Motivational and inspirational writer, Bryan Hutchinson is the author of several books about life with ADHD including the highly acclaimed, best selling "One Boy′s Struggle: A Memoir" and the author of the hilarious eBook that went viral "10 Things I Hate about ADHD"

ADHD is a fad again?! Shame and Guilt are back!

ADD ADHD Fad or Fruad or Myth

Seems things are going to get worse before they get better.

I just read another article about ‘the myth of ADHD’ by someone who raised my eyebrows. Mr. Herr, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Studies, Leadership and Counseling at Murray State University, wrote a recent article titled - ADHD: Has this diagnostic fad run its course?

According to Mr. Herr, ADHD is a diagnostic fad! His article perfectly underscores my recent blog post about how a report in the media can be skewed by the headline (in this case the entire article). I am not going into detail about how accurate a report authored by an assistant professor of economics about ADHD children and misdiagnosis of ADHD at an early age might be (Youngest in class get ADHD label - another headline to go with my previous collection). However, people are paying attention to it and when someone who is an assistant professor in the department of educational studies for a university openly writes that ADHD is a fad of its time, well, there you go. Would you want to be a student with ADHD at his school? Just asking…

I read Mr. Herr’s article this morning and started to feel the shame and guilt of living with ADHD all over again. His article has far more power than he might think and I am not sure if he realizes how many people he may be putting in jeopardy and confusion.

Mr. Herr writes:

“Probably one of the best ways to make sense of children and the rise of ADHD is for adults to focus on some basic questions. Don’t most adults become distracted when they are tired? Don’t most adults become fidgety when they are bored? Don’t most adults lose interest in their work when they don’t see any significance in what they are doing? And when adults wrestle with concerns relating to stress, sleeplessness, frustration, and depression, aren’t the responses often “get some rest,” “exercise” “start eating better,” and “try finding something you’re interested in”?” Quoted from Mr. Herr’s article in The Christian Science Monitor

First, how do you make sense of children by comparing them to adults? Anyway, let’s skip that obvious question. Yes, to all of the assertions above. All of them are true, but those are not the things which in of themselves can be determined as ADHD. They are determined to be ADHD when they cause life problems, are constant and have been present since early childhood.  As an example, if Mr. Herr would read my book “One Boy’s Struggle: A Memoir –Surviving life with Undiagnosed ADD” – he would discover that I would daydream daily through my entire day at school, not just when I was tired, or when I was bored or fidgety or stressed or whatever guess, other than ADD. Daydreaming was a constant daily struggle. Not paying attention to the teacher, or being able to read books, or assignments and understand them in time for a quiz was a constant struggle. Actually, assertions similiar to Mr. Herr’s may have been part of the reason I was punished and chastised so much for my behavior.

My mother cooked everyday an excellent, healthy meal for the family. I typically slept at least 9 hours a night. I wasn’t tired from lack of sleep. However, I was bored that is true, bored to the bone and very few things could keep my attention and when I did find something that kept my attention it was usually not for very long. Also, if Mr. Herr would read my book he will find that I often switched things I became interested in. Therefore, to assert that we can just switch someone to their interest isn’t always all that helpful, because if they have ADHD they are highly likely to change their interest out of their control quite quickly and without notice. It’s frustrating and depressing. 

Perhaps it was just depression in my case? Again, if he reads my book he will find that my behavior and the punishment I received because of it by educators, my father and many others was the main culprit for my depression and later PTSD, but my typical ADD behavior came first. Not that I deserved punishment because my ADD came first, but rather it was misunderstood and therefore I needed understanding and a proper professional evaluation of my behavior.

