ADHD as Cargo Cult Science

15
3879

I began seriously researching ADHD in 2010 with the purchase of Barkley’s Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: A Handbook for Diagnosis and Treatment. Positive reviews indicated that this would be a worthy source of information for my fourth-year psychology dissertation. At the end of Chapter 1, there was a copy of an International Consensus Statement on ADHD, which stated:

Occasional coverage of the disorder casts the story in the form with evenly matched competitors. The views of a handful of nonexpert doctors that ADHD does not exist are contrasted against mainstream scientific views that it does, as if both views have equal merit. Such attempts at balance give the public the impression that there is substantial disagreement over whether ADHD is a real medical condition. In fact, there is no such disagreement—at least no more so than there is over whether smoking causes cancer, for example, or whether a virus causes HIV/AIDS.

Black and white photograph depicting a seated woman looking up thoughtfully from a pile of papers on a desk

Somewhat cowed by the tone and the status of the 86 signatories, I continued with Barkley’s voluminous account of all things related to ADHD.

However, halfway through Chapter 2, Barkley once again criticised “nonexpert professionals”, before concluding:

Therefore, any claims that ADHD is a myth reflect either a stunning level of scientific illiteracy or outright attempts to misrepresent the science of ADHD so as to mislead the public with propaganda.

Throughout this section Barkley repeatedly referenced an article by Sami Timimi. Curious about what might constitute “scientific illiteracy”, I sourced the document to find Timimi was not the sole author; there were 33 co-endorsers, who were anything but “nonexpert”, judging by their qualifications, academic standing, and publications.1

(And they are far from the only experts who have critiqued the diagnosis of ADHD. In more recent years, Allen Frances—chair of the DSM-IV task force—has levied extensive critique against the diagnosis, as had Keith Conners—considered the “father of ADHD” and namesake of the Conners Comprehensive Behavior Rating Scale.)

Furthermore, Timimi’s article was a critique of the Consensus Statement, something Barkley did not acknowledge. Critique is a legitimate and important part of the scientific process. Additionally, Barkley’s use of the word myth was misleading, as it suggested Timimi et al. took the extreme position of stating ADHD did not exist. This was not the case.

The points they raised, and the manner in which these contrasted with Barkley et al.’s, were the impetus for my research. The focus of my PhD has been to identify the processes by which ADHD has come to be understood as a medical condition. My aim has been to establish whether these processes are sufficiently robust to withstand criticism without resorting to displays of hubris.

As publications about ADHD are now in their tens of thousands, finding a way to establish the veracity of Barkley et al.’s claims was somewhat problematic. However, the journal article with the highest citation count on the database Scopus is an article by Barkley called “Behavioral Inhibition, Sustained Attention, and Executive Functions: Constructing a Unifying Theory of ADHD.” (As of November 9, 2021 it has 4,772 citations with 263 added in 2021, by subject 2,749 are categorised as psychology, 2, 340 medicine, and 1,240 neuroscience).

As Barkley’s theory has had a strong influence on research into ADHD, evaluation of this theory has been a major part of my inquiry. What I found was that Barkley’s theory was akin to what Richard Feynman called “Cargo Cult Science,” only more misleading and dangerous.

Feynman, the famous physicist, used the term “Cargo Cult Science” in his 1974 commencement address to students at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). He described how, in the South Seas during the Second World War, a group of unnamed islanders had watched planes land full of good materials. After the war ended, the islanders wanted the planes to return:

So they’ve arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas—he’s the controller—and they wait for the airplanes to land. They are doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things Cargo Cult Science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.

Feynman argued that Cargo Cult Science involves cherry-picking evidence to support an assumed conclusion, ignoring contradictory evidence, and giving the appearance of science while failing to actually follow the scientific method.

The explanation in Barkley’s highly-cited article was lengthy and confusing, especially when it led into a conceptual model of “executive, self-directed actions”. Key to the entire work was Barkley’s statement that “poor behavioral inhibition is specified as the central deficiency in ADHD”. He claimed this influences the “executive” actions, also referred to as “functions” in his model. However, Barkley did not give a precise definition for “behavioural inhibition.”

