As ADHD Diagnoses Increase Are We Better Off?

ADD/ADHD diagnoses and treatments (including therapy and medication) are on the rise. Life might have been simpler before ADD/ADHD became a recognized mental health condition, but was it better?
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Were things simpler, easier, and were we better off overall in the pre-medicated, pre-diagnosed age?

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More children are seeking treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD). More doctors are prescribing antipsychotic drugs to young kids to treat ADD/ADHD. More and more children are being medicated for mental health problems period. Is that so wrong? Or were things simpler, easier, and were we better off overall in the pre-medicated, pre-diagnosed age?

An interesting piece by Erik Kolbell, a psychotherapist and author of a book of essays, The God of Second Chances, in the New York Times hits the latter sentiment head on, referring to this longing for a yesteryear free of ADD/ADHD and other mental health diagnoses (and accompanying treatments) as a "fake nostalgia for a pre-therapy past."

But what is there to be nostalgiac for? For Kolbel, there's nothing. As he puts it:

"One of my most vivid and least cheerful childhood memories is how discouraged I felt when it dawned on me that most of my peers could sit down for an hour or so at a time and plow through homework assignments without fidgeting, getting out of their chairs, pacing the floor or succumbing to the distractions of their rooms. ... it was just physically impossible to be still and focus on a task for more than a few minutes at a time.!

In short, I was an A.D.H.D. kid, lacking only a diagnosis. And now that I know that the condition was a result of my body’s inherent inability to manage the flow of neurotransmitting chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, all of my parents’ heated entreaties to 'buckle down' and 'pay attention to what’s in front of you' were about as useful as telling a nearsighted child to see clearly without glasses."

In fact, for Kolbell, there is nothing to look back on but what-ifing, and regret:

"Could medication have helped me to concentrate on my schoolwork? If so, would I then have been a more industrious student? ... would I be a happier, better, more productive human being? If, and if, and if ... I’ll never know."

Were you diagnosed late in life? Do you think your life could have been different, better, with or without a diagnosis? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

Read the full New York Times article.

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