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Biology 202
2003 First Web Paper
On Serendip

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Nupur Chaudhury

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, is the most commonly diagnosed disorder among children (1). The disorder affects approximately 3-5 percent of children of school age (1), with each classroom in the United States having at least one child with this disorder (1). Despite the frequency of this disease in the United States, there still remains many discrepancies about the disorder itself, starting from the diagnosis and frequent misdiagnosis of ADHD, as well as the question of whether or not ADHD is an actual medical condition, or just a "cultural disease" (3).

According to the NIMH, frequent symptoms of ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity (1). Examples of these three patterns of behavior can be found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which, summarized by the National Institute of Mental Health, states that signs of inattention include

* Distraction by "irrelevant sights and sounds" (2)
* Failure of attention towards details, resulting in "careless mistakes" (2)
* Frequently failing to follow instructions
* Losing or forgetting things used for tasks, such as toys or pencils (2).

Similarly, signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity include

* A restless feeling, shown through frequent fidgeting or squirming
* Failure to sit or maintain quiet behavior
* "Blurting out answers before hearing the whole question" (2)
* Difficulty in waiting in line or for their turn (2).

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders also mentions that these behaviors must appear before the age of seven (2), and continue for at least six months (2). Most importantly, these patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity must affect at least two areas in the person's life, whether it be school, work, home, or social settings (2).

However, the National Institute of Mental Health also states that during certain stages of a child's development, children are generally inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive (2). In other words, at certain stages, children may have the symptoms of ADHD, without actually having ADHD. Similarly, many sleep disorders among children create symptoms that are similar to symptoms associated with ADHD (3).

These discrepancies result in a high risk of misdiagnosis for ADHD: "ADHD is, after all, merely a collection of behaviors. There's no virus to look for, no blood test to administer" (3). The diagnosis of ADHD is based purely on observations and anecdotes, both of which have a higher chance of being wrong than something than a blood test or CAT scan. Additionally, the interpretation of the behaviors can be different for different "experts". Seeing as there is no "real" scientific process, many of the observations are open to interpretation, and thus different diagnoses.

It is because there is no "real" scientific process of diagnosing ADHD that many people think of ADHD as a "cultural disease" (3) rather than a medical condition. Others view it as a way to justify rowdy kids that have parents that fail to discipline them. Regardless of one's beliefs, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that between 4-13 percent of children aged 6 to 12 are affected with the disorder, whatever the disorder may be.


1)ADHD-Questions and Answers


3)Parenting-Hyperactivity Hype?

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