Over the course of human history, the public has been known to have a very negative opinion of medical diagnoses related to mental health disorders. Examining the time of the early civilizations, and moving through The Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Victorian era, it would be difficult to argue in defense of the treatment methods used on mental health patients in these periods.
Thankfully, the use of dreadful insane asylums, where individuals were mostly imprisoned rather than treated, or damaging medical procedures like the lobotomy are no longer allowed. Unfortunately, this does not mean that the society has become fully accepting and understanding when it comes to medical conditions that affect one’s mental health. While certain disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety have become more understood with carry far less of a social stigma, other diagnosed disorders are still seen as widely controversial by the public. One of such disorders is attention deficit hyperactivity disorder that, despite having been discovered in the late 1960s and studied for the last 40 years, is still widely debated in the media.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly referred to as ADHD, is a term used to describe a group of disorders that affect the person’s ability to concentrate or formulate their thoughts and ideas in a structured and concise manner. While this disorder can also be present among the adult population, the hyperactive subtype appears to be far more common among adolescents.
The first formal explanation of the diagnosis of this childhood disorder can be traced back to 1968 to Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II) where it was labeled as the “hyperkinetic reaction of childhood”, which was later renamed ADHD. However, even before it reached this formal level of recognition in the medical community, its treatment by certain mental health professionals using stimulant medications can be traced back to 1937. Currently, the disorder can manifest quite a wide range of symptoms, such as the affected child being easily distracted, more restless, and having a more difficult time following directions when compared to other children of the same age. It is not uncommon for many adults inexperienced with the disorder and its diagnosis, to misunderstand these symptoms and consider them to be signs of other developmental or cognitive disabilities.
The main reason for this disorder still being seen as controversial is the high number of diagnoses and the commonly prescribed stimulant-based forms of treatment. While it is true that this disorder has been diagnosed quite frequently in the 1990s and the early 21st century, its rate does appear to be similar to the diagnosis rate for learning disabilities (LD). Furthermore, it is important to note that while in the past it was more common and accepted to consider any learning difficulties as intrinsic intelligence differences among humans, the social view of the subject has become a lot more progressive. Consequently, today such differences are being addressed in their early stages, often by prescribing appropriate medications.
However, in the case of the attention deficit disorder the vast majority of available medications are considered rather strong stimulants, which are also often used as recreational street-drugs by individuals not affected with ADHD. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that ADHD is a very real disorder affecting many children, and the fact that the treatment method is still seen as controversial, should have no influence on the validity of professional medical diagnoses.