Individuals, children and families across the world are affected by mental illness, ranging from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, and Depression. However, in this advancing digital era a rising number of families are plagued with an illness known as Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). It is an illness that is most often diagnosed in youth. While it is alarming and disturbing to learn that a mental illness is plaguing our young, many people in society view this differently. Society questions the epidemic. While some believe children are improperly diagnosed, others blame this on a society that encourages television, video games, and computers for entertainment. Many youth, adults, and their families are stigmatized by this label. However many members of society question the how doctors and others choose to treat this disorder. As a result, greater society, including those affected by ADHD, has dual perspectives regarding the ADHD epidemic in youth.
ADHD, Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder is defined by its title; a mental illness that results in the combination of excessive energy and the inability to pay attention. “Symptoms include difficulty staying focused, paying attention, controlling behavior, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness” (NIMH, 2009). Ironically, this illness is common in children. Although some children grow out of this disorder once they reach adulthood, it is suggested that as many as 30% to 60% of children with ADHD will continue to exhibit signs of the disorder as an adult (Harpin, 2005). Children who suffer from ADHD will have difficulties in school as they are unable to sit still or complete their work. Other children will have problems with behaviors such as unable to follow directions or stay on task. In this way, ADHD can negatively influence a child academically, socially, and family relationships.
There are various methods to treat ADHD. The purpose of ADHD treatment is to improve focus. The National Institute of Mental Health indicates treatments for this disorder include, “medication, various types of psychotherapy, education or training, or a combination of these” (2009). Although there are different approaches to treat this problem, the most common treatment is medication. Medications to treat ADHD are stimulants. This is because stimulants often have adverse affects on people with this disorder. The downside is that medications come with side effects. Some examples include the inability to sleep, loss of appetite, anxiety, and irritability, (NIMH, 2009). Using psychotherapy, individuals learn to change their behavior to improve attentiveness and social skills. This way they learn to alter the behavioral affects of ADHD. Another method to treat this disorder is to provide educational training to parents and care providers. Through education families are able to change their family habits, behaviors, and interactions to help individuals cope with ADHD.
The Effects of ADHD on People and their Families
Overall, “ADHD has a wide range of effects on the children themselves and their families and social environments”, (Whalen et al., 2006). This is due to label, stigma, personal views, and misconceptions. One must first understand that ADHD does not only affect children, it also affects their families. Parents and caregivers are faced with the burden of coping with ADHD symptoms and deciding on a method of treatment. Some feel guilty, shame, or feel like inadequate parents. Often, children suffering from ADHD are disruptive and impulsive. This can be challenging for teachers who must educate these children as well as parents who live with them. This can create social problems and even strained relationships between those suffering from ADHD and those who care about them most. How individuals, families, and greater society perceive ADHD directly influences the treatment method one will use to address the illness. As a result many individuals and their families have “perceptions of a dismissive society, influence of negative public views, exposure to negative media, and mistrust of medical assessments” (dosReis, 2010).
Of families affected by ADHD, 77% stated that they had “stigmatizing experiences” (dosReis, 2009). This is due to how society perceives ADHD as a mental illness and those who suffer from it. The views and perspectives result in parents being stigmatized or labeled has a lot to do with experiences or beliefs. Other stereotypes occur due to perceptions regarding how this illness is diagnosed and treated among children. Much of the stigma results in assumptions about ones behavior. Children are often viewed as bad or a problem child. They are troublemakers who often need redirection, scolding, and consequences. Thus they are more like to cause mischief. However, this is not the case for all children; some may have the increased inability to focus with limited hyperactivity and vice versa. Therefore, many children and families view this illness with negative synonymous unable to isolate the disorder from the child.
Families addressed other problem they face with being labeled ADHD. Due to inattentiveness and the inability to focus, some children are socially isolated for these behaviors. In school, students with ADHD are often forced to sit away from others or closer to the teacher to encourage the student to focus. Some families complained that because their child receives medication, they must leave the classroom to take their meds further differentiating them from others. This method also takes quality time away from the learning environment that students need for instruction. Many families sited this as a concern for their children’s future as “40% have feelings of social isolation, rejection from peers, family, and community”, (dosReis, 2010).
