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Tanner Higgins
Jane Blakelock
English 2100
February 9, 2015

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder
My third grade teacher thought I had issues paying attention and focusing
in class so she recommended that my family take me to the doctor to see if
there was an answer. I was later prescribed with medication that I took for some
time which had negative effects. I didnt need the medication and still dont to
this day. What leads to these misdiagnoses? Some critics would argue that
American doctors, teachers and parents are simply too quick to diagnose
ADHD (Are Americans More Prone to A.D.H.D.?). AttentionDeficit/Hyperactive Disorder (known by the acronym ADHD) seems to be more
prevalent each year. ADHD diagnosis continues to increase in percentage , from
7.8 percent in 2003 to 9.5 percent in 2007 and to 11 percent in 2011 (Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention). Eleven percent may not sound that
daunting but to put into perspective, 11 percent of a class of 500 amounts to
55%. ADHD is misdiagnosed and over diagnosed too often especially the United
It is very hard to diagnose ADHD because there different types and many
other variations of different factors that cause misdiagnosis. There is no single
medical, physical, or other test for diagnosing ADD/ADHD (Smith). According to

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Chris Iliades, before 1900 the symptoms of AHDH were viewed as a behavior
problem. Parents would discipline their children, which seemed like the best
treatment. At the same time ADHD was classified in the United States, it was
defined in the World Health Organizations counterpart to the DSM (Alderman).
How can a diagnosis even possible given no specific test?
Of course there are common symptoms like difficulty paying attention,
following directions, and a need to move around when one is told to sit still.
(Rodriguez). There are different steps and symptoms for adults and children . For
children The health care provider will consider how a child's behavior compares
with that of other children the same age, and he or she may use standardized
rating scales to document these behaviors (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Disorder: Diagnosing ADHD). For adults all of the same symptoms apply but
most adults dont even realize they have the disorder until they become more
educated and possibly have personal experience from their own children
(Smith). Misdiagnosing can stem from failure to provide enough detail of
symptoms. By realizing that there are many ways that humans can become
inattentive and distracted, we can start to gain a better understanding of how
we might change our behavior, our environment, and our brains in order to
optimize our ability to focus (Poldrack). Poldrack is stating that if our world

would be more focused, we would know how to better communicate and

expand on how to help others with ADHD.

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Common psychiatric symptoms are easily misinterpreted leading to

misdiagnosis (Spiro). As in my case teachers can have an influence on parents.
According to Monika Buerger, too often parents are being intimidated by
schools/teachers to have their child undergo a psychological evaluation either
through the school district, a pediatrician, or a psychiatrist. The child could be
naturally more energetic, lethargic, or lacks concentration compared to the
other children. Therefore, the child is hastily slapped with a label of possible
ADD or ADHD and there is a predisposed bias going into such an evaluation
(Buerger). If then the patient is misdiagnosed and given medication, side effects
from the medication will be suffered which include: trouble sleeping, nausea,
loss of appetite, headaches, dry mouth, dizziness, and mood swings (Tips to
Ease ADHD Medication Side Effects in Adults).
The unwanted side effects from the medication that stems from
misdiagnosis can also be linked to the overprescribing of drugs. A new report
finds that U.S. doctors are too quick to prescribe drugs, and often give little
thought to side effects and non-drug alternatives (New Research Finds Doctors
are Massively Overprescribing Drugs). Researchers from the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered an estimated two million more
children have been diagnosed with ADHD over the past 7 years, a 42 percent
increase (Nauert). The dramatic increase plays a role in misdiagnosing ADHD.
When ADHD is misdiagnosed, the prescribing of the medications for ADHD rise.
In an 11-county epidemiological study in North Carolina done by Angold and
colleagues said 7.3% of children were receiving stimulants but only 3.4% of

