The French have gotten something so right compared to we moronic Americans that I could kiss them all. At least all the psychiatrists. Stumbling around all the modern goings-ons in the world of the internet, I came across this article on how the French diagnose ADHD in children versus how we Americans diagnose.
There are a few classic mistakes made by American psychiatrists (and America in general) that I see being red-flagged in this article, as well as some basic common sense by the French which Americans will never actually accept in the psychological diagnostic system, ADHD or otherwise. (This may go into a generalized ramble, I’m afraid. It’s getting late around here, so I’m a little sleep deprived.)
What the Americans have wrong
1. Sources, people, sources
There are so many controversies over the lack of validity surrounding the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, there’s no way I’d be able to address them all here. The fact is, though, that there is a serious problem with Americans’ ability to admit when they have something wrong and to try a completely new tactic to get it right. The DSM has become a one-stop-shop for diagnoses, and allows psychiatrists to become a little lazy. There are many diagnoses which overlap in their determined symptoms, and so psychiatrists, instead of making more thorough analyses of their patients, they throw a diagnosis out and see what happens when the patient is on that certain pill.
With pharmaceutical companies and the psychiatrists themselves getting paid the big bucks and conducting most of the funding going into DSM research and statistical analysis, the whole idea of ‘mental illness’ becomes a matter of money. So those in power of the information direct it to the most profitable end, meaning more pill cures to conditions which may have nothing to do with mental illness at all. This is what keeps the DSM in business as it were, and what keeps the percentage of diagnosed kids going higher and higher. It is a problem, and sadly most people just accept what the doctor orders instead of questioning the source and demanding a rehash of the system itself.
2. Psychological versus Biological
For some reason, in America, we don’t like to admit the possibility of psychological failure. Perhaps it is the ‘holier than thou’ image which America has self-proclaimed for itself, a false image which I can’t even begin to tackle in this post; this is the idea that Americans are the best of the best just because we have a powerful past. Despite all the failures we have put ourselves through since our WWII victory, we still put ourselves out there as the best, the victors, and there is nothing that can taint that image. I’m not saying I don’t love my country. I am quite patriotic in my own way, I have the utmost respect for those who risk their lives for this country, and I am proud of my country’s past. My problem is that we have fallen into a false sense of pride and greatness without being able to truly uphold our greatness. We are in a sad state of denial, and it’s only sinking us deeper. Even in the case of psychological diagnosis we fall far too short.
We are in a false sense of superiority, especially mentally. We feel there is no way that one of our own could be so mentally off that they are beyond help. We also don’t want to blame the general psychological state of the country on how we and our children act. We can’t take the blame, no matter the situation, and so we make our selves suffer. In terms of ADHD, we refuse to say that the upbringing of our children is the problem. We demand that it is a born issue, something physical that can be ‘treated’ instead of an environmental issue which needs to be adjusted through the efforts of the community. We purposefully misdiagnose a psychological and environmental problem as biological, thereby averting the blame.
3. There’s a pill for that!
We all know this misconception, and yet we still allow it to control us. As I’ve already said, a lot of this false diagnosis issue revolves around money. The biggest proof of this is the insistence on there being a pill for everything. The problem is, especially in the case of ADD and ADHD, it is not the child’s mental state which is an issue, it is the child’s environment. Whether it be the way the child is being raised or the way they are being taught in school, most of the symptoms of ADD and ADHD are environmentally stimulated and enhanced.
I don’t say this as an attack against the American family or the school system, although both of those things could have a series from me to themselves. My point is that, when you really look at the symptoms of ADHD, as the French and most of the rest of the world do, you realize that 1) the symptoms can usually be massaged and avoided through the way a kid is treated and taught by parents and teachers, and 2) can just as equally be enhanced by these environmental conditions. Different kids learn through different stimulants, and so when you understand the individual’s preferences, you can help that individual succeed. You don’t need a pill to force a kid to focus or calm down, you just need to know how to help them learn the best way they can and wear them out. Now I do understand that there are sever cases where kids do need help, but you can’t generalize these symptoms to every kid who bounces in his chair and can’t focus on math in the 3rd grade. There is a real line between normal childhood hyperactivity and real mental instability, and hyperactivity cannot and should not be ‘cured’ by a pill.
4. Can we say lazy (again)? Or treating the symptoms for once, not the disease
This is Americans’ biggest problem, in the realm of medicine and everything else: laziness. It is so easy to overdiagnose an illness, to pop a kid a pill and assume everything’s fine. The parents don’t have to deal with talking to their kids about their school problems, figuring out tutoring schedules or taking time to help them with homework. The teachers don’t have to do any of this either. Just send the kid to a psychiatrist, get a pill and have them pop it. That is the mentality that we have developed, and it is shameful. (This is coming from someone who has no interest in having kids, by the way.) With things like ADHD, it’s more helpful for the child to deal with individual issues they have, try non-medicated routes like tutoring, talking to them, and finding alternative teaching methods.
Take it from a woman who is very close to her childhood and dealt with these kind of issues. My parents didn’t medicate me, and despite my attention issues and interactive issues, I still made it through high school, through college, and into the real world. You don’t need a diagnosis and pills to make a kid pay attention and be able to function. You just need to take some time.