Social Perceptions of ADHD
Many people throughout society view the ADHD epidemic differently. While many social perspectives regarding this illness remain concerned with diagnosis and treatment, others find little legitimacy in ADHD as a mental disorder in children. Overall, “society does not want to deal with a child that can’t follow direction” (dosReis, 2010). This belief has caused individuals and their families to be discriminated against within society including in the school, family, and community. The views and perceptions regarding ADHD are general. Society does not want to deal with unruly children. Yet social views regarding ADHD become split when addressing the issue of treatment. Many families find success with treating ADHD with medication. Yet many throughout society, including those affected by ADHD, seriously question this approach. “Stigmatizing beliefs about individuals with a mental illness have created a culture of suspicion about mental health treatment, especially when treatment involves a child” (dosReis, 2010).
Treating ADHD with medication has caused a divide among researchers, parents, and society at large. It is hard from some to conceptualize treating a mental disorder with medication. They believe that mental illness is better treated with forms of psychotherapy to encourage change in behaviors. ADHD is a behavior problem and is express through ones social behavior. It is easy to reason that behavior problems cannot be improved through medication alone. Instead behavior should be encouraged to change through teaching, education, and counseling. Many cite this from personal experiences with ADHD. When medicated for the illness, those affected are often observed in an induced state calling them “zombies” or “drugged”, (dosReis, 2010). They assert these medications are controlled substances regulated by the FDA, (the Food and Drug Administration). As a result, many are not comfortable giving these medications to young children that alter their appearance and behavior. In this way, some link controlled substances to forms of substance abuse, believing that it will encourage additive behaviors as an adult. “The public is not well informed about ADHD and treat people are more likely to prefer counseling over medication for the treatment of ADHD”, (dosReis, 2010). Regardless of how society feels toward the treatment of ADHD, researchers and doctors agree that it is a successful method of treatment that can significantly improve a child’s academic outcome and behaviors.
Root of Social Perspectives
The social perspectives regarding ADHD are mixed. While some agree with pharmaceutical treatment for this illness others are against it. However, when addressing the root of social perspectives regarding ADHD, it is important to be aware of the magnitude of ADHD among youth and the rise of diagnosis and treatment of this illness. “The popularity of ADHD has given rise to accounts expressing great skepticism that so many children should be afflicted with a disorder rarely mentioned 25 years ago”, (Cohen, 2006). Because of this, many are highly suspicious of this disorder as well as medical treatment. Adults claim that all children exhibit symptoms of ADHD. Others claim it is a lack of parental control or physical activity. In addition to this, diagnosis of ADHD most likely leads to treating the illness by means of medication. Although other treatment strategies are provided, this form of treatment is often encouraged because it provides a quick remedy that remains successful for many individuals, children, and families.
ADHD remains difficult to except throughout society because of its definition. Many believe that all children are hyperactive and inattentive. As a result, some do not find validity in the notion that ADHD is a real mental disorder within children. In many ways this is true. Scholars state this better saying, “the label provides a legitimate justification to outsource some responsibilities related to raising children, a task whose objectives, rules, and methods have changed dramatically over the last half century, along with family composition” (Cohen, 2006). Due to the evolution and changes that society as experienced, it has resulted in how families parent as well as family dynamics. Today’s world is a get-it-quick society. We have access to information in seconds and can get from one part of the world to another in hours. As technology has provided us with innovations to let people have what they want when they want it, we also want to resolve all of our problems quickly. Medicating children does this. Parents do not need educational training for the disorder nor do they have to wait through weeks of therapy to produce a positive result. It is believed that “all children are hyperactive, impulsive, and inattentive and that adults primary task is to raise them differently” (Cohen, 2006).
