If you search “Do I have...” on Google, the first suggested phrase you’ll see is “Do I have ADHD?” And it’s easy to see why. The quizzes and self-diagnosing tests (I’ve gone through a few of them) are extremely relatable — especially when you do them while putting off chores. But here’s the thing: ADHD can easily be misdiagnosed.
There are two sides to this argument. Are there too many people being diagnosed with ADHD? Or too few? First, I spoke to Dr. Allen Frances, who believes ADHD is being overdiagnosed. He pointed to the number of studies done in the US, Taiwan, Iceland, and Canada showing that the youngest kid in a classroom was consistently more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest kid. He says this problem is also due to time constraints faced by doctors:
The problem is that most doctors don’t have time and some don’t have the training to make an accurate diagnosis to know when the medication is necessary and when it’s not. Sixty percent of the stimulant drugs are prescribed by non-psychiatrists — by pediatricians, GPs, and family doctors — and they usually only have a few minutes with each patient. They don’t really get the time to get to know the patient and their family. If we did accurate evaluations, the diagnosis would be made much less frequently. Many less kids would be on medications. We wouldn’t be spending $11 billion on ADHD medications; we would have more money available for the school systems.
On the other hand, Dr. David Goodman argues that ADHD is being underdiagnosed — especially for women. ADHD is harder to diagnose in women because while hyperactivity is common in men and boys, inattentiveness is more common for women and girls. He also argues that there is a pattern in psychiatry where mental disorders are dismissed before being taken seriously:
If you go back to schizophrenia 60 years ago. People used to say schizophrenia wasn’t a psychiatric disorder — it was a choice of lifestyle. We don’t have that conversation anymore. Thirty years ago, the same was applied to depression.
One thing’s for sure: A professional evaluation will always be better than Googling for self-diagnosing tests for ADHD, because misdiagnosis happens often and can be dangerous. For more information, check out the video above.