A German children’s book from 1845 by Heinrich Hoffman featured “Fidgety Philip,” a boy who was so restless he would writhe and tilt wildly in his chair at the dinner table. Once, using the tablecloth as an anchor, he dragged all the dishes onto the floor. Yet it was not until 1902 that a British pediatrician, George Frederic Still, described what we now recognize as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Since Still’s day, the disorder has gone by a host of names, including organic drivenness, hyperkinetic syndrome, attention-deficit disorder and now ADHD.
Despite this lengthy history, the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD in today’s children could hardly be more controversial. On his television show in 2004, Phil McGraw (“Dr. Phil”) opined that ADHD is “so overdiagnosed,” and a survey in 2005 by psychologists Jill Norvilitis of the University at Buffalo, S.U.N.Y., and Ping Fang of Capitol Normal University in Beijing revealed that in the U.S., 82 percent of teachers and 68 percent of undergraduates agreed that “ADHD is overdiagnosed today.” According to many critics, such overdiagnosis raises the specter of medicalizing largely normal behavior and relying too heavily on pills rather than skills—such as teaching children better ways of coping with stress.
Yet although data point to at least some overdiagnosis, at least in boys, the extent of this problem is unclear. In fact, the evidence, with notable exceptions, appears to be stronger for the undertreatment than overtreatment of ADHD.
Read the whole story: Scientific American
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