The perspective is also associated with how society views children. In today’s society, children are individuals who are vulnerable and need protection. On the same end, they must also be taught, encouraged, and raised into productive adults. Therefore, children require guidance that includes reprimands and punishment to correct unwanted behavior. “Parents and teachers viewing the pressures from the breakdown of adult authority discourse, feeling they must act to control unruly children but feel inhibited from doing so for fear of consequences” (Timimi, 2004). Providing children with medication to fix this behavior minimizes this pressure and provides a fast remedy. The pharmaceutical company only exacerbates this issue causing more individuals to utilize medication instead of other methods. This is expressed as many parents utilize medication as a last resort when other treatment methods are ineffective. Teachers and social workers also encourage this form of treatment as a quick remedy. This way, they can continue to interact with children with little redirection or unruly behaviors.
Controversy over Medication
As indicated, while many use medication to treat ADHD others are strongly against this as a primary form of treatment. Coinciding with social believes, “parents are generally reluctant to initiate medication treatment for their child’s ADHD” (dosReis, 2009). Parents have different reasons for being hesitant. Most do not feel comfortable providing their young children with psychiatric medication. To understand the reasoning for controversy, one must compare ADHD treatment in the U.S to other countries. ADHD is a worldwide phenomenon. However it is most often diagnosed in industrialized nations. Not all countries recognize ADHD as phenomena. Consequently, only 15 countries cite ADHD as a mental disorder. Eleven of these countries are located in the Western world throughout America, Europe, and Australia. The non Western worlds who recognize this mental illness include Taiwan, Spain, and Israel. Despite this, “97% of global ADHD drug sales derive from the US” and the remaining 3% come from European countries, (Cohen, 2006). Observing the use of medication as a treatment for ADHD from a global perspective, it is easy to see how dependent American’s have become on modern medicine. Some countries are against using psychiatric medications for young children and like many parents, European care givers only use it as a last resort.
Scholars and researchers indicate “ADHD label fuels the manufacture, promotion, regulation, and prescription of a dozen psychotropic pharmaceuticals such as Ritalin and Concerta, Adderal and Stratetera in a worldwide market estimated to exceed $3 billion annually”, (Cohen, 2006). This researcher, among others, feels that pharmaceutical industries are taking advantage of this epidemic to heavily diagnose and over medicate children. This form of treatment is highly used and continues to grow as more and more are diagnosed. However, there are other remedies as indicated by the National Institute of Mental Health, which include behavioral therapy and family education. Pharmaceutical treatment continues to be the most used strategy to address the problem. Many countries are against providing these medications to children instead relying on different remedies. Despite the social discouragement against the use of medication including from scholars and researchers, it continues to be a highly utilized method throughout America.
ADHD is a problem that continues to affect many individuals and families around in the world. Though faced with this epidemic, many throughout society question the heavy diagnosis of this in children and forms of treatment. Society does not want to deal with problematic children, and parents and teachers want a quick fix to the problem of a highly energetic child. However both society and parents concede against this form of treatment. Although this is determined as a successful way to treat the problem it is also concerning for some to provide such medication to children. Many are not comforted knowing that these medications are designed to alter one’s behavior with fears that it can stimulate drug abuse as an adult. Even the National Institute of Mental Health agrees that, “a one size fits all approach does not apply for all children” (2009). Despite this conception doctors and physicians continue to encourage and prescribe these medications. People should be better educated about ADHD, treatments, and diagnosis. This way we can relieve stereotypes and stigmas for individuals and families affected by ADHD and find alternative methods to treat this issue, specifically among children and adulterants.
Cohen, D. (2006). Critiques of the adhd enterprise. In G. Lloyd, J. Stead & D. Cohen (Eds.), Critical New Perspectives on ADHD. Retrieved from http://psychopathology.fiu.edu/Articles/Cohen_2006.pdf
dosReis, S. (2010). Stigmatizing experiences of parents of children with a new diagnosis of Psychiatric Service, 61(8), Retrieved from http://journals.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?Volume=61&page=811&journalID=18
dosReis, S. (2009). The meaning of attention-deficient/hyperactivity disorder medication and parents initiation and continuity for their child. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, 19(4), 377-383. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2830211/
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U.S Department of Health and Human Services, (2009).Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (adhd). Retrieved from National Institute of Mental Health website: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/how-is-adhd-treated.shtml