Question

ADD/ADHD Diagnosis

Are more cases of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder being diagnosed?

A Answers (3)

  • The percentage of children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has increased by approximately 3 percent each year. The reason or reasons for the increase are not well understood.

  • Recent data from surveys of parents indicate that rates of ADHD diagnosis increased an average of 3% per year from 1997 to 2006 and an average of 5.5% per year from 2003 to 2007. Rates of ADHD diagnosis increased at a greater rate among older teens as compared to younger children. Read more about rates of ADHD here: www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html

    The presence of the CDC logo and CDC content on this page should not be construed to imply endorsement by the US Government of any commercial products or services, or to replace the advice of a medical professional. The mark “CDC” is licensed under authority of the PHS.
  • ALara Honos-Webb, PhD, Psychology, answered

    Yes, more cases are being diagnosed, a brand new study found that almost 10% of school kids are being diagnosed with ADHD. The speed with which the rate increased in only a few years suggests that the diagnosis is not very reliable. In my own practice I see many clients who come to me with unreliable diagnoses.

    While Adult ADD is still not in the diagnostic bible of the field (DSM-IV), over 4 million adults have this diagnosis.  Based on my observations, adults are increasingly being diagnosed for the following reasons:

    1. Parents of ADD children recognize similar symptoms in themselves.
    2. Effective medications that are universal performance enhancers cause adults to seek a diagnosis to obtain desirable medications.
    3. Global and technological innovations create ever-present distractions that make it difficult for adults to stay focused, leading to a misdiagnosis of ADHD.
    4. High level stress creates many of the same symptoms of ADHD including difficulty concentrating, difficulty following through, and distractibility. Increase in stress levels due to many factors increases the misdiagnosis of ADHD.

    For children, ADHD is often misdiagnosed for the following reasons:

    1. The major contributor to bad behavior and attention deficits in children is not getting enough sleep.  A 3-6 year old should get 10-12 hours a night and a 7-12 year old should get 10-11 hours a night. If your child is not getting the minimal amount of sleep you will want to change his sleep habits before even considering a diagnosis of ADHD.
    2. Before thinking your child has a brain disorder you might also consider that your child is stressed out. A child who is stressed will also show rowdy behavior and have difficulty in school. Common stressors include parental conflict, divorce, financial or health problems in the family or any major changes. You can predict a child will act out and have difficulty focusing if he is sad, angry, or afraid and doesn’t have a chance to express and release those emotions.
    3. Poor Nutrition
    4. Skill Deficits or an undiagnosed learning disorder

    If you are concerned about the accuracy of a diagnosis, I recommend that the child or the family receive 12 sessions of standard therapy BEFORE an evaluation. The reason for this, is that if there are stressors and conflicts in the family, you have a chance to solve these problems and build your child’s emotional intelligence which will reduce disruptive behavior and attention deficits.

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How is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosed?