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Sudden Increase In ADHD Diagnoses Explained

Pretty standard graph ....
Pretty standard graph ….

If ADHD were a real disorder, we’d expect a graph of diagnoses to look like the picture on the left.

But for some reason it doesn’t. It doesn’t look like that at all.

In fact, the diagnosis of ADHD is a rate that has been climbing steadily for some time.

And that steady increase is viewed as suspicious by nay sayers and self appointed anti-ADHD evangelists.

And like all evangelists, they spout the selected facts out of context in a raving rant that leaves no doubt as to their convictions … and no space or time for questions or discussion.

So lets discuss it

Minimal Brain Dysfunction
Minimal Brain Dysfunction

As you’ve heard, from me and others if you’ve been listening, ADHD first showed up in the DSM as Minimal Brain Dysfunction, that was back in 1952. So the number of diagnoses up until then would have been zero.

Now I don’t know how many diagnoses were given out at that time, or what the rate of increase was, but one can assume that as time went on and doctors became more familiar with the symptoms and more capable of recognizing them, the number would climb at a steady rate.

Then it should have levelled off, right?

Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood
Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood

Well, maybe it should have, but as more was understood, the diagnosis criteria changed. More cases of ADHD were recognized with the addition of subtypes of ADHD.

Finally ... ADD
Finally … ADD

In particular, the recognition of the existence of the ADHD subtype known as “primarily inattentive” has had a long slow impact on the number of diagnoses.

As we become more and more aware that this has often been missed, and more so among females with ADHD, we have become more and more vigilant in order to help as many as can be helped by a diagnosis.

I may have gotten a little hyper with graph making ...
I may have gotten a little hyper with graph making …

Additionally, the realization that symptoms change, but do not desist when children grow to be adults has required even more vigilance among a large population that was never looked at before.

Divided we stand
Divided we stand

In point of fact, this larger population, the adults, is still only being looked at passively. That is to say, they are being diagnosed only when they seek out explanations for the understanding of their lives. There is no school assessment and subsequent intervention.

But as more and more is understood, and as more people become aware, and as more people become accepting of this disorder, more valid diagnoses will occur.

And here we are today
And here we are today

So here’s your graph … well, as far as we know to date.

Sudden Increase In ADHD Diagnoses Explained

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or more generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about having ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2015). Sudden Increase In ADHD Diagnoses Explained. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 23 Apr 2015
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