Pitfalls in ADHD diagnosis
Dr Shelley Hyman
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder has been considered one of the most commonly diagnosed behavioural disorders in children according to researchers. It is characterized by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. The large number of children being diagnosed with ADHD may be due to the fact that they are being misdiagnosed from the start.
According to Barkley (2003) the diagnosis of ADHD does not take into account other external situational or cognitive factors that may be the true underlying cause of a child’s inability to concentrate or focus.
There a number of other factors that can influence a child’s ability to focus including deficits in executive functions in the brain such as working memory and visual processing. It can even be something as basic as having visual or auditory
deficits or in other words, being unable to see or hear properly. If this is not taken into account when assessing children, it can often be misinterpreted as signs of ADHD which ultimately can result in a misdiagnosis.
Barkley (2003) further argues that the criteria for diagnosing ADHD give little information to distinguish ADHD from other psychiatric disorders that may have co-existing symptoms. This can further lead to another misdiagnosis which can subsequently affect a child’s future mental wellbeing as they are not given the correct treatment. The diagnostic criteria also do not consider the effect gender may have with ADHD as well as age differences.
Thus neglecting alternative factors that may be the underlying cause for children not being able to focus or pay attention may lead to the misdiagnosis of ADHD. Instead, it might be a visual deficit or it might be symptoms similar to ADHD.
- Barkley, R. A. (2003). Issues in the diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children. Brain and Development, 25, 77-83.