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ADHD in Children Health Center

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When Someone Questions Your Child's ADHD

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WebMD Feature

If your child has ADHD, you've likely run into people who doubt that ADHD is real, tell you that all your child really needs is a firmer hand, and, whether they mean to or not, question your skills as a parent.

If it's coming from someone you're not that close to and it's really not their business, you have some options. You could thank them for their concern and change the topic, for instance.

But if it's someone you're close to, you might choose to have a more in-depth conversation to debunk their misunderstandings about ADHD, such as these six common myths.

1. There's no such thing as ADHD.

"ADHD is one of the best, most well-established diagnoses we have in psychiatry. We've been able to tie it to brain function for 50 years now," says Jay Salpekar, MD, a child psychiatrist at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "It's a travesty the way it is often perceived."

Hans Steiner, MD, a professor emeritus of child and adolescent psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine, agrees. ADHD research, he says, is "as good a body of knowledge as any in medicine. It's extremely solid."

Some people are "jumping on a soapbox over an issue they don't understand," Salpekar says. If your child has ADHD and someone tells you the disorder doesn't exist, he says, "Tell them to walk a mile in your shoes" to see for themselves just how real it is.

2. There was no ADHD when I was growing up.

"They're wrong," Steiner says. "It's simply gone by different names."

In the 1950s, he points out, the disorder was known as minimal brain dysfunction. The disorder itself was first described in the scientific literature 110 years ago.

So why do we hear so much about it today? Psychiatrists and other medical professionals have become better able to recognize it in recent decades, and studies of the disorder have become more common and more sophisticated. In short, more people are paying more attention to ADHD now than they were a few decades ago.

3. Too many kids are being diagnosed with ADHD.

ADHD is being diagnosed more now than decades ago, but the reasons why aren't clear.

Today, "there are stringent diagnostic criteria, which are becoming even more stringent," Steiner says.

However, Steiner says that in the past, using previous diagnostic criteria, ADHD may have been diagnosed too readily. "Five to seven years ago, U.S. practitioners were quick to jump on the bandwagon, but that has settled down… We now have better screening and better follow-up treatments."

Another reason for the uptick in diagnoses is that ADHD is better understood than in the past, which makes it easier to both recognize and diagnose. "We notice it now," Salpekar says.

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