Is ADHD a Disorder? Or Something Else?

confused childAn ongoing debate exists. Is ADHD a disorder or an evolutionary mismatch to the modern day learning environment? Are certain mental disorders, disorders at all?

A recent study published by biological anthropologists ask the scientific community and mental health professionals to rethink mental illnesses such as ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, and depression.  In a new paper released and discussed in Forbes, the anthropologists, “…show good reasons to think of depression or PTSD as responses to adversity rather than chemical imbalances. And ADHD could be a way of functioning that evolved in an ancestral environment, but doesn’t match the way we live today.”

The stated goal of the paper is “not to suddenly change treatments, but to explore new ways of studying these problems.”

The authors review evidence and conclude that conditions such as depression and anxiety may not be true mental disorders.  Depression and anxiety may be an adaptive response to an adverse situation in one’s life.

We do know that stress and anxiety does change the architecture of the brain. View our recorded webinar, Stress and the Brain. Understanding the Mind Body Connection.

The authors ask us to consider how we label ADHD. If we identify ADHD as a learning difference and provide accommodations and learning strategies, we can often mitigate the symptoms. This information is an important consideration when designing your curriculum for this school year.  Many parents will be working with their children at home during the 2020-2021 school year.  This is your opportunity to make some changes and structure your school day differently – one that is more conducive to the way a child with ADHD learns.

Reporter for Forbes writes:

“In Finland, where substantial physical activity is part of the school day, rates of ADHD are also very low. Meanwhile, in the U.S. children are asked to sit still for the majority of the day. Elementary school students often get only 15-20 minutes of recess a day, a far cry from the 60-90 minutes their parents had. Coincidentally, ADHD rates in the U.S. have gone up over the last 15 years.

ADHD is not a disorder, the study authors argue. Rather it is an evolutionary mismatch to the modern learning environment we have constructed. Edward Hagen, professor of evolutionary anthropology at Washington State University and co-author on the study, pointed out in a press release that “there is little in our evolutionary history that accounts for children sitting at desks quietly while watching a teacher do math equations at a board.”

ADHD is a learning difference.  Play Attention can help children and adults develop the core cognitive skills that lay the foundation to strong executive function.  Once executive function and self-regulation are improved, children and adult with the ADHD label can truly thrive and succeed in the classroom and workplace. Call 800-788-6786 for more information on how we can help.

Also check out our upcoming Executive Function 101 Course. All activities are designed to enhance this year's school experience.