When you have enough people getting on you because you’re doing things out of your control, but in their opinon “on purpose” – let me tell you, it gets to you after a while. I started to believe I was doing it ‘on purpose’ too and punished myself for it because nothing else worked (read my book Mr. Herr). Punishing myself along with other people’s punishment didn’t help for very long, it made things worse. Punishment led to far, far worse. You know what did help? You guessed it, proper professional treatment for Depression, PTSD and ADD! Not any one’s opinion that my condition doesn’t exist or that it is a fad. Mr. Herr’s article really just shows the mentality of a large portion of society which just can’t accept that certain behaviors are out of one’s control. It’s a bully-ish attitude and often keeps people from seeking the help they need, because the stigma and shame can be so overwhelming.

Sorry, if I seem a bit upset here by these assertions, but I would be very careful making broad assumptions about anyone’s condition as not truly existing unless you are indeed their doctor, are treating them and have a very familiar understanding of their issues. However, if you have a predetermined view of conditions like ADHD as just fads, you would not be my doctor.

With all this said, I can understand where Mr. Herr is coming from, as I mentioned it is an all too common belief in our society and, unfortunately, it is these types of beliefs those of us with ADHD and our families must live with daily. Mr. Herr’s article may help reinforced the stigma of ADHD and what’s more he is an educator. Let’s hope the ‘left hander’s’ are not the next target of such an article (is there a blood test for truly being left handed?). I guess such beliefs are part of the reason behind laws to protect those with disabilities, which does include mental disabilities such as ADD / ADHD by the way. It’s also important to note that ADHD is a part of the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV TR) - it is my opinion that “Fads” are not included in this manual published by the American Psychiatric Association, used by clinicians and psychiatrists to diagnose psychiatric illnesses. *

- If you would like to read an article that at the least accepts ADHD as a condition, but thinks TV is partly to blame: Let’s blame ADHD on too much TV - at least this author is looking for a legitimate reason! The problem with his theory is someone like me. When I was growing up we were allowed only very limited TV viewing and I certainly didn’t have a TV in my room as a young kid. Therefore, this theory doesn’t work for why I have Attention Defecit Disorder.

*This article has been about my concern for Mr. Herr’s opinion about ADHD being a fad in the article he wrote here. My concern is for how damaging such an open opinion article by an educator can be to those of us living with the mental disability ADHD, and our families – not to mention students struggling with this disorder. Mr. Herr has the right to his opinion and to write about it. I have the right to discuss his openly written opinion and share mine about it.

What’s your opinion?

~Bryan

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Scott Hutson August 28, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Hello Bryan!,

I agree 100% with your opinion on this article by Mr. Herr. As you know, I am interested in the Nueroscience/Nueropsychology of ADHD diagnoses. And the more I learn,,,the more I realize how much I don’t know!

I was just as guilty as Mr. Herr is when asked for my opinion about children that are..(for lack of a better word) screwed up like I was as a child. I blamed it on my parents,teachers,etc.. being the problem. Maybe it was just me being a selfish,demanding,spoiled…kid who didn’t care about how much I hurt the ppl that loved me. But maybe it much more than that, Bryan. The guilt consumes me at times, but the more I learn…the easier it gets I rekon. Thanks again Bro.!

Beth Shoemaker August 28, 2010 at 3:35 pm

I am seething mad over this. I guess he wants a future of undiagnosed ADD/ADHD adults who have experienced what we have in our life time. Evidently he is a left brain flatliner that I refuse to take seriously.
When I was in school between 1966 and graduated in 1978 which I graduated on time. I did start school a year later than I was supposed to because my doctors that were involved with the treatment of my thyroid disease, said I was immature for my age and held me back from starting when I was supposed to. They blamed it on my thyroid disease but I think it may have been more to do with my ADHD. Sorry I got sidetracked my point was that I never heard of ADD/ADHD until my nephew was diagnosed in the early 1990′s. If they knew about it when I was growing up they should did keep it a huge secret.

