Health

The Overdiagnosis Of ADHD Is Covering Up Trauma And Bad School Policies

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner··  10 min read
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Parents have a million things to worry about. Health, education, socialization, and manners are just a small fraction of the constant issues that must be tended. But what happens when behavior becomes a problem?

For decades now, behavioral issues in children have been scrutinized. Childhood whimsy and boundless energy were once considered healthy aspects of kids being kids. Then in the ‘90s, a growing number of children were unable to listen, learn, and control themselves. Doctors found a term to diagnose these issues, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, better known as ADHD.

Then came the medication era, when children were prescribed Ritalin or Adderall to help them sit still. But over time, studies have found that ADHD is being overdiagnosed, and treating these behaviors with medication has serious side effects that can lead to life-long addiction and psychosis.

Symptoms of Trauma Can Mimic ADHD

I was my father’s only son. Sure I was born a girl, but before I hit puberty I went fishing, fixed cars, and learned to hunt. 

It was difficult to relate to other girls. I liked running around outside and experimenting in nature. Listening to a teacher drone on and on made it difficult to stay awake in school, and I spent most of my time staring out the window daydreaming. 

As I matured, my father distanced himself from me. It was probably for the best. He wasn’t a great role model. He constantly cheated on my mother, embarrassed us in public, binge drank, and had an Irish temper that often left me unable to properly walk after what he called a “whoopin’.” 

My punishment for coming home from a friend’s house late was the belt. My mother had realized her own struggle with anger issues before that. Some of my earliest memories are of her crying with me and my sister because she would hit us so hard her hand swelled up. Because of that, she delegated punishments to our dad, something that eased her pain but only increased ours. 

When he drank their fights were terrifying. She was timid and rarely stood up for herself, so I started jumping in for her. Something that complicated my unstructured home environment beyond anything my teachers could guess at home. (And got me more whoopin’s.)

We also struggled with money issues. Although my father made good money as a construction worker, he spent most of his money on booze – even stealing from my mom as she worked and tried to hide money to pay the bills. 

We lived on macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. Corn was our regular vegetable even though it holds little dietary value and is more of a starch. I carried peanut butter and jelly in my lunchbox every day, and my side was a package of Little Debbie snacks. 

My dad got in trouble with the law and that destroyed what little ability I had to see the point in sitting at a desk watching a teacher tell me about famous dead people or learn to divide fractions. I bit the skin off all my fingers and threw myself into singing, writing, and wandering forests whenever I could.

It was at the height of these conflicts that my mother was called in to discuss my behavior at school. I had gotten into fights, been told I was dyslexic, and was out sick more than most kids.

The symptoms of trauma and ADHD are often confused.

The symptoms of trauma and ADHD are often confused. My anxiety, outbursts, and inability to concentrate were likely a result of the trauma I faced at home. Not to mention that a sedentary lifestyle combined with a high sugar diet are often the main factors in behavioral issues. 

But no one at my school knew. They just looked at the trends and went with a new diagnosis and discussed medicating me. 

It was suggested that my mother put me on Ritalin. My fate was in her hands. But she refused. Instead, she got me involved in choir, swimming, and scouts programs. 

She recognized my need for more than the school could give, more than she could, and so I was able to find some kind of purpose in hands-on learning – something I am grateful for every day. But not everyone is as lucky as I was. 

The ADHD War on Boys

More boys than girls are diagnosed with ADHD. Boys are three to seven times more likely to be treated for it. In the last few years, more than 1 in 10 school-age children in the United States meet the criteria for the diagnosis of ADHD. But that's only the beginning. 1 in 5 high school boys and 1 in 11 high school girls meet the criteria now as well.

As the mother of two daughters and two sons, it’s not difficult to see how. Boys are less verbal and more physical. They like doing more than they like listening. And as society further pushes us away from our biological needs, boys are suffering greatly, especially in the public education system. 

Boys are three to seven times more likely to be treated for ADHD.

Standardized learning has become feminized. The current system prioritizes girls’ learning style over that of boys. Girls are, by nature, more verbal, obedient, and focused on learning from others, whereas boys better utilize methods like trial-and-error and experimentation in order to understand the world around them. 

