Hot Take: Is ADHD (Among Other Psychiatric "Disorders") a Myth as We Understand It?

LReed's picture
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All humans have different spectrums of cognitive abilities and emotional ranges. Some people have a base-rate of happiness that is higher than others, some people get psychologically aroused (anxious) to a higher-extent than average, some people can't keep out distracting thoughts as well, etc.

To say that this constitutes a "disorder", is debatable. I often feel like those that I know who are diagnosed with ADD are way more likely to have fixed-mindsets instead of growth-mindsets. They're way more likely to claim that they can't do something. They can't do well on standardized tests, they can't finish their paper, they can't pay attention in class, etc.

I was diagnosed with ADD in high-school after some BS questionnaire and never paid it any mind. I acknowledge that there are probably people that can focus longer than I can, with less effort, but the question I find myself asking is if ADD being diagnosed as a disorder is ultimately bad for people because it enables them to externalize their shortcomings in a way were they feel detached from them? Ultimately I find that this often deters people from working on improving themselves because they're comfortable having a scapegoat rather than showing improvement or grinding through something difficult.

I'm not just shitting on people with ADD/Depression/Anxiety or whatever, but I do question the millennial generation's tendency to pathologize everything. I don't see the benefit and I hate hearing people act like their individual struggles are the most pathological, damning, uniquely unmanageable problems ever. We all have attributes which get in the way of our success, the difference to me is people who see their struggle as something to improve upon versus those that diagnose themselves and take it as damning evidence that they CAN'T change.

Comments (48)

Apr 5, 2018

There is a spectrum and some people have severe ADHD.

There is a spectrum of many things in the DSM-V. Some are barely on the spectrum and may not need medication and use it as a crutch. Others don't need it at all and see a psych just for a prescription.

Big pharma likes to push drugs to psychs and ultimately it is the responsibility of the MD to make a reasonable conclusion as to the medicine and the treatment.

I do feel that we have an overprescription epidemic in the US which does stem from people wanting quick fixes to deep rooted issues that require more than just a pill to untie the knot.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Apr 6, 2018

Sorry OP, my only contribution to this thread is to say that after just reading the title on my phone I'm shocked the OP isn't MonacoMonkey.

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Apr 6, 2018

MonacoMonkey is now a meme status on WSO, however he will never be a bigger meme than Ebolamonkey, that guy was odd.

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Apr 6, 2018

The thing about MonacoMonkey is that I actually think that his shitposts come from a real place.

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Apr 6, 2018
LReed:

I'm not just shitting on people with ADD/Depression/Anxiety or whatever, but I do question the millennial generation's tendency to pathologize everything. I don't see the benefit and I hate hearing people act like their individual struggles are the most pathological, damning, uniquely unmanageable problems ever. We all have attributes which get in the way of our success, the difference to me is people who see their struggle as something to improve upon versus those that diagnose themselves and take it as damning evidence that they CAN'T change.

@Isaiah_53_5 gave a fantastic response to the rest of your post, but I wanted to address this "Millennial" portion.

There is a tendency that started with hot takes in the media and has now spread throughout our culture to take the most absurd individuals from a group or organization and use them as an explicit example of everyone else in that group or organization (in this case, anyone between roughly 22-37 years of age.) People point to some douchebag youtube "star," or Tumblr blogger, or random protester interviewed by the local news, roll their eyes, and proclaim that all millennials possess whatever negative trait that individual person possesses. Increasingly, the people being mocked aren't even millennials - they're teenagers, so they're too young to be.

Plenty of people, millennial or otherwise, struggle with very real mental health issues, both serious and mild, but keep it to themselves. That doesn't make their pathology any more or less valid, they just have the social skills, as individuals, not representatives of their generation or some shit, to manage.

Generation-bashing is boring and rolling your eyes at people who struggle with depression and anxiety is both ignorant and dangerous.

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Apr 6, 2018

You right, you compassionate, I repeck you

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Apr 6, 2018
LReed:

You right, you compassionate, I repeck you

Hah, and I was probably a bit too aggressive

Apr 6, 2018

there is a great video on youtube about ADHD...short version is, some dr did brain scans of ADHD people and found 7 common brain scan patterns which are not found among non-ADHD people...so, there are really 7 types of ADHD...and yes its "real" but its a mistake to group them all together...but its expensive to do the brain scan for everybody...so society just lumps them all together and treates them the same...and for the most part, that is "good enough" even tho its not a perfect solution.

just google it...you're welcome

Apr 9, 2018

If you need to take pills/need extra time to succeed in tests you're just not smart enough. And being able to focus is just a part of being smart. I wonder when they will start taking brain scans of dumb people and see how many types of dumb you have...

