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ADHD: Has this diagnostic fad run its course?

Like hysteria before it, ADHD has been a disorder of its time. And now it’s time to leave it behind and make a commitment to helping children be their best.

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The idea of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a credible diagnostic term has passed and it is time that we accept that and move on. Fads and disappointments are not new to the field of psychology nor is the need for people to get beyond them.

Phrenology, hysteria, eugenics, compulsory sterilizations, shock therapy, and Thalidomide all at one time had some grounding in hope and reason. For awhile, each of them captured the imagination, but over time each led to more pain than good, and for that reason they all got left behind.

Like diagnostic fads before it, ADHD has been in many ways a disorder of its time.

Previous diagnostic fads

Hysteria found expression in a Victorian-era society that vigorously attempted to constrain the lives of women. The eugenics movement addressed societal concerns of the early 20th century relating to burgeoning minority populations.

ADHD became a popular diagnosis in the 1980s as more parents went to work and the role of schools and teachers changed. If we look at the history of our culture and the ailments that have plagued it, is not difficult to see why people in positions of authority told women that they were weak, minorities that they were feeble-minded, and children that they had a psychological disorder: It was easier for them than addressing the difficult conditions that women, minorities, and children faced.

At one time, ADHD appeared to be a reasonable theory that might help people address genuine concerns. Raising children can be hard, especially when adults are tired, frustrated, overwhelmed, and riddled with self-doubt. Beyond that, children can be annoying; They fidget, they interrupt, they don’t pay attention, and they don’t always do what they are told.


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