Today, nearly 1 out of every 30 children has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). When you think back to every class having that one kid that couldn’t sit still or that colleague that constantly makes careless mistakes, it makes sense that some people are diagnosed earlier than others.
But why are so many adults also seeking a diagnosis in recent years? Is it that ADHD is more prevalent in daily life, or has it been hidden under a sea of ignorance for so long? And what do the increasing diagnosis rates mean for those living with a lifelong condition such as ADHD, and for families affected by ADHD?
In this article, we explore 5 valid reasons why ADHD, along with many behavioral disorders, are more widely diagnosed nowadays, and what we can learn about its relationship with other neurodevelopmental disorders.
Table of Contents
More and more parents are taking advantage of developments in research and better early childhood screening programs designed to find developmental delays or behavioral disorders in young children. These screenings include vision tests, hearing tests, speech evaluations, and psychological screenings.
Parents who take part in these early childhood screenings recognize that early intervention may offer an opportunity to reduce the struggles faced in later life for those faced with neurodivergent conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Dyslexia.
For example, early interventions that teach toddlers language skills can help improve speech and language later in life, which in turn leads to a more positive mindset and greater self-regulation over impulsive behaviors.
Early childhood screenings offer parents and teachers opportunities to encourage students to learn skills necessary for future success in school and later in life. With greater awareness of ADHD, formerly known as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), early childhood screenings and brain scans become an opportunity to discuss developmental challenges that may lead to a diagnosis of ADHD later in life.
As we discussed above, ADHD awareness campaigns have skyrocketed in recent years. This increase in awareness comes from parents, doctors, researchers, and educators becoming aware of the potential impact of ADHD on their patients and their communities.
For example, several years ago, parents began noticing that many of the school-age children they were seeing had difficulty paying attention and completing tasks at home and in the classroom. As a parent, you could then easily assume that your child was suffering from ADHD. Yet, you would need extra information to convince yourself that your child had ADHD.
This increased awareness, along with pioneering work by health professionals and academics such as Russell Barkley and Ned Hallowell, led to a growing number of people researching and learning about ADHD and the diagnostic criteria of such brain disorders. Many people became aware of the potential impact that ADHD could have on their lives, and thus sought treatment for their symptoms.
Many may have before been through a clinical evaluation, only to be misdiagnosed by healthcare professionals with a mental health condition such as Anxiety Disorder. In turn, that misdiagnosis often leads to anxiety in the long-run as a result.
Access to a variety of treatment options for ADHD has increased, which has led to an increase in the number of people diagnosed with the condition. Current research suggests that there may be many causes of ADHD, but that genetic factors play an important role.
Additionally, there has also been an increase in the number of psychologists who specialize in clinical evaluation to diagnose and treat ADHD. Therefore, it is easier than ever before for parents to find qualified professionals who understand the condition and are familiar with the different types of treatment plans available such as CBT or stimulant medications.
What’s more, discourse around behavioral therapy about mental disorders and how disruptive behaviors such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) are dealt with has increased awareness of the condition. The traditional behavioral strategies involved in behavior therapy as treatment for children are controversial and resonating amongst the wider community.
Social media has played an influential role in increasing awareness of ADHD. Parents and caregivers often turn to the internet, television, and magazines to educate themselves on the topic. They also seek advice from online forums and blogs (such as this one!) where others share their experiences and then look deeper into their self-diagnosis.
These sources of information play a role in convincing parents that ADHD is real, and that their children suffer from the influences of traditional environmental factors and social etiquette.
Additionally, advocates contribute to raising awareness about ADHD among other people who might not know much about the disorder. Often cultural factors and stereotypes come into play, assuming ADHD is simply a behavioral disorder that makes those with more severe symptoms appear “lazy” or “forgetful”.
Ironically, it’s thanks to the addictive nature of short-form media such as TikTok that many on these platforms are challenging cultural factors and conventions and seeking the diagnosis from a healthcare provider that they needed all this time. In effect, self-diagnosis is its own self-fulfilling prophecy.
Of course, it’s crucial to seek advice from a medical professional for a comprehensive evaluation. While self-diagnosis is valid in many circumstances, for some people it can lead to self-medicating or improper application of treatments and strategies, without the right support.
Finally, the test scores of individuals diagnosed with ADHD have improved dramatically over time. According to one study, adolescents diagnosed with ADHD in 2000 scored lower than their peers without ADHD on standardized achievement tests.
But, by 2006, these same teens scored significantly higher on assessments of cognitive ability and academic performance. These improvements were attributed to the increase in accessibility of effective treatments that improve quality of life by boosting both mental and physical health.
Although the trend toward increasingly widespread diagnoses of ADHD continues today, these trends show that most health professionals and experts agree that it’s important to stay cautious when diagnosing ADHD until all other environmental factors that could be influencing current symptoms have been ruled out.
That’s especially the case where known risk factors are involved that may have influenced birth weight or early childhood development such as exposure to toxins. While nobody is 100% certain what causes ADHD, it’s acknowledged that environmental factors such as these can influence the required treatment later in life.
In summary, the rise in ADHD diagnoses can be attributed to increased public awareness of how the disorder affects adult lives and the daily activities involved, as well as better testing methods.
So when you hear someone say “everyone has ADHD these days”, you can explain to them why they think that way. And, why the increase in diagnosis is something to be embraced, not frowned upon.
Check out more articles on ADHD and see what else you can learn today!
Last Updated on November 13, 2022 by Neurodadversity
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