I get asked these two questions all the time.
I understand. As parents, we need to make sure we’re getting accurate information, particularly when it impacts the decisions we make about our children.
The answer to the first question is a resounding yes. In the late 1990’s, about 3-6 percent of school-aged kids received an ADHD diagnosis, whereas currently, about 8-12 percent of kids are being diagnosed with ADHD.
Here are the three main reasons for the rise in ADHD that consistently show up in research.
#1 Greater public and professional awareness has led to more referrals to ADHD specialists.
Since professionals, such as teachers and pediatricians, have more awareness and training about ADHD, they are recognizing the symptoms in children sooner, which results in more referrals to professionals, like child psychologists, for assessment.
Here’s a great article on how increased awareness likely contributes to an increase in ADHD diagnoses: Increase in Number of ADHD Cases May Be Caused by Increased Awareness
#2 Environmental factors have been shown to affect early brain development in pre-born and young children.
Several environmental factors have been associated with higher rates of ADHD in children, such as prenatal exposure to tobacco products and alcohol, lead, pesticides, and other contaminants (e.g., flame retardants, Teflon, Scotchguard).
Here’s another great article from ADDitude Magazine on environmental toxins and ADHD: Are Everyday Toxins Causing ADHD?
#3 Inclusion criteria in our current diagnostic manual (DSM-V) have changed.
Here are a few of the changes that contribute to the increase in ADHD diagnoses.
- Descriptors of ADHD in DSM-V now include developmentally appropriate examples of symptoms. For example, while the DSM-V still includes descriptors for hyperactivity in children (e.g., “acts as if driven by a motor”), it now includes adolescent descriptors for symptoms, like hyperactivity (e.g., is uncomfortable being still for extended periods of time, as in restaurants or school). As such, clinicians are getting a better idea of how ADHD presents in older age-groups.
- In the DSM-V, the age of onset criteria for ADHD have been modified. For example, in the DSM-IV, symptoms of ADHD needed to cause impairment in a child’s functioning prior to age 7, whereas currently, in the DSM-V, several symptoms of ADHD need to have been present prior to age 12.
- In the past, ADHD couldn’t be diagnosed if a child also had autism, whereas now these diagnoses can both be given to the same person. In my opinion, this is a significant contributor to the increase in ADHD diagnoses, as many children and adolescents with autism also have ADHD.
For more detailed information, check out this article on the subtle, but important diagnostic changes in ADHD: New Diagnostic Criteria for ADHD: Subtle but Important Changes
In my next blog post, I’ll be teaching you the KEY steps to reduce your child’s risk of exposure to environmental toxins, as well as, super simple ways to detox your home.
If you found this post helpful, press “like” and consider forwarding it to others. For more information about this topic, check out my recent YouTube video.
p.s. I love hearing from my readers, so feel free to leave me comments and ask questions.
Your ADHD Guru and Friend!