shift from looking for a needle in a haystack to an incredulous examination of every individual who does not conform exactly how society wants him or her to. Behavioral problems associated with ADHD are more noticeable because adults search for these problems with closer detail -- to a point where scientific definition of ADHD is not met, yet adults still find sickness. Parents decide to seek out treatment rather than wait to find out, and in this way, children who are over examined, who may not have ADHD, are then examined by a doctor who uses relative terms to determine sickness.

This leads to a subjective determination of the symptoms for ADHD. Some common symptoms for the inattentive type are disorganization, distracted nature, or forgetfulness; on the other end, the hyper type is fidgety, talks too much, and is always on the go. Yet all of these symptoms resemble guidelines rather than concrete evidence for sickness. How does one appropriately define the degree of a lack in organization that warrants a classification of “disorganized?” “Always on the go” is also a phrase that lacks any quantitative value, any property that remains exactly the same to anyone diagnosing a child. Some doctors may find a child to be fidgety while other doctors may find the same child to have a nervous twitch, unrelated to ADHD. Misdiagnosis of ADHD is easily caused due to a failure in achieving an exact definition for one afflicted with the disorder.


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The Increasing Trend of ADHD Diagnosis
Rockhurst High School
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increasing, trend, adhd, diagnosis
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Alex Burnham (Author), 2010, The Increasing Trend of ADHD Diagnosis, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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