By Dr. Jan Hittelman

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is estimated to affect 3-7% of school-age children. For many, these challenges continue into adulthood. There are three types of ADHD; “Predominantly Inattentive”, “Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive”, and a combination of the two (“Combined Type”).

Over the years there have been valid concerns that many children are inaccurately diagnosed as having ADHD. This is problematic in part because medication is often prescribed to treat the disorder. It has been shown that some children, who were initially diagnosed as ADHD, were actually in the early stages of having Bipolar disorder and the ADHD symptoms were a function of the manic component. In these cases, prescribing stimulant medication can actually trigger manic episodes. There have also been instances where children were initially diagnosed with ADHD and it later was determined that their concentration problems were actually a symptom of depression. Finally, there are large numbers of children that were simply misdiagnosed and did not need to be put on medication at all.

To accurately diagnose ADHD there need to be several indicators that together confirm the diagnosis. These would include: feedback from parents, teachers and children themselves; objective evidence based on standardized psychometric tests constructed to assess for ADHD; and meeting the specific criteria developed by the American Psychiatric Association. Too often these critical steps are skipped and medication is prescribed.