ADHD isn’t real, people

A friend recently posted an article on his FB page about ADHD. Since I have 3 boys, each with a daily energy supply about equal to that of an atomic bomb, I was naturally intrigued when I read the headline: INVENTOR OF ADHD’S DEATHBED CONFESSION: “ADHD IS A FICTITIOUS DISEASE.” You can read the article in its entirety here, but it states that Leon Eisenberg, who is known as the scientific father of ADHD, admitted 7 months before his death that “ADHD is a prime example of a fictitious disease.” Basically, it was created for the benefit of the pharmaceutical companies and that most of the panel members recommending ADHD drug treatments had financial ties to the drug companies they were promoting. Shocker, I know!

I found the article especially interesting since about 1 in every 10 10-year-old boys is currently taking a daily dose of ADHD medication in the U.S., and for the fact that I ‘ve also known parents who began prescription ADHD meds on their kids per the concerns of their children’s teachers and by the recommendations of their doctors. (The parents promptly discontinued the use of the drugs after they noticed the dramatic shift in their kid’s behavior. Sure, she had more self-control and was no longer a disruption in class, but the parents described her as having a completely different personality that lacked the joyful, playful, unique spirit that was their daughter pre-ADHD medicine.)

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As a parent, I’ve had the “is this normal kid behavior?” conversation with my Mom friends countless times. (Scaling a 6-foot fence before age 2? Climbing out a window and knocking on the front door at 18-months? Eating a lightbulb…at any age? And I promise this was before I found the complete waste of time distraction that is Facebook nor was I sleeping  my day away while all this ridiculousness was going on.) With all the hyper-medicating and misdiagnosis that occurs in this country, it’s easy to fall, and even easier to be pushed, into the thinking that our kids actions are abnormal and need fixing with the help of a magic pill.

My experience. So far anyway.

At Nicholas’ kindergarten parent-teacher conference, his teacher mentioned to me that he would oftentimes fall out of his chair during class. I remember telling her he did that all the time at home, too, whether he was sitting at the table working on a project or eating dinner. We both had a good chuckle and then moved on to discuss the list of sight words he knew and what numbers he needed help with. At his first grade parent-teacher conference, his new teacher said he fell out of his chair on occasion during class and that he sometimes had a hard time sitting still. As I told his teacher that he had the same issue last year in his kindergarten class, I noticed her eyes shifted slighty. I suddenly felt uncomfortable and embarrassed; I didn’t mention how he still fell out of his chair at home.

N has always been a good student, but I remember receiving notes in his folder for falling out of his seat with semi-regularity throughout his first grade year. Usually it would happen when outdoor recess had been canceled because of rain. Each time I got a note, I talked to him about how his behavior was potentially disrupting the class and distracting to the other students trying to work. He would explain that he tried very hard to sit still and that he didn’t know why he fell out of his seat so much, but that he would try harder to stop. I’m happy to say, now 2 years later, he has outgrown this clumsy affliction, but he’s also figured out he enjoys standing while doing his schoolwork. Luckily, all of his teachers–first grade included–have been pretty lenient and let him stand and work if he’s feeling particularly antsy some days. At home, he’ll sometimes do jumping jacks while he’s practicing his spelling words or walk laps around the kitchen island when I’m quizzing him for a test. He’s just a mover and finds it’s easier for his brain to work if his body is working, too.

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Burn, baby, burn.

My boys have not been diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, or anything else, but I have always been well aware of their abundant energy and their intrinsic need to burn it. And if they don’t, we must ALL be ready to suffer the loud, obnoxious, and sometimes destructive consequences. (May the Lord be with you if you withhold physical activity from my kids. Consider this your warning.)

I’ve never been a big believer in the ADD/ADHD diagnosis. For the most part, I think every kid is filled with an obscene amount of natural energy. If we could only figure out how to extract it from them and bottle it for use to light our homes and run our cars–like Mike and Sulley do with children’s screams in Monsters, Inc.–oh what a wonderful world it would be. Energetic kids would be viewed so differently; they’d be revered instead of resented.

