Daniel Boffey wrote an article recently in The Observer recently with the sensationalist title, “Children’s hyperactivity ‘is not a real disease’, says US expert.” The title overshadows a number of astute observations by Dr. Bruce D. Perry that feed the ignorant opinion expressed in the title:
- That ADHD “is best thought of as a description. If you look at how you end up with that label, it is remarkable because any one of us at any given time would fit at least a couple of those criteria… We are very immature in our current evolution in giving diagnoses. A hundred years ago, someone would come to the doctor and they would have chest pain and would be sweating. And they would say, ‘Oh, you have fever.’ They would label it, just like we label it [ADHD] now. It’s a description rather than a real disease.”
- That prescriptions for psychostimulants are “too readily” being handed out to children, despite limited research on their long-term effectiveness and side-effects.
- That instead of psychostimulants, treatments should focus on holistic strategies for the stressed-out parents to manage a child that exhibits symptoms of ADHD.
All of the above conclusions are thoughtful, and I agree with the last two. But that first one irks me. ADHD is indeed a description of a combination of symptoms, but that does not mean it is a nominal disease. A disease by definition is an impairment of health or a condition of abnormal functioning. Trust me, if you exhibit all the symptoms of ADHD, you will not be functioning normally, and your health could very easily be impaired, especially if one of your symptoms is impulsiveness.
It is this sentiment of illegitimacy that prompted Oliver Keane to write a reactionary article titled “Mad as Hell: ADHD and the Media.” He begins by sharing that his has ADHD, and calling “bullshit” on Boffey’s article. His anger is apparent, and he goes on to explain it after a PSA on what ADHD is, which really shouldn’t have to be done anymore, but that’s part of the point of his article.
There are 3 major factors stigmatizing ADHD today:
Misinformation, misconception, and misunderstanding.
There is a massive game of telephone going on, spreading information about ADHD. The media isn’t the only one on the line. Parents and doctors are on the line too. Trust me when I say that it is very likely that your friends, other parents, your family doctor, possibly even your psychologist or psychiatrist, do not know what ADHD is. It’s all through the telephone, and there is likely much more to it than you think you know.
When I signed up to get tested for ADHD at a Montreal hospital, I was shocked at how thorough the process was. There were interviews the doctors conducted with friends, family, and myself. There were tests of all sorts. Exhaustive questions about my history, my personal experience, childhood, relationships, etc. They took a copy of my resume. I didn’t even know what all the symptoms were at that point. All I knew was that my psychologist suspected I had it, and thought it might help me to know for sure. Now I do. Is life any easier? No, not really, because I still haven’t really figured out how to manage it with any consistency. In what I now know as a typical ADHD move, I got super-focused for a while on living in a healthy routine that would corral my condition into a manageable pen, but then living a different way, doing something new, going out with friends and having a drink, lifted the gate and I was back to where I was before, drifting on the daily ocean with its crests of interesting and valleys of boredom, being unproductive, struggling to get by. I’ve flirted with the idea of medication, but I treat that route as a last resort. I’ll take more therapy and life-coaching first, but yeah, one way or another I know I’ve got to deal with it, especially considering that those who read this blog want to read about how I’m finishing my second novel or a short story, not how I’m struggling to get any words on the page on any day of the week.
As Oliver Keane said, ADHD is real. To say it isn’t is an insult to everyone who truly has it and truly suffers because of it, and contributes to the misinformation, misconception, and misunderstanding.
If you are among the millions who do not know what ADHD is, or have bought into the ignorant disbelief in its existence, please educate yourself. A good start is to buy a copy of Driven to Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and take a look at his “Suggested Diagnostic Criteria for Attention Deficit Disorder in Adults” pdf.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Daniel Boffey ~ “Children’s hyperactivity ‘is not a real disease’, says US expert”
RESPONSE ARTICLE: Oliver Keane ~ “Mad as Hell: ADHD and the Media“