Is ADHD a real disorder, or is it just a label for bad behaviour?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is real. It is the commonest developmental disorder in children. It is defined as a persistent pattern of inattention, hyperactive and impulsive behaviour that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in individuals at a similar level of development. The symptoms cause problems for children at home and school. Children with ADHD may have different functional difficulties, but all share the feature of poorly sustained attention. Some are extremely impulsive, some aggressive, others quiet and restless. Many have low self-esteem. Commonly associated problems (comorbidities) include language disorders, anxiety, defiant behaviour, fine motor and coordination difficulties and learning disabilities. ADHD can be highly disruptive to families and result in academic underachievement and social isolation. Individuals with ADHD are at increased risk of a range of adverse long term outcomes in adolescence and adulthood.
Is ADHD over-diagnosed in Australia?
In Australia ADHD is usually diagnosed by a paediatrician, child and adolescent psychiatrist or psychologist. These professionals are experts in child development and behaviour, and are skilled in the evaluation of children with problems in these areas. The rate of diagnosis of ADHD in Australia is between that of the USA (high rates) and Europe (low rates). While ADHD affects around 3-5% of children, approximately 1-2% of Australian children are prescribed medication for ADHD.
At what age do you grow out of ADHD?
Most children with ADHD will continue to have some difficulties with concentration, impulse control and organisation into adolescence, and often into adult life. However many individuals learn strategies to adapt so that they can function well in society and achieve success.
Why has ADHD emerged as a problem just in the last 20 years?
ADHD has probably existed in the human population for thousands of years, and indeed may have conferred some evolutionary advantage. It was first described in the scientific literature about a century ago. Prior to the understanding that some people have an inherent fault in their ability to direct their attention at will, sufferers were simply labelled as ‘lazy’ or ‘stupid’. The current diagnostic labels recognise that the problems suffered by these individuals are not due to a moral failing on their part, but are due to a physically based condition over which they have no control.
Diagnosis in psychiatry is a continually evolving skill. It is to be expected that as knowledge is enhanced by research, there will be further improvements in our understanding of the condition that we currently know as ADHD. Over the last twenty years, everyone’s lifestyle and school expectations have changed dramatically. We spend more hours in front of TV and computer screens, are less physically active, and sleep fewer hours on average each night. Teaching methods are different and students face higher expectations of academic performance. A generation ago, it often happened that people left school in early
adolescence and entered a trade. Although ADHD has some useful attributes, in a world that increasingly prizes academic attainment, those who are disadvantaged by having ADHD, naturally seek to have it identified and treated. But just as some professionals were unwilling to accept depression as other than moral weakness, so there are some who continue to view ADHD as moral weakness or ineptitude.
If you are an adult with ADHD, should you tell your employer?
The employer/employee relationship, whilst governed by rules and regulations, also operates at a fairly individual level. If the ADHD is uncontrolled and you are unable to concentrate, or if you continue to have hyperactivity or impulsivity, then you should question whether you are suitable to do that job. The primary onus would be on yourself to decide whether you are suitable even to attempt undertaking that particular employment. On the other hand, if you had been placed in that job by an agency that was aware of your disability, one would expect that your disability would already have been discussed in appropriate terms with your employer. The issue therefore, is not so much your ADHD diagnosis, but whether or not your condition is properly treated and the symtoms are adequately controlled. If this is so, then it may not be necessary for you to officially inform your employer unless specific questions were asked. It will be very much like you having to reveal that you had diabetes or asthma. Unless it is directly relevant to the work that you are doing, it is your choice.
Finally, if you have a reasonable relationship between yourself and another trustworthy person within the employment agency, it may be prudent to discuss with them the fact that you are on medication. This may stand you in good stead if issues should arise such as random drug tests in which it may be revealed that you are taking stimulant medications. So there is no one answer to this question, but rather it is a matter of making prudent and wise decisions.
Source: ADHD Coalition Victoria
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