Why Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Is Not a True Medical Syndrome

Critics of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have repeatedly argued that there is no proof for the condition being symptomatic of an organic brain disease and that the current "ADHD epidemic" is an expression of medicalization. To this, the supporters of ADHD can retort that the condition is only defined as a mental disorder and not a physical disease. As such, ADHD needs only be a harmful mental dysfunction, which, like other genuine disorders, can have a complex and obscure etiology. This article argues that such a line of argument fails to save ADHD as a valid diagnostic category. Given the general diagnostic logic of the DSM-IV and how ADHD has been defined in terms of everyday (male) child behaviors, there are compelling grounds to disbelieve that ADHD can be a true medical syndrome united by some type of harmful dysfunction. Indeed, strong logical and empirical reasons will be adduced to show that people may qualify for ADHD diagnosis without suffering from any type of underlying pathology.
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