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Apr 9, 2018

Sounds harsh but that's kinda where I come out on it. When people talk about how they didn't do well on the GMAT or LSAT because of their "ADD", it just sounds like an attempt to externalize the fact that their lacking in Intelligence (in that certain regard).

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Apr 9, 2018
datakid97:

If you need to take pills/need extra time to succeed in tests you're just not smart enough. And being able to focus is just a part of being smart. I wonder when they will start taking brain scans of dumb people and see how many types of dumb you have...

i disagree...if taking the pills fixes the problem...then i'd say you are indeed smart enough. However, if the problem is not "attention span" but rather, lacking the ability to absorb, synthesize and apply information....then no medication (as yet discovered) can fix that.

just google it...you're welcome

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Sep 1, 2019

We've just heard pure genius. Someone note that in the log.

Apr 9, 2018

After passing 7th grade, my memory started to fail me. I used to have a photographic memory. Then one day, it just disappeared. And I kept forgetting stuffs.

Since then, I have a hard time remembering things. If I don't write things down I would just forget immediately. I often get lost in the middle of doing something. I can rarely focus.

Habits that helped me resolved this issue is through 1) putting everything on a to do list on excel spreadsheets, 2) draw diagrams to refresh my memory, 3) google calendar reminders on all meetings and appointments, and 4) keep a better note on everyone that I met. And people still think that I have a photographic memory. I don't. I just try harder to get ahead.

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Apr 9, 2018

Is ADHD real? Yes
Is depression/anxiety real? Yes
Are they over diagnosed and over prescribed? Yes

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Apr 9, 2018
Antiaverage:

Is ADHD real? Yes
Is depression/anxiety real? Yes
Are they over diagnosed and over prescribed? Yes

agree...and i would add for those people who really suffer from these conditions...and the medications provide significant relief...go ahead and take the meds. Adderall / Concerta (slow release adderall) really help with the ADHD forgetfulness and lack of focus. Wellbutrin / Prozac really help with depression. If a doctor proscribed pill solves your problem....i don't see an issue. If you have the condition, and choose not to take the meds, and then still complain about the condition (even tho you choose not to take the relief offered) then you will suffer (often times needlessly).

just google it...you're welcome

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Apr 10, 2018

This.

As someone mentioned before, there is scientific research proving ADHD's legitimacy that has aged since the 60's (see Ritalin). I've heard the holier-than-thou, "ADHD isn't real" rant time and time over by people who view them as crutches for the weak. Like everyone else in America, you've probably been exposed to plenty of individuals who have been misdiagnosed with plenty of abuse at the collegiate level. How widely acceptable it is in American culture to pop non-prescribed amphetamines and benzodiazepines is pretty grotesque of us as a nation.

I received treatment (low-dose Concerta) from junior year of high school to the end of college where I would take the medication on and off. I credit the treatment in helping me to "grow into my brain" and keeping me away from behaviors that I would characterize as risky / detrimental to my health. The difference in who I was on and off the treatment was profound.

In high school, I would receive terrible grades, I would get detention / in-school suspension with regularity and I was a massive pain in the ass to my parents. Get me on my treatment and in an instant, I don't need the rise of fighting with my parents, I'm stimulated enough to grit my teeth and sit 8-hours a day through the public school system and I have the mindful state to finish and turn in homework. I understand that looking back on it that I was just "stimulated" but without treatment in that environment I would have had a far worse GPA / been expelled / wouldn't have gotten into college and I would have gone through with legally emancipating myself from living with my parents to get an apartment with friends who had already dropped out.

In college, it was paramount in keeping all of my shit together from a collegiate obligation perspective. After being told my entire life that I was going to be an academic washout from professors growing up, I was able to string together a semester of staying on treatment and got straight A's for the first time in my entire life. I remember breaking down and crying in my Java professor's office after her bumping my 89.5 to a 90 in the class. Imagine going through your entire life knowing that your intelligent, but you've got nothing to show for it by society's standards because you've never been able to keep your shit together.

Those who grew up structured with the unilateral wherewithal to perform well in academic / extra-curricular environments, more power to you. But for those of us who grew up without structure that need a higher level of stimulation / passion to engage, don't trash the treatment.

