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How Do We Know ADHD Is Real?


Updated June 18, 2014

Question: How Do We Know ADHD Is Real?
ADHD just doesn’t LOOK like a disorder. How do we know it is real and valid?

The confusion that is sometimes created with ADHD is that we all have times of inattention, distractibility, impulsive reactions, lack of self-control, and so on. For those with ADHD, however, the symptoms are persistent and chronic and significantly impede daily functioning. In some ways, it would be so much easier if a simple medical test could determine whether someone has ADHD. This way there may not be so many questions regarding its validity as a real condition. Perhaps in the future this will be a possibility ... but in the meantime, education and awareness about ADHD can help.

Individuals with ADHD have deficits in the ability to maintain attention and/or inhibit impulsive or hyperactive behaviors. Research indicates that these deficits can certainly lead to impairment in major-life functions, such as school, work, relationships, etc. There have also been findings that those with this set of symptoms are more likely to be prone to more frequent and severe physical injuries, bike accidents, car accidents, etc., as compared to those without ADHD.

Neurological studies have indicated that individuals with ADHD tend to have less electrical activity in parts of the brain and show less reactivity to stimulation in these areas. Scientists are also investigating what gene or set of genes may be associated with ADHD, which is recognized as a medical condition by the National Institutes of Health, the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and every other major professional medical, psychiatric and psychological association or organization.

Many people feel frustrated about being labeled or having their child labeled with ADHD. I agree that it isn’t always helpful to label people. An individual is certainly not defined by their ADHD. Understanding ADHD, though, is the first step in finding effective treatment and strategies for dealing with the symptoms and issues that come along with it.

Additional Reading:
What Is ADHD?
Myths of ADHD
Diagnosing ADHD
Treatment of ADHD

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