Ky. tops nation in share of kids ever diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; here are facts and fiction about it

While almost one in five of Kentucky’s children have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, myths and misinformation about the condition are common.

Percent of Youth Aged 4-17 Ever Diagnosed with ADHD
National Survey of Children’s Health

ADHD is a common condition. The latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 19 percent of Kentucky’s children have ever been diagnosed with it, the highest rate in the nation. The national average is 11 percent. The data also show that 14.8 percent of Kentucky’s children are currently diagnosed with ADHD, compared to 8.8 percent nationally.

ADHD is a behavioral condition characterized by difficulty focusing, acting without thinking, and hyperactivity.

In a news release, Dr. Joshua Cabrera, clinical psychiatrist and assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine, distinguishes between what is fact and what is fiction when it comes to ADHD.

Fiction: Just because a child is hyper they have ADHD: Cabrera points out that children are “inherently energetic” and if this is the only symptom, then it would be difficult for a professional to diagnose the child with ADHD. He adds that the main symptoms of ADHD are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity and says that “Diagnosis (would) require observations of numerous symptoms in multiple settings and evidence of significant impairment.”

Fact: ADHD diagnosis is on the rise: A recent study showed that ADHD diagnosis has gone up 43 percent from 2003 to 2011. Cabrera said that the study did not determine the reasons for this increase, but noted his concerns that it could be because of over-diagnosis, which he says could overlook possible stressors the child is dealing with like anxiety, home conflicts and learning disorders.

Fiction: People with ADHD are only affected in the classroom: Cabrera says that while children with this condition are at a higher risk for reduced school performance, their inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity also affect their social relationships, increase their chances for developing a conduct disorder and increase their chances for substance use and incarceration later on.

Fiction: ADHD is caused by bad parenting: The general consensus is that ADHD is likely the result of both genetic and environmental factors, says Cabrera.

Fiction: Children on ADHD can seem “drugged”: “The common way that the term ‘drugged’ is used suggests lethargy and loss of capacity,” Cabrera says. “Stimulants, the most commonly prescribed medication, typically do not have this effect.” According to the CDC, between 70 to 80 percent of children with ADHD have fewer symptoms when they take prescribed stimulants.

Fact: ADHD can be treated: Cabrera says this depends on the individual. “Many people with easier to treat ADHD can successfully manage their symptoms,” he said. “Unfortunately, many others will struggle with ADHD in all aspects of their life despite the best possible treatment.”

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