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Apr 9, 2018

Almost everyone I know with an adderall prescription just lied to get it from some unscrupulous doctor.

"Work ethic, work ethic" - Vince Vaughn
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Apr 9, 2018

Lol I did that once but didn't fill it cuz I felt like it was a bad road to go down.

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Apr 9, 2018

Especially if you're under your parents' insurance (undergrad here) and they see they're being charged co-payments for an addy prescription.

"Work ethic, work ethic" - Vince Vaughn
Apr 9, 2018

I was actually thinking about this too. People have been using Adderall at a rate that has been compared to the use of pain medications that ended up leading to the opioid epidemic.

Apparently, the use is happening to keep kids competitive as criteria to be successful is increasingly competitive. I believe I saw this in the WSJ not too long ago and there's a documentary on Netflix about it.

EDIT: On another note, I think the importance of education, academics, scholarly achievement, extra-curricular balancing with everything else, makes humans want to tap more into their brains. Having some ADD or ADHD (whether it's real or not) wouldn't be a problem if we were still just chopping wood all day or hunting. The importance of the brain in everyday life, makes interest in brain enhancement a very heightened phenomenal. The diagnosis of ADD or ADHD is just a good way to try and use some form of cognitive enhancement without feeling like you're crossing some boundary to the detriment of the patient.

Apr 9, 2018

Going off of your Edit, when you look at the history of WHY people have been taking amphetamines since the 1930s, it adds a whole other interesting dimension. During WWII, amphetamines were huge in the US army and touted to soldiers as a safe/effective way to stay alert during their job. After that they became commonly marketed/prescribed to housewives as dieting aids (along with barbiturates and benzos) and as anti-hysteria tablets. Now ADD is the alleged disorder that they treat.

I took a great course in Undergrad that covered the history of prescription drugs in American society, and there were some concerning trends amongst many blockbuster drugs in America (SSRIs, Benzos, Amphetamines, etc.). They have all survived decades and decades of mainstream prescription usage, with the alleged condition that they ostensibly treat changing every decade or so. The same way, amphetamine went from Over-The-Counter asthma aid, to "alertness tablets" for soldiers in the military, to a dieting aid and "hysteria" remedy after the war, and now it treats ADD.

It really seems like a lot of these powerful drugs are developed, and the marketers/patent holders of the drugs realize that there will always be a demand for powerful drugs with psychoactive effects and periodically market them as the panaceas for different bullshit conditions. The general population of course, glad to accept the sick role and take something that makes them feel good, gobbles them up and convince themselves that they really are warranted in taking it because a doctor prescribed it.

Apr 10, 2018
LReed:

Going off of your Edit, when you look at the history of WHY people have been taking amphetamines since the 1930s, it adds a whole other interesting dimension. During WWII, amphetamines were huge in the US army and touted to soldiers as a safe/effective way to stay alert during their job. After that they became commonly marketed/prescribed to housewives as dieting aids (along with barbiturates and benzos) and as anti-hysteria tablets. Now ADD is the alleged disorder that they treat.

I took a great course in Undergrad that covered the history of prescription drugs in American society, and there were some concerning trends amongst many blockbuster drugs in America (SSRIs, Benzos, Amphetamines, etc.). They have all survived decades and decades of mainstream prescription usage, with the alleged condition that they ostensibly treat changing every decade or so. The same way, amphetamine went from Over-The-Counter asthma aid, to "alertness tablets" for soldiers in the military, to a dieting aid and "hysteria" remedy after the war, and now it treats ADD.

It really seems like a lot of these powerful drugs are developed, and the marketers/patent holders of the drugs realize that there will always be a demand for powerful drugs with psychoactive effects and periodically market them as the panaceas for different bullshit conditions. The general population of course, glad to accept the sick role and take something that makes them feel good, gobbles them up and convince themselves that they really are warranted in taking it because a doctor prescribed it.

It's all the same shit. My brain does something and I don't know why, throw these pills at it to keep you on a line. Today, it's getting a little out of hand as people are saying, "other kids sit for 12 hours working on a problem, why can't I or why can't you". If you don't take pills there's this feeling of inadequacy or not doing everything you can. I don't suffer from anything like ADD or at least I haven't, but I worry that maybe I should be on a pill if I ever find someone to be outperforming me, and especially if it ever becomes apparent that someone is on a pill.

