Is ADHD a Medical Condition?

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Heard a lot about ADHD lately? You’re not alone. An uptick in education and awareness campaigns has led to it being a well broadcast topic. If you, or someone you know, has been diagnosed with it, you may wonder if it’s a legitimate medical condition. After all, wasn’t there a big debate about ADHD being the result of bad parenting and a lack of discipline or a scheme created by pharmaceuticals to increase prescription drug revenue?

According to leaders in the world of health, ADHD is a legitimate medical condition.

  • The CDC defines ADHD as “one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood…[that] often lasts into adulthood.”
  • The American Psychiatric Association says, “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common mental disorders affecting children. [It] also affects many adults…An estimated 8.4 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults have ADHD.”
  • CHADD houses The Science of ADHD, a page dedicated to the research and science of attention deficit disorder. It includes research by the Surgeon General of the United States, the National Institute of Health, the National Insitute of Mental Health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2002 International Consensus Statement on ADHD, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and more.

Is ADHD Real?

Search the Internet for “ADHD critics” or “is ADHD real” and you will find a host of opinions. The so-called “controversy” is fueled by some doctors and therapists disagreeing with the standard definition and acceptance of ADHD as a medical condition.

The sharp rise in reported cases over the last five to ten years is largely responsible for varying opinions. WebMD cites a study in which “ADHD diagnosis in children between the ages of 4 and 17 increased from 6.1% in 1997-1998 to 10.2% in 2015-2016.” But is this increase an indication of a hoax, or can it be logically addressed with facts?

In truth, no study has been conducted to determine why ADHD diagnosis is on the rise. Medical experts do have some base facts to consider, though.

  • ADHD is largely genetic, meaning a relative usually has it, and it can be passed on generation to generation.
  • Increasing access to medical care is likely a factor in the increase in diagnosis.
  • Increasing medical awareness and recognition is also noteworthy in almost all medical communities.
  • Higher awareness of the disorder amongst parents and schools causes more cases to be reviewed and ultimately discovered.

According to WebMD, researchers also suspect that a range of factors from chemical imbalances to brain changes or injuries, and even nurition may be factors in the uptick of the condition. Consumption of digital media and stimuli may also play a role.

Just What Is ADHD?

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a deficiency of certain chemicals or neurotransmitters in the brain. Research has been more in-depth in the past decade, and medical science has begun to construct a clearer picture of just what ADHD is and how it impacts patients.

ADHD is divided into three categories: inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, and combined. The symptoms of each can be a child’s normal behavior. The disorder comes into play when their behavior stops or limits them from progressing alongside their peers at an average rate. ADHD characteristics are chronic and last into adulthood.


Although ADHD is a confirmed medical condition, it can be misdiagnosed, especially in children. Unfortunately, there is no blood test or brain scan that can pinpoint the disorder’s presence. Instead, trained physicals and therapists must look at the whole picture and try to identify behavioral characteristics that could indicate an attention deficit disorder.

An array of other conditions can cause characteristics very similar to ADHD. For example, a constant sleep deficit can cause symptoms that mirror ADHD. Mood disorders can also look like ADHD at first.

The Gray Area

The bottom line is there is no error-proof way of diagnosing ADHD. While our understanding of the disorder has grown substantially, pinpointed diagnosis and treatment techniques are still a gray area. It is this void of unknown and uncertainty that spawns such harsh controversy around ADHD. Essentially, it is the fear of what we don’t fully understand that lends itself to many wanting to believe ADHD is not a real medical condition.


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