Evidence That the Diagnosis of ADHD Does Not Reflect a Chronic Bio-Medical Disease

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Abstract

Is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) the “diabetes of psychiatry”? According to the dominant bio-medical model, ADHD is a chronic neuro-genetic condition with numerous negative outcomes. Without clear biological markers, however, this model receives support from the notions that the diagnosis (a) is stable overtime and across populations and (b) requires a constant treatment with chemical substances (e.g., Ritalin). Through three consecutive studies, this research investigates the validity of these two notions in Israel. Studies 1 (N = 502) and 2 (N = 853) addressed young adults while Study 3 (N = 195) focused on mothers to children with ADHD during the COVID lockdown. The findings indicated that the ADHD diagnosis is unreliable. Its prevalence exceeded 20%, a substantially higher figure than the consensual 5% estimate, and was not consistent between different communities (i.e., the less conservative the person is, the more likely that she/he will be diagnosed). The diagnosis also did not reflect a chronic and harmful condition that requires constant pharmacological management. Indeed, rates of prescribed medications were extremely high, thus implying the dominancy of the bio-medical model. However, in practice, medications were used very selectively, mainly during school/college times (i.e., not when schools were closed), to improve school-related performances. These findings, alongside a critical review of the current status of the physiological literature on ADHD (offered in the general discussion), undermine the bio-medical perception of ADHD. The clinical label of ADHD does not seem to reflect an objective chronic brain disease, but a modern social phenomenon in which children's normative traits are being medicalized, mainly in response to external school-related demands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100-126
Number of pages27
JournalEthical Human Psychology and Psychiatry
Volume23
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2021

Keywords

  • ADHD controversy
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • bio-medical model
  • medicalization
  • overdiagnosis
  • overmedication

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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