ADHD is a Disorder Within Psychology
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, also referred to as ADHD in short, is a neurological behavioral disorder most commonly diagnosed in children and can even persist and be initially diagnosed into the years of adulthood. Over the past few decades, there has been a major increase in the rate of diagnosis of ADHD among children in both the United States and neighboring countries. This rise has put into question the legitimacy of diagnosis within this disorder and whether there is a huge rate of misdiagnosis within Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder across the United States. Recent studies suggest “that up to 9% of U.S. children ages 4-17, and approximately 4.4% of U.S. adults have ADHD (Conrad, 2014, p.2). This makes ADHD the most commonly diagnosed conditions within psychology in America, beating the population percentile in any other country. In this increasing mass globalization of ADHD in America as well as other countries, a lot of questions are sure to arise in whether these treatments are appropriate or if they are just an excuse to dismiss common behaviors within children and medicalize a set of symptoms in this “culture bound disorder.
Contrast to popular belief, though the United States is the leader in the rate of diagnosis of ADHD, there really isn’t a immense gap in the numbers and percentages demographically. Psychologist have been studying ADHD for decades, and the entrance of ADHD within the DSM-III in 1987 lead to the rise of diagnosis across the country in the 1990’s. Before, diagnosis was a rarity in children and nonexistent in adult’s diagnosis but increased ten-fold soon after release. ADHD is characterized by symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity that causes a child’s inability to focus on school work and activities within life and at home. In adults it hinders one’s ability to perform at one’s occupation and in daily life activities. Boys are found to have a higher rate of diagnosis in comparison to females, and it is also shown that children living in a home with lower income are more likely to have ADHD. But where do psychologists draw the line when it comes to deciding whether one child’s behaviors align with that of ADHD or is just a kid being a kid?
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All children struggle with staying on task and are known to be overactive, and one’s surroundings and culture can greatly influence one’s behavioral pattern as well. Normal behavior and difficult behavior fall between a questionable grey area of what to do and how to treat these behaviors is decided by both medical and psychological experts in their field as well as parents. A lot of times children are thought to have ADHD solely because they are not interested in school and cannot stay on topic. Decades ago this child would’ve been considered disinterested, but now he/she would be stuck with the label of having ADHD. Diagnosing children on their behavior in school alone should not be sufficient enough to warrant a diagnosis. In North America, it is often found that’s teachers self-diagnosis their students and push for medication to ease the energy within their classroom. Even so that teachers may mandate the use of medication to participate within the classroom if diagnosed with ADHD. Labeling a child with a disorder is seeming to become an easy way to answer unwanted behavior, giving a shortcut to solving the actual problem at hand. Though a majority of the children diagnosed fall within the criteria for ADHD unanimously there is a second group of children that may benefit further from behavior therapy and in that is a judgement call. This ideal of medicalization in ADHD has taken hold in parents and doctors as an easy fix and can differ throughout the United States as well as neighboring countries within different cultures.
Culture influences the way in which we define deviant behavior within children. In the novel Naughty Boys: Antisocial Behavior, ADHD, and the Role of Culture author and psychiatrist Sami Tamili says that “culture, by promoting particular sets of values, beliefs, and practices encourages certain types of behaviors and discourages others (2005, p.12). People are a product of their environment, so it only makes sense that culture and background play a major role in the behaviors of the children and whether it is deemed normal or in which the way it is treated. Every culture has it’s defined “normal for what is to be expected of them and what can be deemed beyond their capabilities. We look at what is to be expected of children and compare it to those behaviors that a child who’s thought to have ADHD would exhibit. In this comparison of normality it is deemed whether the child is veering too far off the cultural norm, thus concluding the idea of a diagnosis. Culture should become the heart of our thinking when looking into the behavior of humans as it plays the biggest factor in structuring the ideals in which we are taught to follow. Ilina Singh, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford believes that “ADHD may be an example of ‘bad medicalization’ the assumption that the phenomenon under observation is a medical phenomenon that requires medical treatment, is wrong and has harmful consequences (Singh, 2013, p.1). Westernized cultures such as the United States look for tangible solutions that gives definition to why a child acts in the way they do. In this we see a vulnerability that gives power to medicalization uses resulting as of why there a major rise in the amount of medical diagnoses of ADHD. Using only medical models to define and label social problems is just a band-aide in the essence of psychology.
Adopting a cultural perspective can make a huge difference in the ways to try and understand and deal with problem behaviors found in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Its no surprise that over the recent decades its rate of diagnosis has expanded because of its relatively new presence within the DSM. But we need to evaluate the reasoning as to why our rate of diagnosis is deemed high in comparison to other cultures and how it reflects onto our own culture. Beyond the scope of ADHD we see how different disorders are presented differently throughout parts of the world, which is why ADHD should be looked at in a similar fashion. ADHD is different than most disorders in that this one has a wide demographic within the behavior of children and that it is important that we are not misdiagnosing them. Acknowledging that Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is a valid disorder within psychology, it is equally as important that clinicians do not misdiagnose children whose false diagnosis may do more harm than good.