Less than one year ago, I sat in my usual seat in a Beury lecture hall to take an Art History test at Temple University.  One of my good friends in that class – let’s call him Jerry – was missing, and I was concerned that he would be denied a make up exam.  I couldn’t imagine why he would miss such an important test.

Expecting to find him in a bad mood, I confronted Jerry later that day, “Why weren’t you at the Art History test?”  He nonchalantly told me he took it in a separate room.  When I pressed further, he told me he had recently been diagnosed with ADD and was allotted more time for a test that the rest of us had 50 minutes to complete.

ADD and ADHD (Attention Deficit and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders) seem to be flourishing disorders among young people.  Or are they just a cop out to explain less than typical behavior?  The abbreviations can be heard regularly in conversation and even abused.  I know when I get distracted or have a sudden shift in thought, I tell whom I am speaking to, “Don’t mind me, I have ADD.” No, I have never been diagnosed, and no I do not really believe I have any disorder.

They say to never diagnose yourself.  But could an over diagnosis of certain disorders cause more problems?  WebMD lists a slough of symptoms of childhood ADHD.  Among these are squirming, fidgeting, difficulty staying quiet, excessive talking, being easily distracted, failing to complete tasks, and more.  To me, these sound like normal behaviors and misbehaviors of young children, the consequence of unfavorable environments, or even the result of lax parenting.  Whether these behaviors are normal or not, I do not find it necessary to have a child tested for any disorders based on these “symptoms.”  It is also mentioned that most children grow out of these phases naturally, anyway.

A website called offers an ADD/ADHD screening test.  Being as honest as I could, I took the test for adults and scored a 75 – high probability of ADHD.  The website reminded me this was only a quick survey, and that a full medical history evaluation is necessary for a true diagnosis.  I wonder how many others have answered similar questionnaires online or in a doctor’s office, and how often such quizzes prompt one to see a doctor for his or her potential “condition.”  True, as I write, I may have rearranged this article and checked my Facebook about a dozen times already, but that is not due to any problem I have!

Jerry doesn’t recall having any difficulties in his childhood with paying attention, only that he had a hard time reading as fast as other students.  When he asked for more time on tests in high school, teachers were fine with it.  “It was never a huge deal until I got to college,” said Jerry.  Policies at Temple University prevented Jerry from being allowed more time on tests because he was not enrolled with Learning Disability Resources.

After countless tests and seeing many doctors, Jerry was diagnosed with ADD by a Temple University doctor.  He was now permitted to enroll with Disability Resources.  “Do I have ADD? I don’t really know.  They told me I do, it says on the paper work I do,” Jerry said.

Another young person I know – Kenneth, for the sake of privacy – took himself to see a doctor.  He was not seeking a cure for a disorder, however.  He was after Adderall, a highly addictive drug.  When used properly, Adderall increases alertness in ADHD patients.  Although Kenneth related to so-called symptoms of ADD and ADHD, he emphasized these when visiting the doctor.  “[The doctor told me] ‘I think you have ADD,’ then gave me options for a prescription.  I wanted Adderall.”   Kenneth reported symptoms, got diagnosed, and received a prescription all in one day’s visit.

Psychologist and author David Stein of Farmville, Virginia questioned the fact of ADD and ADHD even being disorders.  He mentioned in an article in USA Today by Marilyn Elias that the disorders are “bogus.”  Drug companies are funding and influencing the research on the disorders, so it’s not fair, he said.

Children and adults are under much pressure these days.  We are expected to be able to multitask and perform up to par with everyone on our level.  With so many new media and multimedia constantly throwing information at us, we can only take in so much, lest we fall behind.  Stein called it “information overload,” which causes people to be unable to concentrate.  How many things were bouncing around in your head while reading this? Chances are, that doesn’t mean you have ADD.

2 thoughts on “ADD/ADHD Op-Ed

  1. This business works because people want to attribute their faults to something – we want answers. Prescription drugs are easy solutions. And adderall makes us become super human by increasing our abilities to stay concentrated.

    Pharma co’s get paid.
    Doctors get paid.
    Patient’s problem is “solved.”
    On the surface it’s a win-win.

    • Absolutely, that’s something I left out of this article to keep it within my word limit, but both friends I spoke to each had something significant to say about money involved. “Jerry” wouldn’t even get tested by certain doctors without money or the insurance to cover it and “Kenneth” said as long as he had the money, he’d get what he wanted, Adderall. It’s unfair to those who actually do have sever disorders or deserve the help more. Harsh to say, but that’s how it is.

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