What are common causes of ADHD misdiagnosis in children?

Of all the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) stories I hear, the most common is of a child who, shortly after his or her parents divorce, gets a diagnosis of ADHD. In some of these ADHD stories the kids may actually have ADHD, but more often the diagnosis is being made because the child's performance in school has dramatically fallen. The problem with diagnosis is that in most cases it does not rule out alternative -- even if quite obvious -- causes of emotional disturbance and falling grades. You don't have to be a well-trained psychologist to realize that a child whose parents go through a divorce is going to undergo dramatic upheaval and stress which would predictably influence behavior and academic performance negatively. However, this is often overlooked and the diagnosis ADHD is applied.

Another of the most common ADHD stories I hear regarding unreliable ADHD diagnoses is when boys hit puberty. Rather than recognizing that this normal developmental shift may impair a boy's concentration and motivation in school as his interests and hormones change, doctors notice only the symptoms of inattention, impulsiveness and make the diagnosis of ADHD. The blinders that many professionals wear cause them to overlook the obvious cause of dramatic changes in behavior as a boy hits puberty. Related to this common cause of misdiagnosis is the failure of professionals to determine that the symptoms of ADHD have been present since the age of 7.

Continue Learning about ADHD

Conditions That May Accompany ADHD
Conditions That May Accompany ADHD
Children, teens, and even adults with ADHD commonly develop one or more overlapping conditions, including anxiety and depression, sleep and personalit...
Read More
Are adults with ADD more aware of other people's thoughts and feelings?
Lara Honos-Webb, PhDLara Honos-Webb, PhD
In adults with attention deficit disorder (ADD), spaciness can actually be seen as a gift of reading...
More Answers
How do I know if I have ADHD as an adult?
Edward M. Hallowell, MDEdward M. Hallowell, MD
The most powerful sign that you may have ADHD as an adult is unexplained underachievement, as well a...
More Answers
Is There a Link Between ADHD and Tech Use?
Is There a Link Between ADHD and Tech Use?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.