Scott Hutson August 29, 2010 at 4:17 am

Beth, I can relate to not knowing or even hearing about ADHD at that time of our life’s. I would have graduated H.S. in 1978 (if I had not dropped out in the 11Th grade). Back in those days(it doesn’t seam so long ago.lol), in Okla. anyway, my school teachers would just say things like : “Scott, if you would just sit still and pay attn., instead of acting like you think you don’t need to learn about this or that…” I’m sure that it was frustrating for them, and I don’t blame them for not understanding why I was that way. I sure didn’t know why. But I did make good scores on test’s, pop- quizzes. And My grand-mother had taught me already about most subjects(she had been a school teacher many yrs before I was even born.

ADHD just wasn’t considered at the time.

Beth Shoemaker August 28, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I meant sure did keep it a huge secret.

Riri August 28, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Now this is ‘funny’. What on earth this Dr. Herr (or, Dr. Err?) is thinking? His argument is very elementary, kind of thing that a guy next door would say when you try to explain him about your ADD. It certainly doesn’t suit the “Dr” attributed to his name. Did he buy it from Wall Mart? It seems to me he is just a normal boring dude who tried to be smart by posing a ‘critical’ argumentation.

JP (Judy) Fleming August 28, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Bryan, I have run across this type of ignorance several times in seminar sessions, unfortunately presented by university profs. I even tried to discourage a seminar planner from asking a particular speaker for a “repeat” performance – to no avail. I think what disturbed me most right now is the fact that there are some “loose cannons” are educating students in universities per their biases.

I wrote to the editors who published Herr’s article, pointing out their responsibility to choose articles/even opinion articles that adhere to their founder’s “…no harm…” policy. I don’t know how far that goes, but it’s a ripple.

Thanks again for keeping us abreast.
JP (Judy)

Cookie August 28, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I have lots of things I’m interested in…but the real question is how many of them do I finish to the end?? Ignorance is bliss as they say……

Barb August 29, 2010 at 12:25 am

I wish there was a pill we could give people like him that would “give” them ADHD for a month. I’m sure after living with it for 30 days they would be screaming for it to be taken seriously.

Arrrrgh!

Bryan Hutchinson August 30, 2010 at 7:42 am

Actually, Barb, there is a pill. ADHD medication seems to give people without ADHD, ADHD! But, we shouldn’t just give it to anyone now, now….
:)

Pat Dlugasch August 29, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Sounds to me as if the Dr. and I use the term lightly – likes the sound of his own voice too much to censor the psycho babble he is spouting…. I know a couple of Dr.s and the only thing that makes them a Dr. is that they went to school for 10 years….it is a shame that some people who have no idea what they are talking about will impact a huge number of people negatively!!! Shame Shame Shame!!!!

Gina Pera August 29, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Methinks Herr Herr is looking for, um, attention.

Here’s an idea: Let’s don’t give it to him. ;-)

Gina Pera August 29, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Or how about this? My letter to University President Dr. Randy Dunn , sent via chief of staff Joshua Jacob, joshua.jacobs@murraystate.edu

Dear Dr. Dunn,

I know tenured professors can do and say whatever they like without risking censure, and of course any citizen is entitled to free speech, no matter how ignorant their opinions.

But I hope that Stephen R. Herr is not allowed to teach his crackpot ideology to teachers in training. If so, I consider that educational malfeasance, and I suspect accrediting boards might as well. Surely, it’s at least worthy of an investigation.

Here is the “opinion” piece in question, which surely illustrates the axiom that “you can have your own opinions, but you can’t have your own facts.” Herr surely has no facts.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2010/0819/ADHD-Has-this-diagnostic-fad-run-its-course

Perhaps it would be wise to require that the press office review future “opinion pieces” from professors; after all, they surely do reflect a university’s reputation. And right now, the opinion of your university held by Christian Science Monitor’s readers must be very, very low.

