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A few months back, a Neurologist adventured onto published a polemic book, entitled "ADHD does not exist". This has risen several positive reactions, but also negative ones, and has created confusion around this behavioral problem. This is what happened.

A polemic article on ADHD

An article on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was published in the March issue of TIME Magazine, this year. The author of the article, Dr. Richard Saul, is a renowned Neurologist whose expertise mainly focuses in the treatment of ADHD. Why is this article so special? Well, it is entitled “ADHD does not exist”, and is basically a preview on a book written by Dr. Saul that has the same title.

ADHD does exists, but not as it has been described so far

When you read the title of either the article or the book, the understanding is basically that ADHD is an invention. You can imagine now the commotion that this caused! But if you read through the entire article you will realize that the idea proposed by Dr. Saul is not as drastic as the title depicts, although it is still controversial.

ADHD is considered a neurobehavioral disorder that is mainly diagnosed in children. Recent data indicates that 3 to 5% of the children in the world present this disorder, which is really concerning.  I am pretty sure you have heard about the disorder and that even you or someone close to you has been diagnosed with it. 

ADHD is what doctors like to call and heterogenous disorder, which means that it does not have just one single cause, but it can be triggered by several factors, which are still not well understood. 

ADHD symptoms are mainly related to behavioral problems, including lack of attention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. ADHD can be diagnosed in childhood and often continues through adolescence and adulthood. It can lead to the development of other behavioral problems, including depression and drug and alcohol abuse, if it is not treated correctly and on time, since it affects the social development of the patient. 

A bit more on ADHD

The American Psychiatric Association divides ADHD into three categories, based on the presence of certain symptoms that have to do with inattention and hyperactivity. These have been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

For example, being forgetful in daily activities, not being able to remain seated when necessary and intruding or interrupting on others, are some of the characteristic ADHD symptoms included in this list, which in total make up 18 ADHD related symptoms.

The diagnosis and categorization of ADHD depends on the number of symptoms that the patient shows, so he or she can be diagnosed with ADHD predominantly inattentive, ADHD predominantly hyperactive-impulsive, or ADHD combined.

If you go through the list of symptoms, which I encourage you to do, you will be shocked to realize that you have experienced some of them, and that you may even fall into some of the ADHD categories. Well, this is one of the main issues that Dr. Saul, and other physicians, argue when it comes to diagnosing ADHD. 

Let's analyze this in more depth focusing on what Dr. Saul's ideas. 

Continue reading after recommendations

  • DEL CAMPO, N., CHAMBERLAIN, S. R., SAHAKIAN, B. J. & ROBBINS, T. W. 2011. The roles of dopamine and noradrenaline in the pathophysiology and treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Biol Psychiatry, 69, e145-57
  • ELIA, J., GAI, X., XIE, H. M., PERIN, J. C., GEIGER, E., GLESSNER, J. T., D'ARCY, M., DEBERARDINIS, R., FRACKELTON, E., KIM, C., LANTIERI, F., MUGANGA, B. M., WANG, L., TAKEDA, T., RAPPAPORT, E. F., GRANT, S. F., BERRETTINI, W., DEVOTO, M., SHAIKH, T. H., HAKONARSON, H. & WHITE, P. S. 2010. Rare structural variants found in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are preferentially associated with neurodevelopmental genes. Mol Psychiatry, 15, 637-46.
  • Photo courtesy of simon thomas by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/simthom/2955036965
  • Photo courtesy of Aubrey Kilian by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/bug-e/298766961