Tapping a pencil

We all have scatterbrained moments where we struggle to get organized, zone out, or have an angry outburst – all signs of ADHD. Many assume medication’s the answer, which could explain the uptick in women being treated.

Last month, a new report was released by Express Scripts that revealed an alarming statistic: Between 2008 and 2012, the number of Americans who use medication to treat ADHD rose 36 percent. The largest increase was among adult women ages 26 to 34, with an increase of 85 percent.

What’s the Story?

According to the study, signs of ADHD among females generally don’t translate into disruptive behavior at school, so during childhood symptoms may be overlooked. As they get older and responsibilities start to mount, they become more aware that something’s “off” and consult their physician, only here’s the catch:

“Some women may turn to these medications, or experience symptoms of attention disorders as a result of keeping up with the multiple demands on their time.”

In fact, there’s one doctor who believes ADHD doesn’t exist at all.

Are the Signs of ADHD Actually Signs of Other Issues?

“In my view, not a single individual is afflicted by the disorder called ADHD as we define it today,” says Dr. Richard Saul, M.D., behavioral neurologist and author of “ADHD Does Not Exist.” Signs of ADHD are related to more than 20 medical diagnoses (such as poor eyesight, sleep deprivation, and bipolar disorder) and when they’re treated, the attention-deficit and hyperactivity symptoms disappear.

“We define this ‘illness’ by its symptoms, rather than its cause,” he explains. “Nasal congestion can be a symptom of a cold, allergy, or many other conditions, but a runny nose is not a diagnosis.” His book is causing quite the uproar in the medical community, as well as with people who have ADHD.

Regardless of whether you agree with him or not, the firestorm the book is creating is nothing but good: We’ll now go to our physicians with a greater awareness to make sure we’re being treated for the actual issue, and not the symptoms of the issue.

The one thing I’m sure we can all agree on was put best in the Express Scripts study:

“The trends here signal a need to look more closely at how and why physicians prescribe these medications for adults and the need for prescribers to fully assess the entire psychosocial landscape of an individual patient prior to reaching for the prescription pad.”

There’s never been a time where we’re as distracted as we are now: Our everyday technology makes us feel like we’re missing out if we’re not paying attention to a million things at once, and we ladies are already suckers for multi-tasking. Sigh. Sadly, the increase in ADHD medication usage didn’t surprise me at all.

It’s time we open the dialogue and shift our way of (unfocused) thinking toward the possibility that one day it might be called “the disorder formerly known as ADHD.”

Do you believe ADHD exists, or do you think what constitutes ADHD needs to be redefined?

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Image: Rennett Stowe