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children met an unequivocal diagnosis of ADHD, which suggests that pockets of

overprescribing do exist (Connor). The rise of A.D.H.D. diagnoses and
prescriptions for stimulants over the years coincided with a remarkably
successful two-decade campaign by pharmaceutical companies to publicize the
syndrome and promote the pills to doctors, educators and parents (The Selling
of Attention Deficit Disorder). Are these only trends with Americans?
People believe that ADHD is an American disorder since Americans lead
the world in diagnoses of mental health problems (Are Americans More Prone
to A.D.H.D.?). According to new data from the federal Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, nearly one in five high school age boys in the United
States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical
diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Schwarz) . These rates
reflect a marked rise over the last decade and could fuel growing concern
among many doctors that the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and its medication are
overused in American children (Schwarz). Also Once ADHD was defined in the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the guide to
psychological disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association,
diagnoses began to rise steadily (Alderman).
There is also a regional difference with the diagnosis of ADHD . A child in
Kentucky is three times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as a child in
Nevada. And a child in Louisiana is five times as likely to take medication for

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ADHD as a child in Nevada (Are Schools Driving ADHD Diagnoses?) . Can this
regional difference be an indication that misdiagnosing happens regularly in the
United States? Elementary and middle schools are very eager to diagnose a
child with ADHD simply because they cannot sit still during class time. The
abundance of ADHD diagnosis seems to be most common in the Midwest with
over 11 percent diagnosed in those states, and the trend seems to decrease
going from east to west (Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)) .
California has a much higher population than Ohio and there is only a 6
percentage difference between them,

but some researchers interviewed by

EdSource Today say that the states relatively low rates may indicate that the
condition is being under-diagnosed among some demographic groups (Adams) .
The American lifestyle and culture play a role in the increase in diagnosing
as well. Russell Poldrack states Just because a disorder is biologically-based or
genetically-influenced does not mean that other factors such as the
environment or behavior cannot also cause the same problem . Poverty, racism,
adult violence and substance abuse are the main reasons for all children's
mental health problems, including ADHD (Diller) . Our American culture is much
different from those of other countries. Its clear that the inability to focus that
is being driven by the speed and richness of our informational environment
bears at least some resemblance to the inattention that marks ADHD

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ADHD is over diagnosed in the United States and not in our countries. In
France the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5
percent. This is because French child psychiatrists view ADHD as a medical
condition that has psycho-social and situational causes , and French doctors
prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distressnot in
the child's brain but in the child's social context (Why French Kids Don't Have
ADHD). Language can make a difference in the rates of diagnosis. According to
Kimberly Holland and Elsbeth Riley, Children living in households where English
is the main language are more than four times as likely to be diagnosed as
children living in households where English is the second language.
ADHD diagnosis continues to rise at, but it seems that the rise in
diagnosis can be resulted from either two things. Either we in America are
becoming more educated about the metal disorder, or the disorder it simply
misdiagnosed and over diagnosed. Although there is more known now about the
disorder, from this research and my own personal experience ADHD is
misdiagnosed and over diagnosed. ADHD is still hard to diagnose since there is
no specific test. There are no blood work results or a 100 percent confirmation
that someone has the disorder. Schools are pushing the diagnosis also from
teachers telling childrens parents that their child is too hyperactive and that
they should consider evaluation. Children and adults are receiving medication
that they dont need, and this causes unwanted side effects. Since more
medications are out there, they are starting to be abused which can cause
health problems. America leads the way in ADHD diagnosis over every other

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country by a lot. Maybe its just the American lifestyle and environment that
drives the diagnosis, but misdiagnosis is a problem that needs to be solved.


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Adams, Jane. "California Ranks Low in Rates of Attention Deficit Disorder."

EdSource. EdSource, 2015. Web. 16 Mar. 2015.
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Buerger, Monika. "ADD / ADHD Misdiagnosis and Mistreatment." ADD / ADHD
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chwarz, Alan, and Sarah Cohen. "A.D.H.D. Seen in 11% of U.S. Children as
Diagnoses Rise." The New York Times. The New York Times, 31 Mar. 2013.
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Gregoire, Carolyn. "Worldwide ADHD Rates Are Higher Than Ever, And It Might
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