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Broader Definition of ADHD Expected to Lead to Over-Diagnoses

Filed November 6th, 2013 Laurie

A widening definition of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is resulting in inappropriate diagnoses and unnecessary and potentially harmful medical treatment costing up to $500 million in the U.S. alone.

The announcement came from researchers at Australia’s Bond University who led an analysis of the problem, which was published in the British Medical Journal. Rae Thomas, a senior researcher at the university, told Reuters that the broadening definition also “devalues the diagnosis in those with serious problems.”

“The broadening of the diagnostic criteria is likely to increase what is already a significant concern about over-diagnosis,” Thomas told Reuters. “It risks resulting in a diagnosis of ADHD being regarded with skepticism, to the harm of those with severe problems who unquestionably need sensitive, skilled specialist help and support.”

ADHD causes excessive restlessness, impulsivity, and distractedness, particularly in boys. It is most often diagnosed in school children, but the condition can persist into adulthood. There is no cure, but medications like Ritalin and the newer Vyvanse can help control symptoms, according to Reuters.

To be diagnosed with ADHD, patients should meet criteria set out in either the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), or the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) — the two systems used around the world to classify mental disorders, Reuters reported.

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