Attention Deficit Disorder

Attention Deficit Disorder
Misdiagnosis... A...D.D or Depression?

By Judie Gade
ADDventurous Support Co-ordinator
Coach and Counsellor

Over the past weeks, I have been fielding calls from women and men from all over the Australia, after a story was aired about women with Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder (ADHD) on A Current Affair, a prime time, top rating current affairs program. ADHD is primarily an inherited disorder and affects a part of the frontal lobe of the brain. It is a neurological disorder (I hate that word!) not a behavioural one as many believe. Inappropriate behaviour is a result of the quirky brain we possess.

Most stories seem to be concerned with little boys who "bounce off walls", destructive little people who are out of control! This is the media perception, and for some parents it is the way it is. It is not, however how it really is on the whole. The kids I have been dealing with need understanding and compassion for the confusion that they feel, and so do the parents who may be unknowingly ADHD themselves. Education and learning about ADHD is part of the key to living as an ADDer.

There has been much in the media from so-called experts, especially about the over diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder. This has mainly been concerned with children, nearly always boys, and not adults of which there has barely been any coverage in the media at all. Unfortunately the same opinions have been manipulated to involve adults as well. The issues are very different for an ADHD adult. Many learn coping mechanisms from years of struggle, but still "it" is there, making life a real problem at times, just contending with the little things that most people make appear easy can be stressful. Things such as remembering a birthday, paying bills, cleaning the kitchen, even remembering to pick up the kids at school!

Most of the big studies have been male orientated, to do with children & with no real thought about the females who are ADHD. So, if this is true, how can they say if it is over-diagnosed when the opposite appears to be very much the case regarding adults? In ADDventurous Women, an Australian based e-mail support group, the main concern for members is educating the public about ADHD in a positive manner.

The way the general public sees people with ADHD has been a negative one, which is extremely unfortunate, as many of these adults are highly intelligent & very talented in their areas of expertise. The positives about the disorder are many. I would rather be ADHD than not!

The public perception is a negative one..... and why? Because the media prefers to go with the sensationalism instead of the truth; the negative instead of the positive! Never mind the response from the public, which they have invoked, & the fact that they are the main source of education for the general public. No, they would rather see people fighting it out in the public arena. These are mainly people who will benefit financially from the uproar through the sale of books, zealots whose religious sect benefits from the sale of tapes and videos via web sites, denouncing the very existence of ADHD. Some so-called experts prefer to put the blame squarely on parenting skills or an effort to take the easy way out.

The only person in the media spotlight that has come close to the truth has been Oprah Winfrey. The interviews were tasteful, full of empathy, humourous & insightful. She also had experts and adults with the disorder to interview. I have been told by various newspapers and media groups that they are not interested in doing a story, unless someone came forward & preferably a family or perhaps a noted public figure. Many people are too scared to come forward because of the threat of public ridicule and bad reporting by the media.

Recently there have been stories on Depression in women being on the rise. If anything, this is an illness that is being misdiagnosed. Many of the women who called me in the last month or two were prescribed anti-depressants. Many were refused a referral by their Family Doctors for ADHD assessment (which is not covered for adults by Medicare if done by a psychologist), and when they were referred to a psychiatrist, they encountered someone who did not believe that ADHD even existed!

This is the first stumbling block that many people face, especially women... their trusted practitioners & specialists who are supposedly "in the know". Without their approval there can be no assessment by a psychiatrist. In Australia, an assessment may be made by a psychologist, but they are unable to prescribe medication. Only a psychiatrist (or paediatrician in the case of kids) is able to prescribe medication & do a full diagnosis.

Although the story on A Current Affair was about Mothers with ADHD, many people identified & the penny dropped: "that's ME! It finally all makes sense why I am the way I am!" was the comment I heard from the people contacting me. Some were so excited they could not get the words out quick enough to explain the way they felt! Many felt plain relief at being finally able to open up to someone who could understand what they had been trying to tell doctors for years.

A few concerns came to light from these phone calls. The main one was the problem getting a referral to a psychiatrist from the family doctor. Women who called, who had children diagnosed with ADHD, had never been asked the question with regards to family history. Considering there is a very strong genetic link, I cannot understand why this had not come up. Family doctors, if there is a diagnosis by a specialist of a child, should be querying the parents, especially if there is a substance abuse or an addiction problem of some kind evident, or if a parent has been treated for depression. When I was assessed, after demanding an assessment, I was asked all these things. My parents came in as well (they are in their 70's) and it became evident that ADHD was on both sides of my family.