In today’s blog, we’re diving further into ADHD during ADHD awareness month. We’ll discuss the growing numbers of people seeking the ADHD label and how this could create a risk of medicalizing the human experience.
The Numbers: A Soaring Trend
Let’s start by looking at the numbers. In the UK, the adult incidence rate of ADHD is estimated at 3 to 4 percent, while for children aged 6 to 8, it’s 1.5 percent. However, in the United States, the figures are significantly higher, with a 40 percent increase in ADHD diagnoses among children aged 4 to 17 from 2003 to 2011. One study showed over 20% of kids and young adults aged 5 to 20 were diagnosed with ADHD. This upward trend also extends to adults, in the UK they saw a 400 percent rise in adults seeking ADHD diagnoses reported by the ADHD Foundation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic while the US saw a 26.5% increase in the diagnosis of ADHD across all ages.
The Incentive for Diagnosis
But why is this happening? Some psychologists argue that we’re living in a culture that incentivizes individuals to label themselves with illnesses and the medical community seems very quick to comply as it continues to expand the criteria for diagnosing someone as ADHD. There are several reasons to think an ADHD diagnosis is an incentive for individuals.
First, it allows access to ADHD medications, which helps everyone with focus and energy in the short term regardless of whether they have ADHD or not. Secondly, many psychologists believe there is an incentive to have this diagnosis because it offers an explanation for many of the difficulties they face. It can also become an excuse for us, as parents, to explain away the reason a child does or doesn’t do something. Where we say… “he can’t help it, he has ADHD.”
The Importance of Diagnosis and Beyond
This is a big concern because it means we are focusing too much on diagnostic labels and not enough time trying to help them with other underlying issues that could cause ADHD manifestations, such as depression, too much screen time, poor nutrition, stress, poor relationships, or even just individual differences. Our culture no longer lends itself to the ADHD type individual who is typically creative, thrives in variety, and loves physical engagement. Instead, we have become a society that is increasingly sedentary, works in cubicles, and has very little variety in our day-to-day tasks.
The Impact on Identity
Dr. Damian Wilde, a psychologist with extensive clinical experience with ADHD, understands the distress ADHD can cause but believes issues arise when the diagnosis of ADHD becomes an integral part of a person’s identity. People might start believing that they will always struggle due to their “disorder,” which can hinder recovery from otherwise solvable issues and create a victim mentality with an inability to move past and take ownership of areas in their lives that they could.
Personal Agency and Self-Determination
There is a large portion of therapists who work with ADHD and autism populations, that offer a different perspective. They believe in personal agency and self-determination, arguing that individuals can and should take control of their conditions rather than relying on external factors for accommodation. They also highlight the difference between neurodivergence, which celebrates a brain that is different from the norm and believes this difference is part of the unique way this individual was created and there is a purpose behind that creation and the neurodiversity movement, which is a politically motivated movement and aims to redefine societal norms to accommodate those with conditions like ADHD.
Reversing an ADHD Diagnosis
So, what happens when someone wants to reverse their ADHD diagnosis or feels they have learned to cope through different disciplines or diet and no longer want to live under the ADHD stigma? Especially, if this stigma has started to affect their lives with higher insurance premiums or loss of employment. Well, the process is not as straightforward as just changing one’s mind. The diagnostic process is complex and often involves multiple assessments, making it challenging to reverse a diagnosis.
Embracing the Journey
I believe many parents, while it may help us in the short term, would be a lot less likely to seek the diagnosis of ADHD in our kids if we knew the full impact an ADHD diagnosis may have on our kids’ futures, like increased insurance premiums or the loss of employment opportunities. However, if you find yourself in this situation whether as a parent or as an individual, I think it is best to first not beat yourself up but work to find ways to express talents and giftings that help you see the value many of the characteristics bring to society.
The Ultimate Question
As we wrap up this exploration into the growing use of the ADHD label, it’s evident that there are complex issues at play. The rise in ADHD diagnoses prompts us to reflect on how we perceive and respond to these labels, whether they empower individuals or potentially limit their potential. Ultimately, the question remains: Is the ADHD label the answer, or is there a need to delve deeper into the complexities of the human experience?
I hope you found this exploration of ADHD and its diagnosis both thoughtful and informative and hope it will be a catalyst for you to take ownership of your health. If you’d like to learn more about optimizing your health, ADHD, or other health-related topics, you can go to Centurion Labs or subscribe to the Frontline Health podcast.
Thank you for reading, and remember, go out today and take ownership of your health because no one cares more about your health than you! Until next time, take care, and stay healthy!