Maybe it’s the diet we have today, or perhaps it’s the chemicals present in our food and in the air. Whatever it is, more and more people are getting diagnosed with ADHD today. Or are they really suffering from the disorder? Amid claims of a growing epidemic of ADHD among adults, a new report published in The Clinical Neuropsychologist reveals a surprising fact. Nearly one in four adults who seek medical treatment for the disorder might be faking their ADHD symptoms.
According to the authors of the report, there are many reasons why adults would exaggerate their symptoms. Some people do have ADHD, but just want to be sure that their doctor diagnoses them properly, while others thought they had ADHD but turned out to be depressed or stressed. In many cases, however, adults faked ADHD to get their hands on medications like Ritalin and Adderall.
As you’re probably aware by now, ADHD medications work as stimulants – that is, they boost the production of dopamine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters deficit among people who have ADHD. When someone with the disorder takes these drugs, they become calmer and are able to stay focused. But among healthy people, ADHD medications make great performance enhancers. College students, office workers, and journalists are known to take these drugs to improve their attention, memory, and learning.
This is why the UnRitalin Solution makes use of a complex testing protocol when we evaluate a new patient for ADHD. The typical ADHD test only looks at the symptoms, which does not provide enough information for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. In fact, diagnosing a disorder based on the symptoms alone is what makes it so easy to fake ADHD.
Last year, psychologists from the University of Kentucky discovered just how easy it was to fake the symptoms of the disorder. Their study, which was published in the June 2010 issue of Psychological Assessment, asked a group of college students to try to fake ADHD symptoms while they take tests. The college students were made up of three groups – one had ADHD and stopped taking medications temporarily, one didn’t have ADHD and weren’t asked to fake symptoms, and one who also didn’t have ADHD but were offered $45 if they could trick the assessor into thinking otherwise. The last group had five minutes to read ADHD information taken from Google.
ADHD tests generally fall into two categories. First is the self-report, where a patient describes symptoms using a scale or structured questions. The second is the neuropsychological test, a game-like test where mistakes are used as a measure for inattention, impulsivity, and other ADHD symptoms. The study revealed that the self-report tests couldn’t tell the real ADHD patients from the frauds, and the computer tests were hardly more effective.
It’s easy to see why adults get tempted into faking ADHD symptoms for a performance boost. Who wouldn’t want to get ahead by simply taking a pill? However, ADHD medications have side effects that can aggravate existing psychological and cardiac problems. Serious side effects sustained from frequent misuse of these drugs is a surefire way to ruin one’s performance and health.