Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD as it is more commonly referred to, is a diagnosis typically identified in children with a set of symptoms and easily mimicked characteristics that make it an easy target of jokes or comedic interpretations in media today. Additionally, the term has become synonymous with people who are not able to focus, struggle to pay attention, and/or who are easily distracted by their environment. Along with these frequent interpretations of this diagnosis, another commonality is the notion that this is a new diagnosis or is a diagnosis for people who are unable to “control their children.” These interpretations raise the question of how they came about and why many in society share these views about ADHD.
To start, let’s explore the new diagnosis interpretation as this view holds some merit because of the recent rise in those diagnosed compared to years past. The reason for the rise in diagnosis is a multifaceted phenomenon with a myriad of different factors. One such facet is the rise in the overall population since more people means an increased likelihood for the diagnosis to be passed down from one generation to the next. Another factor to be considered with this view is the increased knowledge that society has gained about how this diagnosis can manifest and present itself in a larger variety of populations. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder 5 (DSM5) is the Holy Grail used within the field of psychology/psychiatry for diagnosing because of the information it contains regarding all mental health and related diagnoses. While this manual has a lot of useful information, one downside of that manual for many diagnoses (primary examples include ADHD and Autism) is that the presenting characteristics were normed (studied and created) based on young males from previous versions and older studies. While this is very helpful for those specific populations, these diagnoses were normed from, and it has hindered correctly identifying ADHD and other diagnoses until these better understandings have been gained from continued research. The final facet of the new diagnosis mindset to be explored is how the societal view of mental health has changed over time. As society has progressed, the view of seeking help for mental health diagnoses has changed, and more people are seeking the help that was once seen as taboo in previous generations.
The other view to be explored is the misperception that ADHD is a diagnosis pushed onto kids by parents that “don’t know how to parent.” While this viewpoint has many things wrong with it, conversely, it does shed light on the difficulty that parenting a child with ADHD comes with. Parenting, in general, is a very tough experience, which is only exacerbated by the stress of raising a child who could be experiencing any of the following characteristics: difficulty or often failing to: give or sustain attention on tasks, follow instructions, organize tasks, is forgetful in daily activities, avoids tasks requiring sustained mental effort, talks excessively, fidgets or constantly on the move, and interrupts others or blurts out answers. While children, in general, can display any (or most) of the symptoms which are indicative of an individual with ADHD, the difference is the impact these symptoms have on the person’s life. While anybody could display these symptoms, those with ADHD display them daily, and their impact on effectively socializing with others or completing tasks in work, school, or personal life is easily noticed. Adding these extra hurdles to an already difficult job of parenting creates an environment that can be filled with stress.
While the views discussed above create confusion and stigmatize ADHD and those diagnosed with ADHD, there is some “truth” behind them, as this is a “newer” diagnosis in the sense that we are learning more and more about it regularly. It taps into the notion that parents raising a child with ADHD may experience difficulties. However, the connotation that these views are often presented is not in reference to the perspectives and concepts discussed, and these facts need to be considered by all before judgments are passed along about a diagnosis or those who are dealing with the effects of this diagnosis on a daily basis.