A label, not a diagnosis?
ADHD is a newer disease, first defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) in 1994. This means that we still may have a lot to learn about what it is, and the best ways to treat it.
According to an article by Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D, some scientists believe that the hyperactivity and inattentive behaviors that classify the disease have been in effect for longer than the disease has had a name.
However, others believe that the diagnosis serves only to provide a label for children who act out and misbehave. In fact, Wedge suggests that drugs may often cover up the underlying true cause of the behaviors.
ADHD may have more than one cause -- and treatment.
Wedge's article cites evidence from Bruce Perry, a trauma specialist based out of Houston. In his studies, Perry noticed that childrens' brain functions are influenced by both biology and environmental factors — particularly social factors.
For some with ADHD, it's possible to find a chemical imbalance that truly is causing the disorder. In cases like that, prescription drugs are the only measures that can help.
But when it's environmental or social, Perry believes non-pharmaceutical therapies could be more beneficial for children with the disease than commonly prescribed medication.
ADHD has many components and theories as to the cause
Wedge also notes that some children diagnosed wth ADHD were only labeled because of explainable behavior. For example, children with stressed parents who don't spend enough time with them will act out in ways that could be diagnosed as ADHD.
Children in these situations would benefit from non-pharmacological methods to treating hyperactivity, including counseling the parents to reduce the amount of stress in the home. Reducing stress on the parents has been shown to have a positive effect on the children's own attitudes and behaviors.
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