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Apr 9, 2018

OP brings up an interesting point that I had not considered before - people "diagnosed" with ADD/etc. may tell themselves, "well, I'm fucked up so I won't be able to accomplish XYZ." I think various "disorders" are wildly over-diagnosed, although some people do legitimately suffer from issues.

Building off of what OP said, our society seems to want to blame our shortcomings on something out there in the ether instead of taking responsibility for our lives. In some cases, people do struggle against a disorder/issue/whatever you want to call it, while other times, it's a doc pushing a pill, or other times it's someone looking for an excuse.

Apr 9, 2018

I have ADHD/dyslexia whatever nonsense modern "medicine" jibberish you call it.

Bottom line is, it's BENEFICIAL for evolution. Why (the fuck) are we trying to stigmatize it?

Case in point - A group of people chilling in a cave in African Sahara. All but one of the humans are in deep concentration, etching hunting cartoons on cave wall. Absolute dedication to task at hand. The one person has severe ADHD, cannot concentrate, always anxious.
Hungry lion begins slowly approaching cave in distance. ADHD individual sees this WAY ahead of time (he's always distracted) and slowly walks out/away.
Lion enters cave, eats all unsuspecting (non ADHD) people. They die. Their genes as well.

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Apr 10, 2018
MonacoMonkey:

I have ADHD/dyslexia whatever nonsense modern "medicine" jibberish you call it.

Bottom line is, it's BENEFICIAL for evolution. Why (the fuck) are we trying to stigmatize it?

Case in point - A group of people chilling in a cave in African Sahara. All but one of the humans are in deep concentration, etching hunting cartoons on cave wall. Absolute dedication to task at hand. The one person has severe ADHD, cannot concentrate, always anxious.
Hungry lion begins slowly approaching cave in distance. ADHD individual sees this WAY ahead of time (he's always distracted) and slowly walks out/away.
Lion enters cave, eats all unsuspecting (non ADHD) people. They die. Their genes as well.

Why don't you just be a security or protective agent? Walking away and letting the people who are solving problems die is not good for society. You'll eventually run out of resources and physical exhaustion will lead to your deayby natural causes or otherwise those same lions will catch up.

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Apr 10, 2018

any thoughts on this? is this true?

""ADHD is a prime example of a fictitious disease." These were the words of Leon Eisenberg, the "scientific father of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)," in his last interview he gave before his death at age 87 in 2009."

https://realfarmacy.com/the-man-who-discovered-adh...

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

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Apr 10, 2018

+1SB

Imo ADHD is the equivalent of what "Hysteria" or "Neurasthenia" was back in the early 1900s. A generalized cluster of symptoms, that everyone feels from time to time (some more than others) that can be made marginally less uncomfortable by the use of certain drugs with generalized clusters of effects.

Give anyone enough Valium and they'll stop worrying, give anyone enough Ritalin and they'll become maniacally determined. The symptoms of anxiousness or lack-of-focus aren't fictitious, and may have some root in biology. But the name that we give to these clusters of symptoms when they pass a 100% arbitrary threshold is a fabricated concept. Homosexuality, Gender-Identity Disorder and Moral Insanity were also once defined as psychological "disorders" too. Then the way we started looking at things changed and all of the sudden being gay isn't considered a symptom and homosexuality isn't a disease.

Apr 10, 2018

It's funny, I would actually say the opposite of the OP. I feel like people diagnosed with ADHD are more growth oriented, innovative, etc. I was diagnosed with it as a child and 100% agree with the diagnosis, however, it's also what makes me VERY good at my job. It allows me to bounce all over the place, quickly analyze data, and spot irregularities in process/data/etc. much quicker than the average bear. I stopped taking my medication because I felt like it was dulling my instincts - haven't relied on it for almost 11 months now. Plenty of my coworkers have also been diagnosed with and embrace their ADHD - we have no problem cracking jokes about "our ADHD", etc.

I do feel that millennials have a tendency to externalize their shortcomings. If it wasn't ADHD those same people would find something else to blame: a poor childhood, their sexual orientation, etc. Unfortunately, my parents' peers have raised humans with zero drive, responsibility, or personal accountability. Annoying as it is, I'm generally ok with it because I get to reap the rewards of reduced competition. If they want to be the lowest common denominator I'm happy to rise above.

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Apr 10, 2018

Now that's what's up.

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Apr 11, 2018

ADHD is a myth.

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Apr 11, 2018
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