ADHD Tip – ADHD As A Medical Diagnosis And ADHD As A Mental Health Diagnosis

ADHD in it’s most traditional existence is thought to be genetic and biologically based. Most research and common beliefs suggest that ADHD results from difficulties in specific chemical processes in the brain.

And yet despite the research, and major theories in psychology and medicine, there seems to be no cure for ADHD. In fact, the most common method of treatment, medication does not even alleviate all symptoms or behaviors observed in children with ADHD.

No medical cure…

At the same time, it is widely held in popular belief that ADHD is heavily a behavioral disorder that falls under the category of mental health and mental illness or disorder.

In the mental health community, ADHD is largely treated also by medication, but is typically treated or suggested to be treated by some sort of psychotherapy, or one-on-one individual treatment with a psychologist, therapist, social worker, or counselor.

Medical versus mental health

In the simplest form, a medical illness is typically treated systematically by a “proven” treatment course that has been tested, researched, and perfected over many years.

Consider a broken leg:

  • You can feel the pain.
  • You might see a deformity.
  • Doctors can view the break on an x-ray.
  • While I am no medical doctor, I believe we can all agree that a broken leg is typically treated by being placed in a cast. The cast provides protection to the leg, and allows the body to heal.

    In most cases, once the break has healed, the cast comes off, and the medical condition has been successfully treated.

    Now take ADHD:

    Biological or behavioral, ADHD is both a medical condition and mental health illness. Deeply rooted in the brain, symptoms of ADHD can manifest behaviorally through difficulties in chemical processes. As such, children can display restlessness, inattention, hyperactivity, “acting out,” and many other types of behaviors.

    The only problem:

    ADHD does not have a simple cure like the broken leg discussed above.

    We cannot see ADHD symptoms as clearly as we can view a broken leg. Although cat scans can show different areas of the brain, there are still questions to be raised about the many different diagnostic criteria, as well as the many different presentations of ADHD.

    Medically, we treat ADHD with medication, and in many cases, medication is not enough. Symptoms persist, and we hope that the medication will eventually stabilize the child’s behavior and remove the major symptoms.

    Unfortunately, with any condition or illness that is largely rooted in our brains, or in mental health, there is no one cure to follow.

    First off, research has shown that there is no one particular type of talk therapy that works better than the other.

    This is a fact.

    Not to mention, ADHD and the related symptoms that follow, typically appear differently and to varying degrees child by child. The issue is further complicated as we know that children develop differently than their peers.

    Age, maturity, sibling order, and many other factors influence how a child develops.

    Should it then surprise that ADHD exists somewhere on the spectrum between medical diagnosis and mental health diagnosis?

    Even if we can confidently diagnose ADHD, treating it with medication is not a guaranteed win. Successful treatment of ADHD typically involves some combination of medication and talk therapy.

    But, I am going to tell you that ADHD, true or not, will most always be clouded by ongoing, underlying problems that exist in the child’s life, family, and immediate environment.

    For that reason alone, we can not medically treat, or pretend that we can treat, symptoms of ADHD.

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