Until fairly recently, no one had heard of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but within the past couple of decades, the disorder has become the syndrome du jour for children, teenagers and even some adults. It seems lately that more and more children are being prescribed medicine to calm them down and help the pay attention. Sometimes this is because they act out in class or do not do well in school. Other times it is because a doctor or school psychologist sees other ADHD symptoms during an examination. At first ADHD seemed to be confined to children, but soon enough, high schoolers, college kids and even adults were diagnosed and told that they need to start on a medicine regimen.
The clinical definition of ADHD is “a persistent pattern of inattention or hyperactivity… impulsivity that is more frequently displayed and more severe than is typically observed in individuals at a comparable level of development.” This is perhaps why ADHD symptoms were first identified in elementary school aged children. These children are carefully watched and monitored for signs of different or abnormal development, while high schoolers, college students and adults are not.
What we know now to be ADHD symptoms were considered more of an annoyance until very recently. Parents, teachers and classmates simply thought that children who exhibited signs of ADHD were acting out or had not been taught to behave properly. But according to the clinical definition of ADHD, if the disorder is not treated, ADHD symptoms can harm the sufferer’s life in untenable ways. For example, it can stop them from sitting still and getting the basic education they need. Later in life, ADHD symptoms stop sufferers from fulfilling their true potential in the workplace. It can even interfere with their ability to establish and maintain the interpersonal relationships we all know are so vital to living a full and fulfilling human life. Because of this, ADHD symptoms can eventually have a grave psychological effect on the sufferer and contribute to a quality of life far below what can reasonably be expected.
Though ADHD is a very serious disorder, it is also a disorder that is widely misdiagnosed. This is, of course, because the most commonly known ADHD symptoms are also common childhood behaviors. The child who does not pay attention in class may not be suffering from ADHD symptoms – he may just be badly behaved. Or the child who has trouble grasping basic concepts may be paying attention – she may just be suffering from a learning disability. Pediatricians and, for older people, primary care physicians must take extreme care not to diagnose ADHD and prescribe medicines for ADHD when no ADHD is actually present.
On the other hand, some ADHD symptoms are very real and they go misdiagnosed. When this happens, sufferers sometimes develop their own coping mechanisms to deal with their ADHD symptoms. ADHD is thought to affect about 3 to 5% of children globally, but then carry over into adulthood for at least 30 to 50% of those childhood sufferers. When it comes to American adults, about 4.7% of them are thought to have ADHD.
ADHD symptoms also seem to crop up more often in boys than in girls. Some skeptics criticize this finding and point out that boys are socialized to behave more loudly and raucously. They even use the fact that ADHD symptoms are found more often in boys than in girls to try and debunk the fact that ADHD even exists at all. Others simply say that boys are diagnosed more often because teachers tend to have more trouble with male students and thus refer them to a doctor or school psychologist more often than they do girls.
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