More people than ever are being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - a condition linked to impulsiveness, restlessness and hyperactivity.
But paediatric neurologist Dr Richard Saul believes that ADHD simply ‘doesn’t exist’ and is being used as a mask for less serious problems.
Around three to seven per cent of children, or 400,000, are believed to have ADHD in the UK, with many being prescribed drugs to try and improve their concentration at school.
Dr Saul argues all these children are being misdiagnosed and claims ADHD shouldn’t be listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).
He claims that ADHD is nothing more than a collection of symptoms and not a disease, according to a report in the New York Post.
‘ADHD makes a great excuse,’ Dr Saul said in his book, ‘ADHD does not exist: The truth about Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder.’
‘The diagnosis can be an easy-to-reach-for crutch. Moreover, there’s an attractive element to an ADHD diagnosis, especially in adults – it can be exciting to think of oneself as involved in many things at once, rather than stuck in a boring rut.’
In his own practice, Dr Saul began looking for other causes of his patients’ symptoms.
He found cases such as a young girl who was unruly in school, but it turned out to be that she couldn’t see the blackboard and simply needed glasses.
A 36-year-old man who thought he had ADHD was just drinking too much coffee and not getting enough sleep.
Some cases produced no diagnosis. One adult, convinced she had ADHD and who had been given stimulants, realised it was simply life getting to her after being prescribed regular exercise.
Prescriptions for stimulant drugs such as Ritalin have increased twofold for children and adolescents in the UK with ADHD, and fourfold in adults between 2003 and 2008.
Such medications can cause adverse reactions such as weight loss, liver toxicity, and suicidal thoughts, and in the short term may suppress pubertal growth.