Was ADHD Invented?
“ I was around when ADHD was invented. ”
One of the most common claims made by naysayers is that attention deficits and hyperactivity were invented, rather than discovered. They know, because they – or their mother, their teacher, or their best friend's babysitter – was around at the “ beginning ,” when these disorders were first described and diagnosed.
For this to be true, the individual in question would have a most remarkable lifespan. In fact, they'd have to be over two hundred years old!
First Descriptions of ADHD
The text currently accepted as the first medical description of what is today called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was published in 1775. It was a chapter in a German diagnostic manual written by Melchior Adam Weikard’s , Der Philosophische Arzt . Several other descriptions date to an era at least a century ago, including those of UK physicians Sir Alexander Crichton in 1798 and Sir George Frederick Still in 1902.
In 1844 another German doctor, Heinrich Hoffmann, authored a story about a character known in English as “Fidgety Phil.” Although a work of fiction, the story describes a scenario that demonstrates the impact of a very real neuropsychiatric disorder on family life.
20th Century Medical Texts
All these early descriptions touch on both the inattentiveness and the hyperactivity or lack of impulse control today associated with ADHD. Medical texts from the 20 th century would focus mostly on the hyperactive component for a period of several decades.
The “ hyperkinetic disease of infancy” of the 1930s and the "Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood" that appeared in the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II) in 1968 would later be renamed "ADD (Attention-Deficit Disorder) with or without hyperactivity," in DSM-III.
The current diagnosis is ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.) There is no more ADD – everyone gets the “H,” despite what some self-appointed experts may try to claim. There is a distinction for primarily inattentive types, and those marked more by hyperactivity or lack of impulse control. There is also a combined type recognized, for people whose symptoms combine both concerns.
Was ADHD Invented?
Not on your life!
So if you think you or a close relative were around when ADHD was “invented,” it's likely your belief is informed more by popular opinion and sensationalist media than by actual medical history. ADHD is a very real and debilitating medical condition that had been described and diagnosed long before your granny's granny was in diapers.
With close to 250 years of medical observation and documentation, and current medical technology that reveals structural, developmental, and chemical anomalies in the brains of people with ADHD, it's about time we stopped the nay saying. ADHD is not made up by parents or teachers who simply can't cope with differences in temperaments or learning styles, nor is it a conspiracy by Big Pharma to medicalize laziness and socially unacceptable behaviour.
Please watch here for more about this controversial and often poorly understood condition that affects roughly 5% of the world population. There is much we can learn, and much we can do to address the challenges of both children and adults with ADHD.
Klaus W. Lange, et al ., “ The history of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ” in Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders , December 2010.
Russell A. Barkley and Helmut Peters, “ The Earliest Reference to ADHD in the Medical Literature? Melchior Adam Weikard’s Description in 1775 of 'Attention Deficit' ,” in Journal of Attention Disorders, November 2012.
Note: This article has been migrated from Bubblews, where it was originally published by the author
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