Defining mental disorders is an ongoing, fluid, subjective experience as there are countless factors to consider when agreeing to what consensus considers a “mental disorder.” Unlike physical ailments that can often be identified and measured (i.e. a broken bone), mental disorders are vague in nature and often changing with societal values (for example, homosexuality was once considered a mental disorder). Today’s most controversial mental disorder in the eyes of many is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), with the danger of this diagnosis being the common “treatment” of drugs that usually follows.
I have written extensively about my feelings of ADHD, and I am a critic of the diagnosis. The criteria used is almost comical and would “catch” just about any kid (and most adults, actually), yet this diagnosis is made tens of thousands of times each week across our country. This diagnosis would be troubling enough if for no other reason than creating dangerous self-fulfilling prophecies for kids who are given the label, but even more scary when you think of how many kids are immediately becoming potential lifelong drug consumers as a result of being diagnosed with ADHD.
Was I ADHD?
It’s funny, but when I look back and watch old family videos of myself as a kid in the 1970’s, all I see is an incredibly active kid bouncing off walls and running all over the place. I also remember regularly getting in trouble in grade school for talking and getting out of my seat. Looking back, I didn’t have a mental disorder or “ADHD” (what I would have been diagnosed with if I were a kid today), but instead I was someone who easily became bored in school with classes I didn’t like. I didn’t need a mental disorder to define my normal, child-like behaviors; nor did I need powerful drugs to numb my energy and spirit. Ironically, I was very obedient in classes I enjoyed and teachers who made school fun.
We should learn from the past
100 years ago American psychologist and eugenicist Henry Goddard worked hard to eliminate “feeble-minded” immigrants from settling in the United States by using sterilization to stop their inferior genes from populating in this country; and years later Egas Moniz won the Nobel Prize for his work in developing the lobotomy. The point is that just because consensus of people are in support of something doesn’t make it right, good, or healthy —- fortunately, we no longer make efforts to sterilize less intelligent people, nor do use lobotomies as a medical approach to treating mental illness.
More dedication to parenting – or drugs?
Rather than brushing up on parenting skills by employing empathy, consistency, positive reinforcement, and discipline, far too many people are going to their pediatricians and literally asking for drugs to use with their kids to temper ADHD symptoms (or, in my opinion, normal kid behaviors). For some reason there is this crazy notion that if we simply put young, developing, often pre-pubescent kids on powerful, dangerous stimulant drugs that all of their unwanted child characteristics will magically and selectively vanish into thin air!
I won’t debate for a moment that raising a difficult kid is an incredible challenge, and with the onslaught of big pharma propaganda about there being “magic pills” to treat ADHD it is easy to see why so many parents are intrigued about prescription pill solutions. The problem, however, is that millions of kids annually are being exposed to dangerous drugs that not only impact them in the present, but will potentially hurt them long-term as more longitudinal research on these drugs emerge in the years to come. The reality is that kids will always be kids, and they will squirm in their seats and sometimes make unexpected outbursts. To throw parenting out the window in exchange for magic pills is a dangerous decision to make, and one that only hurts — not helps — kids.