Are Mental Illnesses Over Diagnosed?

Fridays are “Mental Health Friday” Day on my blog.  This week I had a couple of instances where I really felt that people are ignorant about mental illness.  I don’t want to say that in a bad way, ignorance doesn’t mean your stupid or bigoted, it means lacking knowledge.  People often say “such and such is over diagnosed, seems like everyone has it.”

To me this is both good and bad.  The good thing is that we’re getting the word out that “hey, we’re here and we’re not hiding anymore.”  On the other hand, if people think that a mental illness is over diagnosed then we’re not doing a good enough job of getting the facts out there.

I have ADHD.  I hear everything from, ADHD being over diagnosed to ADHD isn’t real to “so, you like shiny objects and are off in lala land all the time?”  I take Adderall for my ADHD because it’s the first medication that worked effectively for me after trying a couple of others.  People tell me that these medications turn people in to zombies.  So let me show you some facts that I use and, hopefully, you can find some of this info for your condition and use it to spread the truth.

Myth #1 – ADHD is over diagnosed

I have a friend who had MS for many years.  One day she went to a new doctor who diagnosed her with a vitamin deficiency and now she doesn’t have MS anymore.  We could make a case that everything is over diagnosed, but what about people who are undiagnosed?

Let’s keep this in mind while we talk about recent reports that ADHD is on the rise.  The Center For Disease Control lists the percentage of children ages 3-17 who have ever been diagnosed with ADHD at 8.4%.  Recently, a report put out by Kaiser Permanente, which is a not for profit health care provider, showed a 24% increase in ADHD diagnosis.  This sounds alarming at first but there are always facts behind the figures.

One factor is that many of these children, being minority groups, now have access to health care.  The study also stated that Asians were less likely to see a doctor for mental health issues and that white children from affluent families were more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.

To me, the increase is a good thing because more people now have access to mental health care and can be helped.  I cannot find the statistic right now, but I took a college course on ADHD and it found that the rate of adults who are treated for ADHD is far less than the actual estimate of people who have it.

Myth #2 – ADHD doesn’t exist

I’m the least lazy person I know.  I like to be busy.  My parents and grandparents instilled in me a very strong work ethic.  When I would visit my grandparents for the summer the moto was “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.”  I chopped wood, cut the grass, moved dirt… and in the end I played hard and ate well.  In the class room, however, it was hard for me to pay attention.  I would drift off in my thoughts no matter how hard I tried to keep my attention.  Medication helped me in amazing ways.

So are there any physical symptoms?  Yes, there actually are.  ADHD happens because of decreased activity in the frontal lobe area.  McGill University in Quebec did MRI tests and found that there is less activity in the frontal lobe in children with ADHD during activities involving concentration, problem solving, decision making and memory.

The study also found that the prefrontal cortex region of the frontal lobe were smaller in children with ADHD than children without.  The article I linked in the previous paragraph is a very interesting read and I highly encourage you to take a look at it.

Myth #3 – Adderall makes you a zombie

I’ve taken Ritalin, Vyvance, Daytrana and Adderall over the years.  None of these turned me in to a zombie.  I have a great personality. I love to laugh, make jokes, engage in deep conversation… and have never lost that with stimulant medication.  What it does is helps me to focus on the tasks that I’m working on.

I’m no more a zombie than an unmedicated person who doesn’t have ADHD.  I don’t have statistics to back it up but whenever someone says that to me I ask them if they think I”m acting like a zombie at the time.  Their answer is always “No.”  That’s the answer.

Conclusion

Do some research on your condition.  You’ll find that mental health issues are often under diagnosed and there are statistics out there to prove it.  Comparing diagnosis rates and estimates to treatment rates is a great place to start.

If you suspect you have mental health issues then please find a doctor who can give you an evaluation and help you.

Be well. Be positive

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3 thoughts on “Are Mental Illnesses Over Diagnosed?

  1. You are right about the importance of getting treatment in the right time. It is truly important to offer a sufficient solution to people who really need it. However now days every little sign of not being focused enough somehow transforms to being ADHD. ADHD is a real disorder and many people do need real treatment. However over diagnose of this disorder actually harms people like you and also puts lots of children on unnecessary medication. I believe there should be some more thorough observation process before deciding if someone has ADHD or not.

    • That is true. I always tell people that it may be over diagnosed in some cases and under diagnosed in others. We need better diagnosis standards and doctors who adhere to them. Thank you for your insight.

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