ADHD: Is it a Legit Medical Condition or a Societal Fad?
ADHD is one of the most controversial and most diagnosed mental disorders in children to date. Why is that nowadays we hear more about this disorder in the news, magazines, and from our friends and family more than any other mental disorders? It seems the hot topic of this generation but just why does it get so much attention? The debate of this disorder escalated in recent years coinciding with the escalation of diagnoses. To put this into perspective in 1970, 2,000 Americans were said to have “hyperactivity.” In the 1990s, the prevalence increased fivefold and on average 1 in every 15 children in the United States have been diagnosed (Mayes et al. 264). By 2006, about 8-10 million American children have received the diagnosis of ADHD with the popular treatment being medication (Stolzer 109). Most recently, America is at 1 out of every 10 child carrying the diagnosis and one in every twenty using stimulant medications (Mayers and Erkulwater 310 ). Recent studies from all different countries have prevalence rates ranging from 3 to as high as 15% of children (Al-Sharbati et al 264). How does a new disorder just come about at a pace so rapid? Mayes & Erkulwater argue that is due to a “confluence of trends (clinical, economic, education, political), an alignment of incentives (among clinicians, educators, policymakers, health insurers, the pharmaceutical industry), and the sizable growth in scientific knowledge about ADHD and stimulants” (Mayes and Erkulwater 310).
These numbers are inconceivable and people wonder on the over diagnosis of the disorder and the problems with putting a label on a child let alone heavily medicating a child with a stimulant daily for who knows how long. The other side of that is the problem that occurs when it is not diagnosed in time including self-esteem issues, social isolation, academic failure, involvement with deviant peer groups, and increased risk of substance abuse disorder (33% of those diagnosed). They have fewer friends as few are able to handle their difficult behavior (Salmeron 489). The disorder is also found to cost the United States between an estimated $36 billion and $52 billion per year (Morley 1). Therefore it is not only a hot topic but an important topic as well affecting so many people.
There are two sides to the argument of whether this is a legit condition or just a cultural fad. ADHD is a new disorder and just recently “discovered” and most of the cases are in the United States, those who oppose the disorder such as Rogers Wright say it represents more of a cultural fad then a legit medical condition. It is merely labeling those that do not behave exactly according to societal rules which are determined by the society themselves and it is not a medical, biological problem. On top of this, the fact that scientists are not able to pinpoint an exact cause of the disorder or the fact that it’s diagnosed without a medical procedure also raises red flags for the protesters. Others who are opposed suggest it is a mere attack on boys and their natural tendencies to be more active. This disorder is an attempt to change boys to act more like girls who are more obedient and calm by medicating them. This is supported by the fact that there are numerous more cases of boys than girls diagnosed with 6 percent of boys having ADHD while only 1.5 percent of girls. Those not buying into ADHD believe that it is being used for cosmetic reasons to help parents let their children reach the raised bar society sets for them (Singh 26 ).
The other side of this argument, those who stand by this disorder as a medical condition, explain that this cannot just be a cultural fad when brain scans show differing patterns in those diagnosed and genetic studies support the genetic link of the disorder. This genetic link could account for the so called gender bias in diagnosing. Almost all mental disorders do