What Do the Studies Tell Us? Is ADHD Real?
While it was once believed, and some still hold this idea to be true, that ADHD is a disorder dependent on race, culture, or social class, research shows this is untrue.
This is not to say that environmental factors do not come into play.
ADHD is hereditary, but there is also a link associating ADHD with drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy, exposure to environmental toxins, or poor diet.
Most often, the discussions of ADHD revolve around arguments over medications, such as their effectiveness or their potential for harm. Scientific evidence about the disorder, in general, is usually ignored.
Studies show measurable differences in brain development and function in those with ADHD as compared to others of the same age.
There are areas of the brain where development is delayed as well as areas where the fibers that provide a connection from one area to another is problematic.
It Is More Than Just a Chemical Imbalance
“Chemical imbalance” is a term often used to describe ADHD, but that is not the whole explanation.
Impairments aren’t due to an excess or a lack of any particular chemical. The primary problem is related to chemicals manufactured, released and reloaded at the level of brain synapses.
For those with ADHD, chemicals are not adequately released, or they are released too quickly to carry messages across neurons. Only when the task is exceedingly exciting or frightening will the message be delivered.
In 2010, a study was released by scientists from Cardiff University revealing that children with ADHD were more likely to have small segments of their DNA either duplicated or missing.
This was the first scientific evidence that ADHD was genetic. ADHD was proved to be a neurodevelopmental disorder. The brains of children having the disorder were different from the brains of children without.
If There Is Scientific Proof of ADHD, Why the Arguments Over Its Existence?
It’s hard to refute science, so why do so many people dismiss ADHD as fake? Why do even some doctors say it doesn’t exist?
One reason could be the name itself. ADHD is not a deficit of attention, but rather an inability to control attention. This creates confusion among those who don’t realize that name is misleading.
Douglas Cootey, the author of A Splintered Mind, gave an excellent answer as to why there were so many nonbelievers. Cootey states that because ADHD shows itself in a million small things, everyone can relate to, that ADHD is seen as nothing special. Its symptoms are in fact behaviors common to everyone.
This causes people who do not understand the disorder to assume that people with ADHD are just making excuses for their actions.
What people do not realize is that it is the quantity of these “small” incidences and the severity of them that are the hallmark of ADHD.
Furthermore, those who do not have it cannot understand why someone with ADHD can’t do simple tasks the way other “normal” people do them.
The Stigma Around ADHD
In my own experience with family members, I remember a time fifteen or twenty years ago when it seemed like ADHD became an “easy” diagnosis.
Suddenly most of the kids we knew were deemed hyperactive and taken to a doctor who diagnosed them with the disorder and put them on medication.
I’m sure a lot of these children had ADHD, but I also feel that a lot of them did not. There wasn’t as much known about the disorder at the time, and treatment was limited.
I believe stigma was born from this. We had no idea what exactly ADHD was, but it appeared to be the answer everyone with a hard to handle child was seeking.
At least that is what I think people saw. I see it today when people make comments about how all a child needs is a good spanking, and they’d straighten up.
Those misconceptions still exist.
We run into them daily on the internet where people can post blog articles or videos ranting over our undisciplined children and our fake diagnosis. They say as adults we just enjoy taking the medications that a diagnosis of ADHD gives us.
We’ve heard that it’s allergies, diet, food dyes, location, and a million other things but most definitely not a brain disorder. And sometimes it is one of those things.
That is why careful diagnosis and follow up are essential. Sometimes symptoms can indeed be controlled or made better by a change of diet and lifestyle.
However, it is up to the patient and their health care professionals to discern whether allergies or environment caused the symptoms, or if ADHD is the cause.