Why is ADHD Commonly Misdiagnosed?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most commonly diagnosed behavioral disorders in children. In the U.S., ADHD affects roughly 8 percent of children ages 3-17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), up to 60 percent of children with ADHD will experience symptoms through adolescence and into adulthood.).

Countless studies from reputable health organizations have been conducted on the causes, symptoms and treatment of ADHD. But a decisive ADHD diagnosis can often be difficult to pin down, especially in young children.

Core Symptoms of ADHD

ADHD encompasses a wide spectrum of symptoms. While the “attention deficit” and “hyperactivity” aspects of this disorder can occur separately, they coincide in cases of ADHD. Attention deficit characteristics include trouble listening, inattention to detail, forgetfulness, lack of organization and an inability to stay focused on a subject or activity. Hyperactivity symptoms include the inability to sit still,  the constant need to be in motion and excessive talking.

Not Hard to Misdiagnose

Some of the symptoms of ADHD can also be present in adolescent depression, bipolar disorders and other mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders and mood disorders. While ADHD can occur in conjunction with another disorder, it is also possible for a child exhibiting symptoms common to ADHD diagnosis, to be actually be suffering from a different  problem altogether.

When a child is disruptive in class or has difficulty listening and cannot sit still at home, ADHD is often the first concern  a teacher or parent has. However, a recent Michigan State University study reports nearly one million children in the U.S. might  have been misdiagnosed with ADHD. This can translate into ADHD treatment such as medication being initiated too soon, which in some cases might have a negative long-term impact on a child’s health.

It is important for a child displaying ADHD symptoms to be thoroughly evaluated over a period of time by a mental health professional. Any initial treatment should begin with behavioral therapies in lieu of medication.

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