ADHD Diagnoses Are On the Rise: Is It Real Or Are Kids Just Lazy?

adhd brainIs it just me, or does it seem like every other kid these days is diagnosed with ADHD? I’ll admit it … I used to be one of those people that thought it was a made-up “disorder” for bratty kids. Then I married someone with ADHD -- and believe me -- ADHD is real. But how real is it?

In the United States, nearly one in every five high school boys is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Over 10 percent of school-aged children overall have it. ADHD is up 16 percent over the past five years and 41 percent over the past decade.

What gives? Some doctors believe it’s being over diagnosed. One of them is Dr. William Graf, who is a pediatric neurologist and professor at the Yale School of Medicine. “Those are astronomical numbers. I’m floored,” he said. “Mild symptoms are being diagnosed so readily, which goes well beyond the disorder and beyond the zone of ambiguity to pure enhancement of children who are otherwise healthy.”

More from The Stir: Latest Info on ADHD Could Disappoint a Lot of Moms

Enhancement of children? Yikes. What is this, Gattica?

Anyway. I think it’s simpler than that. Perhaps there’s an explosion of ADHD diagnoses these days because kids are more inactive than ever. Around 75 percent of kids don’t get enough physical activity. Basically, more kids have diagnosed ADHD because they aren’t unofficially treating it with exercise.

Exercise is a behavioral therapy for people with ADHD -- for some it may even be used as a replacement for stimulants. Physical activity releases endorphins and ups the dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels in the brain.  These help regulate focus and attention and, as one can imagine, are in short supply in an ADHD brain. When the chemicals are present, it increases alertness and reduces the desire for new stimuli.

Kids, and boys especially, used to get a lot more physical activity than they do now. They did more chores, they played outside more, and they worked more physical jobs during off-school hours. Maybe there were a number of them that were managing their undiagnosed ADHD without even knowing it!

ADHD is real, and I think it’s also really over-diagnosed. Medication can be a huge benefit in managing severe ADHD symptoms, but it can also “vastly improve focus and drive among those with perhaps only traces of the disorder.” Some experts worry that an ADHD diagnosis and stimulant prescriptions have become shortcuts to better grades.

Sure. Some people need medication, and there shouldn’t be a stigma for that. But I’m sure a number of kids currently taking meds could’ve managed their symptoms just fine with a few laps around the track.

Do you think ADHD is being over diagnosed?

Image via Life Mental Health/Flickr

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LeeshaE LeeshaE

I agree that it is being over diagnosed. I believe it has to do with lack of activity along with diet, and I don't mean fast food but food in general has moved away from being real to being a substute. Also I think schools push for the diagnoses as they receive additional funding for children with special needs.

Kate Cooley

Absolutely it's overdiagnosed. You want a direct correlation? Look at the rise of ADHD and the decline in recess time.


LuvMy... LuvMyDandD

Your headline makes no sense. Lazy children would not be diagnosed with hyperactivity. Also, wouldn't it be the parents who are lazy?

nonmember avatar Shiree

I babysit a girl with ADHD. hers is real. I don't think "minor" signs calls for a full diagnosis. Show kids the fun of the outdoors, not the screen of an iPad. I still say its half real. Over diagnosed? Oh yes it is.

kelti... kelticmom

Of course it is overdiagnosed. And no, it's not a "lack of parenting". It stems from schools becoming so rigid and benchmark test focused and putting every child in a neat little box with little to no recess time, rushing from class to class, hours of homework etc..... 

cleo_... cleo_is_mine

I don't know if it's overdiagnosed or if there has been an actual increase of kids with real ADHD due to the fact that theses days we eat so much CR*p, their bodies are literally pumped with sugar, sodium, hormones, chemicals, corn and things that aren't meant to be eaten!!

nurse... nursemama88

It is real and it over diagnosed. My step son has it and it is a nightmare!

Cassandra Huber

Real, but waaaay overdiagnosed, just like Bipolar disorder  (sorry, but the majority of those diagnoses are way wrong also), Autism, and many others where parents and doctors want a label on their kids so they can dope them up on medication and not address any real issues the chld is having. They are real disorders, but my guess is only 10-20% of those diagnosed actually have these disorders. Parents, stop being lazy and figure out what the real issues are with your kids before slapping a label on them. I also believe that there is no way in heck that a 5 year old , not even a 10 year old can be correctly diagnosed with ADHD unless you were on drugs while pregnant with them which has been the only valid reason for a diagnosis that young. I've seen it happen, and most likely the problem is the kid needs to go play outside and let their energy out like every kid should. Stop falsely labeling and overmedicating our kids people. Kids should not be taking any medications for any of these conditions, you are going to cause your kids long term health problems as a result. 

MammaSam MammaSam

A 5 yr old can't be diagnosed? Really? Have you ever dealt with a hyper active kid that's around 3-6? Obviously not. It is a real problem that many parents ignore. Mostly in boys. Oh they're boys so of course theyte hyper and can't focus on anything for more than 5 minutes. Really? Wow.. ignorance mixed with jerks is a bad combo.

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