Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is an extremely common term nowadays. Nearly everyone knows of one child or adult who has ADHD, and because of the extreme frequency of this disorder, many people are now questioning whether or not it truly exists. This controversy presents two sides in which one side believes that ADHD does indeed exist with a biological basis, to the other side which believes that the disorder has simply become an unrealistic epidemic that therefore does not exist in any way, but especially in the biological sense (Slife, 2008).
According to psychiatry professor Russell Barkley, there is plenty of evidence to indeed support the validity and existence of ADHD based on studies of heritability and neuro-imaging. Those who support the existence of ADHD feel as though most “competent scholars” can agree and acknowledge this disorder’s existence on the basis of the research that has been conducted up until this point. Supporters of this position argue that based on neuro-imaging studies alone; there are obvious brain irregularities or abnormalities that appear to be common among those with this disorder. Barkley also argues that, along with the fact that the disorder exists; it certainly meets all scientific criteria in terms of being considered a valid psychological disorder (Slife, 2008).
To those who do not believe in its existence, Professor Barkley brings up an excellent point about how studies of twins has proven the biological basis of this disorder on the basis that the studies have shown an obvious link and therefore it has proven to be undeniably heritable. Even though many people believe that even if ADHD truly exists, it is being overly diagnosed, Barkley actually believes that not enough people who truly have ADHD are being treated properly and are not receiving the medications that are available (Slife, 2008).
On the other side of this controversy, Psychiatrist Sami Timimi raises numerous questions in terms of whether or not this disorder truly exists. Timimi claims that research does not support Barkley’s claim that ADHD has a neurobiological basis. Timimi argues that Barkley and other believers simply want a solution and want to close the case even though research proves that it is not ready to be resolved and put to rest. Timimi also points out his belief in the pharmaceutical companies as one’s to take partial blame for this growing trend of medicating children with ADHD because he believes that they are benefiting from helping parents cover up their mistakes during child-rearing (Slife, 2008).
Timimi brings up an excellent point in his argument about how ADHD medication will have the same effect on a normal child as in one who supposedly has ADHD and therefore, he is convinced that perhaps it is the medications that are causing irregularities to show up during neuro-imaging. According to those who do not believe in the existence of ADHD, they argue that since there is not a clear-cut definition for ADHD, it becomes nearly impossible to properly diagnose and treat people if everyone is going by different symptoms and standards of the disorder. Nobody is therefore on the same page (Slife, 2008).
In terms of the question itself, does ADHD exist, then I most definitely believe that it does. However, I can certainly understand a lot of the points made by Timimi. While I believe that ADHD is certainly an actual disorder that affects the lives of many children as well as adults, I also believe that it is extremely over diagnosed and is not monitored as much as it should be. The screening process for diagnosing ADHD varies from doctor to doctor and because nobody is on the same page, more and more children that in fact do not have ADHD are being diagnosed in this manner because the parents, doctors, or even teachers, want the child to be medicated in an attempt to simply make their life easier. The diagnosis of ADHD therefore becomes a ‘quick fix’ situation regardless of what the actual issue might really be or if there is in fact even an issue (LeFever, Arcona, & Antonuccio, 2003).
I think that regardless of the situation or underlying factors such as the child simply being an active and excited child who may or may not be crying out for attention that they are not getting at home, it seems easier for ADHD to just be the diagnosis. In terms of the overselling of medication for ADHD, I also agree with Timimi that this is going on. In fact, clinicians were reported to state that the high rate of ADHD drug treatment is completely justified on the simple basis that, “it works” (LeFever, Arcona, & Antonuccio, 2003).
LeFever, G. B., Arcona, A. P., & Antonuccio, D. O. (2003). ADHD among American
Schoolchildren: evidence of overdiagnosis and overuse of medication. The
Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice. Volume 2 / No. 1.
Slife, B. (2008). Taking sides: clashing views on psychological issues. 15th ed. McGraw
Hill: New York, NY.