Many people have a problem accepting the existence of ADHD. Oddly it seems journalists have the biggest problem, their “meme” of ADHD is controversy.
With more experimental proof than of any other mental difference, the scientific evidence is very clear for ADHD in genetics, brain imaging, twin-studies, large-scale population studies and from patients response to medications.
There is no scientific debate that a section of the population, can be grouped by some common traits that relate to dopamine uptake. It is a statistically strong grouping with similar thought patterns, life experiences and outcomes.
There is no doubt this group exists. There may be a debate in whether to classify ADHD as disorder, a quite subjective term itself. There may be a debate over whether to medicate children or whether schools and workplaces should better accommodate differences. There is no scientific debate that this genetically linked ADHD group exists, so why the controversy about ADHD itself? Global warming has the same issue, in both cases press and media reporting a “heated” debate yet a clear, overwhelming majority of scientists are convinced by the data for both warming and ADHD.
For many it seems concerns and theories become muddled up: stimulants for children or cheating students, are confused as reasons to deny ADHD itself? Any article on ADHD is followed by comments like:
“pharmaceutical companies make up ADHD for unfair profit”
“it’s just an excuse for bad behaviour or grades”
“everyone is disorganised at times”
“let kids be kids, don’t label them”
“they should try harder, do it like me…”
For the sceptics, acceptance is painful.
ADHD confounds societies values
To accept that ADHD exists, is to admit that nature and chemicals play a far more significant part than nurture or “strength of character” in personality and success.
Our democratic capitalist systems are based on the premise that “anyone” can reach the top through hard work. We laud people who put in the hours, we far rather someone works hard to excel rather than has natural talent. People wish to rationalise and justify their success or position in life by reference to their effort, not their fortune of birth and genetics.
It’s distressing for some to contemplate how much our minds, behaviours, talents and problems are a product of our genes. Better to blame parents and the individuals themselves for poor life outcomes, rather than accept the reality that genetics are to blame. If these people with ADHD are truly different then maybe they can’t change who they are, maybe we would have to change how we educate, employ and engage with them – we don’t want that!
Our human species has such wide variation. We can easily see physical differences, I am tall, so people notice my height but they only have glimpses of my very ADHD brain, when control slips and my behaviour betrays me. We instinctively attribute behaviour to upbringing, it’s a natural and societal assumption. But it’s wrong. The case for genetics in influencing behaviours is far greater, whether ADHD or not. Steven Pinker cognitive scientist, linguist and science author, uses latest finding to show that over 80% of character is genetic, in his bestseller, The Blank Slate.
- To accept that ADHD exists, is to recognise people more accurately for what they achieve in life with the “cards they are dealt”
- To accept that ADHD exists, is to get past prejudice about parenting, to see the amazing differences that exists between individuals from birth
- To accept that ADHD exists, is to recognise that we are not all the same and should not be treated the same