ADHD: Does It Exist?


For more than ten years, doctors, researchers and experts have searched for scientific proof that ADHD is a disease. To date, there currently is none. What has been noted is that in a stsudy by Castellano, 93% of children that had ADHD symptoms Baughman noted that 93% of the subjects in the study by Castellano showing that ADHD children had 5% smaller brains were on chronic stimulation therapy (Ritalin and related drugs). Hence the possibility that the stimulant drugs caused the condition.

When at home, June’s mother said that she "horses around" with her husband, who she jokingly blames for making her a little rough around the edges at school. Her teacher, however, feels it’s a little more than playing rough. At her desk she is constantly moving, which her second grade teacher says prevents her from learning. "I’m worried about her, I don’t feel like she’s learning anything," she told me. In first grade, if she wasn’t tearing paper to shreds, she was coloring furiously on the floor or desk, or eating anything she could get her hands on. But those were her good moments. She could also hit, punch, and push. When any of her behaviors were pointed out however, she didn’t realize what she was doing and would burst into tears, saying she wanted to be good, she would be good from now on.

June could be diagnosed, along with up to 5% of other children, with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). The DSM-IV criteria for ADHD, according to the 2000 edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, require that at least six symptoms of inattention or six symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity be present for at least six months "to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with development level." Most of the eighteen possible indicators of ADHD are specific to the classroom environment. Teachers often detect it in schools and frequently recommend that their pupils be treated.

Most physicians believe that ADHD is a disease that has definite neurological features. Consistent with many findings, the Attention and Achievement Center of the American College of Behavioral Medicine says that ADHD children tend to have higher theta and alpha brain wave activity, which are generally associated with idleness and drowsiness. When the stimulation is not high enough, the child is inattentive, but when it is too high the child becomes hyperactive.

In 1990, PET scan data showed that ADHD children’s brains are under active when compared to non-ADHD children when given intellectual challenges. The high incidence of ADHD in school settings, where children at a young age must sit for long periods of time, is only one of the many reasons some people are skeptical of ADHD’s claim as a neurological "disease". Many of the signs of ADHD change over time, or are more acute at some times of the day. A chart compiled by the Optometric Extension Foundation found that the majority of the indicators of ADHD, as defined in DSM-IV are also indicators of learning related visual problems, nutritional allergies, sensory integration dysfunction, but these symptoms are also present in normal children under seven.

Those who do not believe that ADHD is a scientifically proven disease point to the lack of pathologic diagnostic criteria. A well-known critic of the ADHD label, neurologist Fred Baughman, MD has contacted many specialists in the field who have been unable to provide proof that ADHD is a disease. Baughman noted that 93% of the subjects in the study by Castellano showing that ADHD children had 5% smaller brains were on chronic stimulation therapy (Ritalin and related drugs). Hence the possibility that the stimulant drugs caused the condition.

In 1998 William B. Carey, MD of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told Baughman "There are no such articles (constituting proof that ADHD is a disease). There are many articles raising doubts, but none that establish the proof you or I seek." Many specialists have responded similarly, saying that they anticipate scientific proof, but currently there is none.

Despite the fact that it is not possible to make a diagnosis of ADHD based on pathologic criteria, it may be diagnosed based upon behavioral criteria available in DSM-IV.

June’s second grade teacher had been struggling with what exactly to do with a student that just can’t seem to pay attention long enough to sit still and learn. She was resistant to seeking formal assessment from a doctor who would, in all likelihood, suggest she be put on medication for ADHD.

Many teachers and parents report that children on stimulant drugs like Ritalin have an easier time concentrating on tasks and are better behaved. However, there are many side effects reported by doctors, such as decreased appetite, insomnia, increased anxiety and/or irritability. Some children report mild stomachaches or headaches.

June has not been tested and is not on medication, but her teacher reports that she is doing much better. The magic cure? Tough Love. In combination with strict rules with consistent responses, June’s teacher also praises her helping to boost her self-esteem. Many ADHD children thrive under strict behavior management in which they are taught "better" responses through a series of rewards. Behavioral Therapy (BT) helps a child directly change his or her thinking and coping, thus leading to changes in behavior. Children like June who display ADHD symptoms also respond well to help in organizing tasks and schoolwork.

Changes in diet and supplements have also had a positive effect on many children. ADHD children tend to be deficient in certain major nutrients like the fatty acid DHA, which secures the signaling devices for cell communication, and essential amino acids needed for proper brain functioning. ADHD children also tend to be deficient in zinc, magnesium, calcium and other nutrients that deplete neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and GABA.

Normal diets in this day and age rarely provide enough of the raw materials necessary to manufacture neurotransmitters necessary for normal brain functioning. Stress, worry, pollution and emotional ups and downs further deplete neurotransmitters. — The Epoch Times, 12/12/2004