The child would daydream in class, his elementary-school teachers said. He often just didn’t pay attention the way they would have liked. This was before the age of prevalent ADHD diagnoses and Ritalin, so no remedy was at hand, either. If one had been, though, who knows what he might have been?
Perhaps not co-valedictorian of his school — which he was.
I was that child. And were I attending school today and especially if my behavior had been worse, it’s likely I’d have received that fashionable diagnosis. And why not? It seems everyone now could have ADHD.
This point is made by Dr. Richard Saul, who has been practicing behavioral neurology for 50 years and is the author of the new book ADHD Does Not Exist. In a March 14 Time piece he writes:
The fifth edition of the DSM only requires one to exhibit five of 18 possible symptoms to qualify for an ADHD diagnosis. If you haven’t seen the list, look it up. It will probably bother you. How many of us can claim that we have difficulty with organization or a tendency to lose things; that we are frequently forgetful or distracted or fail to pay close attention to details? Under these subjective criteria, the entire U.S. population could potentially qualify.
And more and more are qualifying. Dr. Saul also writes, “The New York Times reported that from 2008 to 2012 the number of adults taking medications for ADHD increased by 53% and that among young American adults, it nearly doubled.” Not surprisingly, however, Saul tells us that the ADHD “diagnosis” only serves to camouflage other problems. As Kyle Smith at the New York Post writes:
One girl he [Saul] treated, it turned out, was being disruptive in class because she couldn’t see the blackboard. Correct diagnois [sic]: myopia. She needed glasses, not drugs.
A 36-year-old man who complained about his addiction to online games and guessed he had ADHD, it turned out, was drinking too much coffee and sleeping only four to five hours a night. Correct diagnosis: sleep deprivation. He needed blackout shades, a white-noise machine and a program that shut all his devices off at midnight.
A young man who asked, “Can’t you just ask me a few questions and write me a prescription?” simply left the office when Saul started probing too deeply into whatever was ailing him.
One by one, nearly all of Saul’s patients turned out to have some disease other than ADHD, such as Tourette’s, OCD, fragile X syndrome (a genetic mutation linked to mental retardation), autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, learning disabilities or such familiar conditions as substance abuse, poor hearing or even giftedness.
Yet others say that Dr. Saul is also missing the boat.
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