Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is a condition that affects millions of American adults and children. Symptoms include impulsive and hyper behaviors and an inability to focus. It’s believed that 6.4 million children and adolescents from age 4 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. However, experts believe that of those who get diagnosed with the disorder, a startling number are actually misdiagnosed.

How Does This Happen?

Members of the public are often reluctant to believe that medical experts can be fallible, but mistakes do happen. This is why patients are often encouraged to get a second opinion following a serious medical diagnosis through The professional is only working with the medical knowledge they have; medical treatment recommendations change and facts are disputed or discredited fairly often.

As such, what medical experts now know is that earlier methods of identifying and attempting to treat ADHD in young children were flawed. In fact, it’s believed that as many as one in five children are falsely diagnosed as having ADHD. In other words, if all the children who experience misdiagnoses were gathered, they would represent a population total greater than that in the state of Alaska.

What’s especially worrying about these inaccurate diagnoses is that it’s the youngest children who are most likely to be misdiagnosed. In a study done by Todd Elder of Michigan State University, it was shown that, among kindergartners, the youngest were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest children in the same class. These youth are not only given incorrect diagnoses, but they are also usually prescribed powerful medications such as Ritalin and Adderall. The unneeded drugs cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and may have long-term effects on still-developing children.

Todd Elder believes that the crux of the problem is that many of the misdiagnoses were linked to both the age of the children and the recommendations of their teachers. Some educators do not understand that a hyperactive child isn’t necessarily suffering from a disorder.

“If a child is behaving poorly, if he’s inattentive, if he can’t sit still, it may simply be because he’s 5 and the other kids are 6,” said Elder. “There’s a big difference between a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old, and teachers and medical practitioners need to take that into account when evaluating whether children have ADHD.”

Signs of a Misdiagnosis

There are certain symptoms attributed to ADHD which can unfortunately make it easy for professionals to misdiagnose their patients. Children and adults who have ADHD are known to have attention problems, an inability to sit still and difficulty concentrating on tasks. However, did you know that many of these symptoms can be tied to completely unrelated conditions?

For example, restlessness and excessive energy with an inability to concentrate are also signs that a person could be experiencing a manic episode, a condition tied to bipolar disorder. In addition, a great deal of stress or lack of sleep is commonly known to cause people to have trouble concentrating on important tasks. Children with sleep disorders can easily be misdiagnosed based on symptoms of irritability and inattention and a tendency to be more hyper, all effects of insufficient sleep. Those with processing disorders and food sensitivities are also at greater risk since they present changes in behavior that resemble the symptoms of ADHD, studies show.

In order to determine that a misdiagnosis has taken place, it’s important to examine the characteristics unique to ADHD. If they are not present while symptoms shared with other conditions remain, it’s highly probable that the patient has been misdiagnosed.

How to Prevent an ADHD Misdiagnosis

As previously stated, characteristics unique to ADHD are key in offering a proper and correct diagnosis. One proposed method for diagnosis includes the use of an MRI. Using the MRI or magnetic resonance imaging scan to take pictures of the human brain can make it easier to compare a brain with ADHD to a brain which does not have the disorder.

Vitria Adisetiyo, a postdoctoral research fellow at Medical University of South Carolina, headed a study which found that brain iron levels could potentially confirm whether or not an individual suffers from ADHD. Said Adisetiyo, “[A biomarker] gives more weight to the ADHD diagnosis, but also more caution to writing the disorder off and blindly prescribing drugs to a child just because he’s rowdy.”

This is a preliminary study; for now, doctors will have to rely on other methods to avoid misdiagnosis. This includes thorough research which eliminates all other possibilities. Adisetiyo said that some doctors may only ask a few questions and speak to a child’s parents for a few minutes before immediately reaching a conclusion on canada post tracking. Instead, it’s recommended that doctors know what a patient is eating, what their daily routine is or even if the parent has considered behavioral management techniques.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder shouldn’t be the immediate conclusion when other explanations could exist. If such a conclusion is drawn, it’s important to remember that a second or even third opinion from a highly qualified medical professional should be obtained as soon as possible.

It’s concerning how many thousands of Americans may have been improperly diagnosed as suffering from ADHD. We have yet to understand the full consequences as not all of these persons have come of age. As research continues, there are findings that we may not be fully aware of for another decade or more. The good news is that as medical experts and researchers delve into the problem of ADHD misdiagnosis, hard questions are asked and there is an increased demand for accountability.

This can only drive the medical field to come up with solutions that are safer and more accurately meet the needs of children who may or may not suffer from the disorder.