Impatience leads to overdiagnosis

Do you not listen when spoken to? Do you often avoid, dislike, or prove reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort? Are you often “on the go” or have difficulty waiting your

Do you not listen when spoken to? Do you often avoid, dislike, or prove reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort? Are you often “on the go” or have difficulty waiting your turn? Can’t engage in leisure activities quietly?
If you responded yes to all of the above, are genetically predisposed to a “mental disorder” and make a trip to your cozy pharmaceutical psychiatrist, most likely you’ll be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder.
Welcome to the magical panacea which is psychiatry; the disease is America’s and it is called impatience.
Without doubt, there has been a steady correlation over the years between a vastly over-stimulating world of technology and an increase in ADD diagnoses. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, one out of three boys in grade school is prescribed for Ritalin and a total of eight million American children are on it nationwide.
In the past two years, the amount of Ritalin available for prescription in the United States has increased by 97 percent.
Anything from disruptive conduct in school, chronic daydreaming, disruptive fidgeting, poor academic performance, or a parent-teacher conference is likely to spur a general diagnosis.
The wave of ADD cases can hardly be deemed a psychiatric enigma. We eat faster, work faster, play harder, and then when we finally sit down to watch TV, our natural inclination is to channel-surf.
Information and assistance are expected in an instant, and we experience an almost paralytic sensation when separated from our pagers or cell phones.
If our country shares any singular culture, it is the culture of intense urgency and hurriedness, aided by a proliferation of Starbucks coffee shops and Red Bull vendors on every corner. Truth be told, the nation’s hyperactivity is practically an incubator for the attention disorder.
Dr. Thomas Armstrong’s controversial book “The Myth of the ADD Child” strongly insists that the over-diagnosis stereotypes a variety of learning-related abnormalities and forces children to behave “in a narrowly defined manner.”
He recommends a simple change in classroom setup, more kinesthetic interaction, or a channeling of energy into an activity like martial arts.
Child Psychiatrist Stanley Greenspan claims “a number of attention problems are due to visual, auditory, motor and special processing difficulties” misdiagnosed or bundled together with ADD.
Most ADD questionnaires are highly impressionistic and subjective. Also, most contemporary psychiatrists lack the personal communication skills necessary in dealing with individual cases. They often neglect the contributory role of a child’s environment or the possibility of his or her intellectual level producing ADD-like symptoms.
Although no specific neurological mechanism has been detected as the source for the disorder, many mental health professionals are quick to sanction an order for Ritalin or Aderol, both Class II substances.
To compare their potency, others in this category include Cocaine, Morphine, Opium, Methadone and Dexedrine.
Ritalin and its counterparts are, in essence, amphetamines or uppers that stimulate the nervous system and enhance overall concentration. Just like other amphetamines, the drug is often accompanied by anxiety, heart palpitations, depression, withdrawal and even neurological disorders. A mass distribution of a substance like this not only adds to our prescription-addicted culture, it almost classifies as child abuse.
Another resulting problem has been a stealthy diversion of these drugs into a college campus black market. “In my classes everyone knows someone who is using or selling Ritalin, reported Martha Farah of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center of Cognitive Neuroscience. “This is not unique to Penn… research shows it is nationwide.”
A conference in New York held in June 2003 dealt with this new issue regarding the ethics of cognitive enhancement. Some delegates suggested future urine tests before or after examinations to ensure the sobriety of the students and the integrity of their efforts.
The rampant diagnoses of ADD in this country are nothing short of a popular scapegoat.
Psychiatrists are too influenced by the pharmaceutical industry which in turn is much too invested in a biochemical research that will benefit them financially.
Schools poorly accommodate individual learning personalities, parents are absent in their children’s raising, counseling and therapy are scarce and it seems society is anxious for a comfort blanket in the form of a prescription bottle. Maybe the real root of the disorder is a lack of accountability, both public and personal.
Erin Cusack can be reached at

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