The Importance of Correct Diagnosis: ADHD

Correctly diagnosing psychological disorders is of course of paramount importance for any Clinical Psychologist who hopes to be effective. This statement may be no more true than in the case of ADHD.

ADHD is one of the most OVERDIAGNOSED disorders in the field of mental health and medicine in general. In the past 15 years, much publicity has been given to this disorder creating a situation where kids, parents, teachers, and doctors not trained to diagnose psychiatric disorders have begun to throw the title of ADHD around liberally. I’ve even heard kids use the term as an adjective i.e. “I’m so ADD”. The media’s coverage of this serious mental health disorder has created an explanation for parents who have kids who are underperforming at school creating high demand for special educational intervention and medications like Ritalin. There is a great danger however to misdiagnosing a child with ADHD, and if you as a parent suspect that your child might have ADHD, it is best to have him or her evaluated by a psychologist who specializes in recognizing the disorder. Below are just some of the dangers of misdiagnosing a child (or an adult for that matter) with ADHD.

1. ADHD is a biologically based disorder, but there are many other physiological ailments that can produce ADHD-like behavior such as: allergies, hyperthyroidism, manic depression, anxiety disorders, auditory processing deficits, and specific Learning Disabilities.

2. Medication can be an extremely effective intervention for ADHD, but if a child is misdiagnosed, and does not have ADHD negative consequences can ensue. For instance, if a child with an anxiety disorder is diagnosed with ADHD and given a stimulant like Ritalin, the child’s behavior will become increasingly erratic he/she will become restless, and his/her anxiety will only worsen.

3. If a child or adult is Bipolar, but incorrectly diagnosed with ADHD, medical intervention will intensify the manic episodes of a Bipolar disorder to a potentially physically dangerous degree that can lead to hospitalization.

4. If ADHD is mistaken for a Learning Disorder, your child’s school will initiate academic support plans that will miss the mark, and not address the true problem. The student will receive tutoring and remediation yet will fall farther and farther behind due to the lack of focus on the child’s attention deficit.

ADHD is a treatable disorder through the use of behavioral interventions and medication. Proper diagnosis is the first step toward effective treatment.

**If you feel that you or your child may have ADHD, don’t hesitate to contact me to schedule a consultation at (310) 712-5480.

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