I do think that a child’s natural inattentive and energetic behavior can be intensified by certain foods, artificial dyes, or if a child has other developmental disorders. My youngest really goes crazy after licking the frosting off of a cupcake or drinking a caffeine free Sprite, but I don’t restrict these things on a constant basis. Instead, I make sure he has plenty of room to run off his added energy after consuming sugary treats to try and avoid any sugar-induced alterations in his behavior.

I shared the ADHD article on my FB page and prefaced it with something like how important I think is that we help our kids discover their gifts and that it’s impossible to do so if we are medicating them unnecessarily. Minutes later, my friend sent me a nice message thanking me for sharing the article, along with my opinion. He  also warned me that it may really piss a lot of people off, as he quickly found out after he originally posted it. I didn’t have any backlash on my FB page, but I did only have 6 likes on the post, and none of which were from any of my teacher friends. Maybe I’d have a totally different opinion if I was trapped in a classroom with 20 little, loud, overactive kids every day. Maybe I’d be the one on medication. I respect that people don’t want to publicly take sides on such a hot button issue for fear of how they’ll be viewed or for the possibility of offending a friend. But the article is, at least, food for thought.

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5 thoughts on “ADHD isn’t real, people

  1. Good article I do think this has been over diagnosised at times. It seems there was a time every overactive child who couldn’t sit still was said to have ADHD and put on meds. Some who I believe didn’t need it in the first place, hopefully now that has changed.

  2. Another thing that I have found interesting is the recent discovery when doing a MRI on a child with a diagnosis of ADHD they have found the activity lower in the frontal lobe then a child without. So, this will be a way that they can finally have a solid DX when working with children. http://www.decodedscience.com/addadhd-diagnostically-challenging-try-brain-imaging/5424 here is a link to the article.

    I also believe that there are a lot of people who take advantage of this diagnosis, but just because they are irresponsible with it doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

  3. Mary,
    I understand your position on this but you also need to understand that it isn’t always about hyperactivity. Another reason for this diagnosis is for inattentiveness and impulsivity. Maybe you should research that part if the diagnosis.
    I know that boys especially are FULL of energy; one of the authors that I love calls them “wild things” that’s awesome! That captures the energy level of a boy and the level of adventure. BUT, there are some children that need to have a RX to help them not for a high level of energy but because they are overwhelmed by their inability to focus on any task set in front of them. From asking a child to get their shoes on to asking him to stand in front of a desk and work out a math problem. It’s not about how they sit in a chair for 7-8 hours.
    I agree people shouldn’t just throw medicine at their children but they should research, find a doctor that has a history of medicine as last resort, and go through a team of people that can help guide the parent and child at home and at school. When a child is put on medicine it isn’t a miracle drug it a tool to help him just like all the other tools that are set in place within the school. Like a “Chill Pass” to help them reset if they get other whelmed or frustrated.
    The level of anxiety a child can experience while trying to get through a day at school can cause deep depression and the inability to even want to go to school, try new things outside of school, even doing routine things away from their parents. Not all parents that start their children on RX are just “throwing medicine at their problems” they are trying to help their child navigate a life without fear, anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression.
    I find that your article only focuses on if your child is hyper. You need to also look at if the child has trouble focusing his attention on ANY given task set before him. Also, these tasks that he is unable to complete cause him to see himself as a failure. A lot of the teachers today allow their students to stand at their desk, walk around and take a break, lay on the floor and work, sit on a ball while doing their work. Please don’t focus your negative energy on the teachers. Just because a teacher says your child has trouble sitting still doesn’t mean that your child has ADHD. It means your child is active. In order to dx a child you need more than that.
    When you start a child on meds you are told a lot of great information like if your child’s personality changes then either your child is not ADHD or your child is on the wrong medicine. Criticizing parents that have gone through a long process to help their child is hurtful especially when you don’t know all about the process or the diagnosis. It’s a hard decision and it should be if your heart is in the right place.

    • I appreciate your post and your point of view, too, since I know you have gone through this personally. I wasn’t criticizing anyone, parents or teachers, just writing about a my personal experience. I know we all want what is best for our kids, parents and teachers alike, but I do believe this diagnosis is too commonnly used as an easy way out. I found it extremely interesting that the creator of the disease admitted it never was a disease at all. I wanted people to be aware of this fact, I believe it speaks volumes, and to get people thinking.

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