ADHD Is A Mental Illness September 21, 2011Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Depression, mental illness.
Tags: Bipolar Disorder, mental illness, Schizophrenia
It’s amazing how many people split hairs when it comes to having a mental illness. Take the cases of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and depression, for example.
Although the National Institute for Mental Health considers ADHD to be a mental illness, few parents would put it in the same category as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder- what they perceive to be “real” mental illnesses. But that’s where it belongs.
I know that when my elementary aged child received the diagnosis of ADHD a number of years ago, I didn’t put that illness in the same category as a mental illness, and neither did my son’s doctor. That thought was the furthest from my mind. Had I identified ADD as a mental illness, things would have been different.
I wouldn’t have been so forthcoming about his illness, since the shame and stigma of a mental illness would automatically follow my son’s new identity as a mentally ill child. I would have vehemently disagreed with anyone who tried to tell me that my child’s brain chemistry problem shared many of the same characteristics as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Hell, I hadn’t even heard of bipolar disorder back then, and schizophrenia to me was a scary, violent disease that people needed to be locked up for. That was my perception of reality back then.
I have since met parents whose children have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and I realize the fallacy of my previous assumptions. And then there’s the new reality that bipolar disorder is in fact diagnosable in children, contrary to what people perceived even ten years ago. In fact, scientists are now learning that many cases of bipolar disorder have been misdiagnosed as ADHD.
Things are not so black and white any more. There’s a lot of gray in the world of mental illnesses.
According to the National Institute for Mental Health, somewhere between 3% to 8% of children suffer from ADHD. About 1% of the population suffers from schizophrenia. Bipolar disorder occurs in about 4% of the population. And about 8% of people suffer from major depression in any given year.
That’s a lot of people with mental illnesses.
Splitting hairs, separating depression and ADHD from “real” mental illnesses, has done no favors to those suffering from all mental illnesses. Were the umbrella reflective of real statistics, there would be much more money and energy available for studying more mental illnesses. It is difficult to sweep 20% of all people into the “mentally ill” category and not change people’s perception of mental illness. Let’s expand our minds to include mental illnesses like ADHD and depression in the category of “real” mental illnesses. It would make the world a much better place.
Note: Sarah sent an interesting article regarding the over-prescription of ADHD medication at http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/adhd