Thursday, August 18, 2022

I probably have ADHD

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Or so the results page of an online quiz tells me. It adds that only my doctor can know for sure, but I do exhibit a lot of ADHD symptoms.

I think it would have been hard not to be given that answer if you completed the quiz and suspect that was the point of it.

Because I have long been sceptical of the ADHD diagnosis in children and suspicious of what lies behind it. There are no physical tests for its presence: rather it is diagnosed through an adult assessing a child against a checklist of behaviours. 

As that checklist reads like an inventory of the things about children that irritate adults, I'm surprised more aren't diagnosed with the disorder.

Support for this scepticism comes from the fact that children who are young for their school year (i.e. born in the summer) are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their older classmates. The obvious explanation for this is that it's because they are that much more immature.

But that hasn't stopped the rise and rise of childhood ADHD, because the pharmaceutical companies have a drug to sell to treat it: Ritalin. Though it is similar in its effect to speed and cocaine, it is prescribed extraordinarily widely. In the US, some six million children (10 per cent of all US children) are on Ritalin.

For a sceptical summary of the science of childhood ADHD, read The Scientism of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by Sami Timimi.

Adult ADHD, which is being talked about and diagnosed more and more widely, appears to rest upon the assumption that most people are like model employees in a 1950s American corporation.

They always complete their tasks on time and in the right order and pay equal attention to tasks that interest them and tasks that do not.

But this vision of normality seems to me wholly unrealistic. Being more motivated to do things that interest you, as I have always been, is the human condition, not a disorder. 

I suspect that somewhere behind the rise of the concept of adult ADHD lies the increasing psychological demands of the modern workplace. The demand for longer hours and bottomless positivity, together with the demands of any hierarchy, is proving too much for a lot of people.

Rather than place the problem in the individual worker, by diagnosing them with a disorder, maybe we should be looking to change the workplace?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The key words in your analysis are in the phrase "human condition". It seems that we ourselves, not just the pharmaceutical industry, are trying to pathologize everyday existence. As well as self-diagnosis of ADHD, we are seeing the same phenomenon with autism, dyslexia, allergies, IBS, personality disorders etc. They are very serious conditions in many cases, but their pathological significance is being undermined by an easy self-diagnosis approach, often made in ignorance of the true nature of the condition. Unfortunately, whenever anyone says "I am autistic" it is usually socially unacceptable to say "Is that a psychologist's diagnosis, or your own?" Self-diagnosis with dyslexia (usually by middle class parents) in order to get extra assistance with exams is a noted phenomenon. Perhaps we need to be reminded that people can be thick, lazy, obsessive and fussy - even middle class children.