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Is ADHD Being Overdiagnosed and Overtreated in Children?

By Rheyanne Weaver HERWriter
could ADHD in children be overdiagnosed and overtreated? Design Pics/PhotoSpin

Most parents are aware of the existence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurodevelopmental disorder, because it is so commonly talked about in the news and because more children are being diagnosed now than ever before.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) just released a study stating that there is an increase in diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in U.S. children. The study compared data from the 2003 and 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) to the survey from 2011.

Compared to 2003, there are about 2 million more children and adolescents (ages 4-17) in the U.S. who have been diagnosed with ADHD in 2011. And of those children who currently have ADHD, more than two-thirds are receiving medication.

This study brings up many questions:

Are more children actually suffering from ADHD now than previously, or are people just more aware of what ADHD is now? Or are children being overdiagnosed and overtreated?

And did the changing/broadening of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) definitions of ADHD have anything to do with it?

Dr. John Walkup, Dr. Lauren Stossel and Dr. Rebecca Rendleman argue in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry that there is not an overtreatment of ADHD in children, despite an increasing number of children being diagnosed.

“The rates of treated ADHD continue to be lower than the rate of ADHD diagnosis, suggesting a pattern of undertreatment of ADHD,” the journal article reported.

“Reports of high and rising rates of psychiatric disorders and medication treatment always seem to draw public attention, but the issue is really not about rising rates but how close we are as a society to understanding the true prevalence of a condition and how well we identify those with the disorder and assuring that they have the opportunity to receive evidence-based treatment,” the doctors state in the journal.

“With ADHD it appears that we are getting close—after more than 2 decades of advocacy—to identifying and treating a majority of children and adolescents with ADHD,” according to the journal article.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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