February 13, 2012

I guess I haven’t been paying attention, but it looks as if a lot of you haven’t been paying attention. During an online forum discussion the other day, after I’d asked some guy about the 139-word sentence he’d just written, he revealed to me—and all the world—that he had ADHD. Within moments—before I had a chance to become distracted—someone else chimed in that they had ADD.

Now, I had a vague familiarity with these labels—one meant you had trouble paying attention, the other meant you were a spazz about it—but I’d tried to avoid thinking about them. Yet suddenly I felt forced to confront them, to sniff them suspiciously, to poke at them, to taunt them, and to question their very existence. After some research I realized that the very fact I dared challenge the consensus wisdom about Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder could mean that I, too, suffered from these ailments—at least one, and probably both. Yes, definitely both.

Maybe because I’m crazy, I question the validity of all psychiatric diagnoses, but especially ones that result in millions of prescriptions for legal amphetamines. I arch my eyebrow even higher at the fact that tots as young as THREE can be prescribed Adderall to “cure” a “condition” that is diagnosed by means no more scientific than answering an old-fashioned questionnaire.

Suddenly, yes, this has my full attention.

An estimated one in ten American schoolchildren has been diagnosed with ADHD, an “illness” that miraculously didn’t exist until it was formally enshrined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1987. As a result of the new illness and all the new diagnoses, kids are being showered with Ritalin and Adderall as if Skittles and M&Ms were raining from the sky.

“There’s no better time to question authority than when they make the very act of questioning authority into a mental disorder.”

Then, almost as if by coincidence, it was “discovered” that adults weren’t paying attention either, so the nice men in the white coats let them have speed, too. All the speed they wanted. Verily, and so the office workers, the door-to-door salesmen, and the college students throughout the valley all took speed, and yea, it was good.

No one seemed to pay attention to the fact that this might become a problem.

The main problem is that these “diseases” are not caused by germs or viruses or, as far as it seems, anything remotely resembling indisputable chemical or brain-scan evidence. This is nothing more than speculation that diseases exist based on the act of describing common symptoms.

OK, I saw one brain-scan study where the ADHD kids had smaller brain areas than the normal kids, but it was later revealed that—ta da!—it may have been caused by the fact that these kids had already been on Ritalin for years. So there’s possibly some confusion about cause and effect there.

So I’m not convinced that “ADD” and “ADHD” are anything more than ideas. At least that’s how it seems to me at the moment. I can be persuaded otherwise, but you’ll have to be very, you know, persuasive. I suspect that what is often misdiagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is actually Teacher Charisma Deficit Disorder.

After ignoring these so-called attention disorders for years, I did a little research and was surprised to discover that there are no blood or DNA tests needed for a diagnosis. A standard ADHD questionnaire is chillingly vague. You can just fidget a lot, talk a lot, maybe act a little bored, then WHAM!—they’re scrubbing your brain with amphetamines.


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