Bryan Hutchinson August 30, 2010 at 7:39 am

Seems we have started a letter’s parade!! I have received several already, which have been sent to his university and the newspaper that published his article. That’s a good thing. I agree Mr. Herr is possibly looking for attention, so let’s indeed give it to him, but by letting his educational institution know what we think of his opinion and how it affects those of us living with ADHD and our families, friends etc… His article is a blatant disregard for the most researched mental disorder of our time, which is indeed included in the DSM, published by the American Psychiatric Association! Unfortunately, a lot of people simply do not know that ADHD is so well researched and has been studied and scrutinized by the most brilliant minds of our time to be confirmed to be a valid disorder. Obviously, Mr. Herr does not seem to be aware of the science and the facts of ADHD, or, as Gina puts it, he is just looking for attention.

Dr. Katherine Nell McNeil August 31, 2010 at 2:39 am

Dr. Herr,
I have a simple question. How can an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Studies, Leadership and Counseling come to the conclusion that a disorder included in the The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition text revision (DSM-IV TR) used by clinicians and psychiatrists to diagnose psychiatric illnesses is a ruse and we need to “get past it.” Do you have day to day contact with students or adults with ADHD. Have you been involved in blind tests where you compare students diagnosed with ADHD, remove their meds and institute all the variables you recommend? If not why not institute a study or two before you come out with an article like this. You do more harm than help. I am an adjunct professor AND I work in the trenches everyday with these students. Furthermore, I know what it is like being an individual with severe ADHD and learning disabilities. As an educator I am appalled when people like you get your articles published. We have to undo all the collateral damage it causes.
Dr. Katherine Nell McNeil

Jacquelyn September 2, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Excellent!

Jacquelyn September 2, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I meant “Excellent!” as my reply to Dr. Katherine’s post.

Marijean Woodward September 2, 2010 at 6:36 am

Bryan, I find Dr. Herr’s article a lame attempt to move air about… that is it.

Oh, wait! One more thing before I go…

I would like to use the following excerpts from the article on which I base my opinion.
1. “This superfluity of focused misinformation has helped fuel a “…
HERR’D of irresponsible, offensive and ignorant attempts to SPEW utter nonsense!

2. “Like hysteria before it, ADHD has been a disorder of its time. And now it’s time to leave it behind and make a commitment to helping children be their best.”
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

I am searching for words right now but something along the lines of HERR is sending out a rally cry
inciting parents, professionals and peers to berate, chide, hound, nag, exclude, tease, bully and shout –TRY HARDER! SIT STILL! PAY ATTENTION! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? TRY!
TRY HARDER! –Methodically destroying the heart and being of ADHD children.
Dr. Herr’s “opinion” is more like a manifesto for the “Try! – Pick Yourself up by Your Bootstraps – Shape Up or Ship Out – Try Harder! Organization.
THANK YOU Bryan, Gina Pera, Dr. McNeil, and all who post, defend and advocate for the truth.

Marijean Woodward
Seattle, WA

Chris Heywood September 3, 2010 at 9:15 am

I think the problem is that ADHD did sort of become a bit of a fad, in that it was used as a cover all diagnosis for anyone who was a bit fidgety and lacking attention, or was a ‘naughty child’.

A lot of the time that really could be down to diet/sleep etc. People realise that these are the reasons for those particular cases and then everyone, including those of us for whom those aren’t the reasons and who do genuinely suffer from ADHD, gets tarred with the same brush as those who just have bad lifestyles.

I know it exists and isn’t just a fad, but I can’t possibly believe that anyone who doesn’t suffer from it could understand at all what I go through, and therefore it is that much more difficult for a non-sufferer to believe it exists.

Honestly, from an objective point of view, it really does just sound like some made up illness to excuse naughty children. Misdiagnosis reinforces that belief, leaving the rest of us with a bad image.

Scott Hutson September 4, 2010 at 12:49 am

Chris, I can understand the frustration(for me anyway) that occurs when people who don’t “suffer” from a disease (ADHD for one), yet assume that they know how it feels to be me.

I try to just let it roll off of me, and not get upset with them, but be happy that they don’t know and hope they will never feel the way it feels to be me. I would never wish that on anybody.

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