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The Extent of Misdiagnosis of ADHD in Children

In the United States, since the 1990s, the number of children who have been diagnosed as having attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has skyrocketed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that roughly 6.4 million children have been diagnosed as having ADHD. With diagnosis comes hand-in-hand with ADHD drugs, and increased vigilance in school programs for dealing with ADHD students in a mainstream classroom. Sometimes parents find it easier to have a diagnosis and a name to adhere to the actions of their fidgety and inattentive kids. However, there has been significant concern that not only are children being misdiagnosed as having ADHD, but also certain communities of people of color are being under-diagnosed, and health care professionals are misdiagnosing what could be trauma and post-traumatic stress as being ADHD. One 2010 study estimated that roughly one million children annually are misdiagnosed as having ADHD.

Symptoms of ADHD

The symptoms outlined with the guidelines for determining whether a child has ADHD resemble a review of the ability of the child to pay attention to tasks, the extent he or she is easily distracted or forgetful, how quickly and the extent to which the child speaks, whether he or she can wait for his or her turn, and to what extent does the child fidget or is unable to remain still. Though a child with true ADHD will most likely exhibit these symptoms, many of these symptoms when approached subjectively could appear to be ADHD when really a child may just be a child, or is on the ADHD spectrum.

ADHD and Racial Bias

In one study, it was noted that ADHD may be overdiagnosed in Caucasian communities, while it is severely underdiagnosed in communities of people of color, such as African American and Latino communities. The national average suggests that ADHD affects 9.5% of children; statistics in Caucasian communities demonstrated that on average, roughly 11.5% of children were considered to have ADHD, while 8.9% and 6.3% of children diagnosed with ADHD respectively were found in African American and Latino communities. A 2013 study that evaluated 17,000 U.S. children observed that by the eighth grade, African American children were 69% less likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than Caucasian children, while Latinos were 50% less likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis. A 2016 study published in Pediatrics found that African American children were manifesting symptoms of ADHD at a higher rate but were undiagnosed much less often than their Caucasian counterparts. Diagnostic biases have the impact of harming a community that already is disadvantaged for other external factors, and can create further stigma against the members of the community. Where one practitioner sees ADHD symptoms in a Caucasian child, another may see those same symptoms in an African American or Latino child and note that the child is aggressive or defiant.

ADHD and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Finally, not only can it be harmful to give powerful pharmaceuticals to children who are misdiagnosed as having ADHD, as well as, underdiagnosing children who need pharmaceutical, mental, and emotional support, but categorizing another disorder as ADHD can equally be harmful. In a study published by the Atlantic, one medical professional in Baltimore evaluated 65,000 children and found that while many of these children were diagnosed as having ADHD, the same ADHD-diagnosed children had also endured severe levels of poverty, violence, divorce, and family substance abuse. Though there is no conclusive evidence correlating these violent episodes and the ADHD diagnosis, it is hypothesized that ADHD symptoms and symptoms for post-traumatic stress disorder may be similar but the ADHD symptoms are easier and more normalized to treat. It was also suggested that clinicians may not realize the extent to which children have experienced a traumatic event.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

If your child was misdiagnosed as having ADHD and the pharmaceutical drugs have harmed your child, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. Please call the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.

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