First, consider these startling facts about the Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
The rates of diagnosis for ADHD – previously known as ADD – have been on the rise over the past few decades. Research shows a 700 percent increase in medication being used to treat ADHD in the 1990s alone. A 2005 report by the CDC found 4.4 million children aged 4 to 17 years were reported to have a history of ADHD diagnosis.
Of these, 2.5 million (56 percent) were reported to be taking medication for the disorder. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls, and the rate of incidence is almost twice as common in Caucasian children when compared with their African-American peers.
While the country seems to have a tendency for over-prescription, ADHD does not appear to be over-diagnosed in the U.S. as a whole.
There are three types of ADHD:
So what does this mean for you and your child?
In order to diagnose ADHD, a child must have symptoms of inattention or impulsivity before the age of seven across a variety of settings (e.g., school, home, extracurricular events). While it is important to understand the symptoms that make up ADHD, it is even more important to rule out features that are not ADHD – such as learning problems, medical conditions, emotional and behavioral issues (e.g., anxiety, depression) or adjustment concerns. Other factors that should be assessed include a change to a new school, or possible changes in the family (i.e., divorces, death). Kids are often diagnosed with ADHD when, in fact, their attention problems are symptoms of some other problem or the reason for their hyperactivity may be explained by other sources.
The American Psychiatric Association offers specific diagnostic criteria for ADHD. If a doctor’s thorough evaluation confirms ADHD, parents should be aware of available treatment options, to include both behavior therapy as well as medication. For example, treatment with medication should be avoided completely before the age of six, and symptoms of ADHD should be treated with behavior therapy according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It has also been clearly documented that medication is successful and, at least in the short-term, more successful than therapy. That is presently a debate among scientists that continues to be discussed as it relates to treatment options.
The medications being prescribed to treat ADHD have been used for more than 50 years and have shown a good track record for safety. According to CHADD (Children and Adults with ADHD), a mixture of education, behavior management, medication and appropriate support are the most effective forms of treatment for children and adolescents with ADHD. The CDC supports the National Resource Center on ADHD, a program of CHADD, which offers evidence-based information about ADHD to the public.
The bottom line is, attention is a very sensitive symptom that can occur in just about every type of disorder. Problems with attention can be caused by a variety of factors. Ruling out contributing factors to inattention or hyperactivity will help to make the accurate diagnosis and guide the most effective treatment. Medication is a safe treatment option when used appropriately and taken at home under the supervision of an adult. It can be treated effectively.
Do you think ADHD is over-diagnosed? Atlanta, share your thoughts.