The Doctors: Is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Real?
The Doctors broke from their tried-and-true format on the show to allow two experts debate the existence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, better known as ADHD. The whole idea of this conversation seemed a little silly to me because one expert was trying to sell a book and the other was trying to defend her profession.
It’d be like if I wrote a book called Gluten Allergies Do Not Exist and then I debated with a nutritionist over whether other conditions can mask themselves as gluten allergies. Is it true? Sure. But that argument confuses the issue more than clarifies it.
Gluten allergies are definitely a Thing, just like ADHD is definitely a Thing. They’re both undeniably over-diagnosed, but in the end, I wouldn’t be making a point other than Buy My Book, just like Dr. Richard Saul is doing here. For more ridiculous arguments along these lines, please see the theory book actually called Does the Woman Exist?: From Freud’s Hysteric to Lacan’s Feminine.
I’m willing to bet you clicked on that link purely because of the extremely outrageous and declarative title. Just like you might pick up a copy of neurologist Dr. Richard Saul’s book ADHD Does Not Exist: The Truth About Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder. Dr. Richard Saul debated with psychologist Dr. Stephanie Marcy on the show, who took the other side of the argument.
The Doctors: Does ADHD Exist?
One in every ten American children are diagnosed with ADHD. Four million U.S. kids are prescribed medications, often stimulants, to treat the disorder. Dr. Richard Saul’s argument is that he doesn’t think ADHD exists as a disease. He said it exists as symptoms, such as impulsive, hyperactive, distractable, short attention span, and so on.
Dr. Saul said that in his book, he has 20 chapters about 20 different conditions that all mimic the signs and symptoms of ADHD. These include thyroid problems, not enough iron, too much lead in their system, low levels of lead, and so on.
“ADHD does exist,” Dr. Stephanie Marcy said. “In my practice, I treat a lot of children and adolescents with ADHD. But it’s not a two minute checklist that’s completed and, oh, you have these symptoms, and that’s it. My evaluations are six to eight hours. I observe them at school. I talk to the parents. I do lots of testing with them.”
The Doctors: Agenda To Diagnosis ADHD?
Dr. Saul said that the push to make ADHD a popular diagnosis is financially based.
“There’s no question that the drug companies are pushing this. There’s no question that advertising is pushing this. And then, word of mouth. ‘I’m a sophomore in college. I’m getting Bs. I think I can get As. Can you just give me some Adderall?'”
Dr. Ian Smith said that he believes in ADHD, but he does think it’s being over-diagnosed. If a kid has an outburst or a problem, he’s immediately diagnosed with ADHD.
The Doctors: Can We Say ADHD Doesn’t Exist?
Dr. Rachael wondered what Dr. Saul would say about ADHD existing for Dr. Marcy’s patients. After she’s done eight hours of testing and truly ruled everything out, does he still think ADHD doesn’t exist?
“I don’t call it ADHD because the type that needs treatment with stimulants is a neuro-chemical type. So I call it a neuro-chemical, impulsive distractable,” he said.
“When you make a title in absolutes, then it increases confusion. Book promotion, part of it, is splashy headlines and what sounds great,” Dr. Travis said. He added that he agreed that ADHD is over-diagnosed, but to actually call the title ADHD Does Not Exist is a little too much, especially since Dr. Saul basically said he does actually believe in ADHD.
The Doctors: Over-Diagnosis Of ADHD?
Dr. Stephanie Marcy said that ADHD does get over-diagnosed and that there is an enormous amount of awareness for this condition. Teachers are sending parents to her office saying their children need medication.
So what’s the answer? Dr. Travis summed it up by saying that all of them agree that ADHD is over-diagnosed, medication is over-prescribed, and is too quickly diagnosed.
The Doctors: What Can Parents Do To Help Their Children?
Dr. Travis wondered what parents can do at home to help their children reduce these symptoms. Dr. Jim Sears said that kids who might have it need to go to a behavioral specialist to be examined. Dr. Marcy said that they need to support their children in getting help to become more organized and focused.
Dr. Travis said that experts need to do a thorough analysis, but parents need to consider this, too. Parents should talk with their health care professionals about getting a thorough evaluation for their child. Dr. Marcy said parents should look for developmental behavioral pediatricians or psychologists.