Christina Hoff Sommers explores this topic in her book, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men. She dives right into everything that has brought us to this point. How, by pushing feminism in schools and equalizing everything for children who are different by nature, boys can and will suffer. 

Masculinity has been demonized and attacked publicly for some time now. The effects of that have taken their toll on the next generation. They’re demoralized and unable to properly cope with the added stress of being taught that there is something wrong with them for just being born male. 

ADHD Misdiagnosis and Overmedicating

Nowadays, misdiagnosis is even more concerning. Screen time is now being associated with ADHD. Children who sit and stare at a screen are more likely to display symptoms than children who are encouraged to go outside and play, and engage in real life activities and community events. 

Unfortunately, not every family can adjust their children’s behavior. My sister-in-law has two stepsons. She doesn’t get to have much of a choice in how her boys are raised even though she cares for them dearly; it’s their biological mothers who make medical decisions. 

When her youngest began getting in trouble for running in the halls at school and fighting, the district offered an ultimatum: medicate him or face expulsion. It was pills or find another school. 

There was no investigation into his mother’s behavior, despite the fact that she has been in and out of mental institutions. She went so far as to express a desire to kill her son, but even then, didn’t lose custody. Trauma is highly suspected in this case but was completely ignored. Why?

It’s easier to give a child a pill and pretend that everything is now fixed.

Because it’s easier to give a child a pill and pretend that everything is now fixed. Instead of working through complicated issues, schools don’t have the time, the resources, or the will to aid our children through crises.

Not to mention that Big Pharma makes a lot of money from pumping meds into our children. They have a lot to gain from getting as many children prescribed as possible. Behavioral medication has become a huge industry. And the side effects of medications like Ritalin and Adderall can lead to a need for life-long mental health treatments 

The Side-Effects and Consequences

ADHD meds are amphetamines. They’re highly addictive and host a bevy of side effects that can lead to psychosis. We're giving these to young children without truly researching the full long-term impact this has on the human brain, much less an underdeveloped one. 

Adderall addiction is so common there are endless articles, social media posts, and videos of people joking about it. College and high school students are known to pop it to study for tests or just stay awake longer if they want to party harder. 

But the darker side of these meds leads to anxiety, paranoia, blackouts, and more. Someone very dear to me was told he should use it to help him produce more creative content. His work ethic was lacking, and a friend gave him some Adderall. Then he went to the doctor and described the symptoms of ADHD in order to get prescribed. 

ADHD meds are highly addictive and host a bevy of side effects that can lead to psychosis.

It was so easy. The doctor didn’t question him further. He got his pills and would even ask for refills ahead of time or lie and say he lost the bottle. It was too easy to acquire and abuse the pills without anyone intervening. 

But the main problem with these meds is that the human body eventually grows a tolerance. It was described to me this way: They might make you feel good at first, but eventually, you need more and more and more! Once addicted, you can’t stop. You only care about getting more. Nothing else matters. Not even the people you love. 

And this case proves how badly this kind of addiction can destroy your life. The story didn’t end with the cravings – my loved one ended up buying Adderall on the black market and doing coke with it too. He went weeks without eating or sleeping. Voices started talking to him. He saw shadow people everywhere. Despite being a passive person by nature, he went nuts and hurt someone. 

This landed him in jail for two years. During that time he had a decision to make. He could get in good with some smugglers and remain an addict, or he could clean up and face life. 

Thankfully he chose the latter route, but it’s been a constant battle. Even though he’s nearing 10 years sober, he still sees things that aren’t there, has paranoid fits, and needs counseling to keep his mind properly working. He can’t get a good job in a field that pays well because of his felony, and even adopting a dog from a shelter is hindered. 

This is just one story, and it has a happier ending than most. 

Closing Thoughts

Overdiagnosing ADHD has led to overmedicating it. The consequences are so damning that every parent needs to look into their child’s lifestyle, diet, and biological and psychological needs before they allow anyone to prescribe medication. 

We need to remember that it’s our job (as parents) to ultimately look out for our kids. Schools, doctors, and politicians don’t understand individual needs, and plenty of them have ties to industries that capitalize on addiction and mental health issues. 

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