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Common Mistakes in the ADHD Diagnosis

An ADHD diagnosis can be very helpful in treating problem behaviors and poor academic performance. After all, you can't start treating a disorder unless you have a name for it. What's worrisome about the ADHD diagnosis these days is that there are a number of doctors who make the diagnosis too casually and easily, as though they were merely checking off a grocery list of symptoms.  On a superficial level, diagnosing ADHD seems easy, but few people are aware that the disorder is far more complex than just uncontrollable hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity.  There are a number of other disorders that also have these symptoms, and a child who has ADHD may also be suffering from other related problems like food allergies or learning disabilities.  Here are the most common mistakes doctors make when they diagnose ADHD.

Relying on symptoms alone

ADHD is traditionally diagnosed by 18 diagnostic criteria – symptoms or behaviors that suggest the presence of the disorder. If at least 12 of these symptoms have been present for at least 6 months in two different settings, the child is said to have ADHD. There are a number of tests that can detect ADHD, but the easiest and most inexpensive ones to implement are rating scales to be completed by the parents and teachers.  Rating scales usually list variations of the diagnostic criteria and ask the parent or teacher to rate these according to their frequency or severity. These scales are only really useful for determining whether a visit to the doctor is necessary or whether further testing is needed. Relying on these scales alone will not give a doctor enough information to get a true sense of the child's disorder.  ADHD is much more than just superficial behaviors, and there are a number of factors that can cause these symptoms.

Prescribing medication to see if it works

Although ADHD medications have helped many children overcome their symptoms, this is not a treatment that will work for everyone, nor is it a very effective long-term solution for the disorder.  In the first place, the effects of ADHD medication only last several hours. As soon as the drug wears off, the child becomes just as hyperactive or inattentive as he was before the medication.  Secondly, ADHD medications only suppress the symptoms; they do not do anything to address the real causes of the disorder. As I mentioned earlier, the causes of ADHD cannot always be treated by medication. Food intolerances, toxic exposure, and nutritional deficiencies are just some of the environmental causes that require a more holistic intervention.

Failing to check for co-morbid disorders

Children with ADHD experience more than just hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. They also suffer from sleep problems, asthma, and allergies, to name a few. In some cases, treating the co-morbid disorder gets rid of the ADHD symptoms. However, these disorders cannot be detected with just a superficial examination and hasty diagnosis.

If you think your doctor has diagnosed your child with ADHD based only on the symptoms or a scale, it's best if you get a second opinion from a health care professional with thorough testing procedures.  Chiropractors with training in functional medicine provide a battery of tests to determine not only the presence of ADHD, but also its potential causes.