Based on the articles that Barkley cited to support his theory, I concluded that his hypothesised deficiency is what others refer to as impulsivity. Impulsivity is considered a major symptom of ADHD, but Barkley seemed to be saying that ADHD, including impulsivity, is caused by being impulsive—making his argument circular.

Following this, I evaluated the evidence Barkley provided for this proposal. This evidence relied almost entirely on experiments from the school of cognitive psychology—many of which attempted to ascertain the validity of ADHD by timing children’s responses to meaningless tasks within a laboratory setting.

The main authority Barkley cited in his argument that ADHD was due poor behavioural inhibition was a 1977 essay by the late Jacob Bronowski. Whilst Bronowski may well have been held in regard for his intellect, not least for his presentation of a British documentary series The Ascent of Man, this usage by Barkley is somewhat curious. All the more so, when the point of Bronowski’s essay was to explain the evolutionary differences between human language and animal communication. Bronowski admitted that he was writing as an amateur, but he hoped that what he had to say would throw light on his special interests “namely the language of science, and the language of poetry”.

Bronowski proposed that “the central and formative feature in the evolution of human language” is “a delay between the arrival of the stimulus and the utterance of the message it has provoked”. Bronowski expanded on four consequences of this delay; these he named separation of affect, prolongation, internalization and reconstitution. But throughout, his main point was to explain “the difference between the way human beings can use language and the way animals do”.

Bronowski’s essay was published posthumously in its original form; it was neither edited nor peer reviewed, hence its accuracy was never debated. But Barkley’s idea of “deficient behavioural inhibition” is based on Bronowski’s hypothesised delay. Whereas Bronowski proposed this delay was the point in evolutionary history that humans and animals separated, in Barkley’s theory this is the point at which those with ADHD versus those without differ. Bronowski’s “consequences” led to different evolutionary pathways dating back possibly two million years.

For Barkley, the consequence of this delay was one which impacted executive functioning, a term Barkley attributed to Denckla, among others. Denckla stated that it was generally agreed that executive functions referred to “mental control processes”. Barkley used this notion to devise four categories, supposedly modelled on the four terms used by Bronowski. Barkley retained Bronowski’s term reconstitution but renamed the other categories as working memory, self-regulation of affect/motivation/arousal and internalization of speech. Then, under each heading, Barkley listed various behaviours, 22 in total, which he deemed could be improved or normalised by “amelioration of the inhibitory deficit”.

He didn’t suggest any specific form of intervention, but he later identified an unresolved issue worthy of future research: “the degree to which medications differently affect each of these domains of executive function”.

Although Barkley’s model bears little resemblance to Bronowski’s ideas, Barkley stated that “Bronowski attributed these four executive functions to the prefrontal lobes”. In fact, Bronowski made no mention of the functions being localised in the frontal lobes, or indeed anywhere in the brain. It appears the connection with the frontal lobe comes from Fuster’s theory of prefrontal function, which Barkley claimed to have “much in common” with Bronowski’s work. For this reason, he included Fuster’s theory of Neural Mechanisms Underlying Behavioral Structure in his executive function model.

Fuster’s theory first appeared in his book The Prefrontal Cortex: Anatomy, Physiology, and Neuropsychology of the Frontal Lobe. Barkley referred repeatedly to “behavioural structures”, but otherwise ignored the large portion of Fuster’s work that failed to support his approach. As to the commonality between the two sources, as noted, Bronowski did not mention the prefrontal cortex. Instead, he attributed his hypothesised delay to a “biochemical peculiarity”, one where humans lost the ability to make the enzyme uricase.

Furthermore, this delay was described by Bronowski as a “linguistic mechanism…an inherent delay in human response”. By contrast, Fuster stated that “automatic, or instinctual series of acts, however complex, does not qualify and is not within the purview of the prefrontal cortex”.

But most worryingly, this particular theory, based on flimsy cognitive psychology research, a curious use of Bronowski’s essay, and a bogus link to the prefrontal cortex, has been cited by some in the medical community in the context of validating ADHD as a condition relating to frontal cortex abnormalities—notably, Stephen Faraone and Joseph Biederman in their 1998 coining of the phrase “frontalsubcortical” abnormalities. In The Lancet, they claimed that the frontalsubcortical hypothesis had been confirmed.

Likewise, albeit without direct reference to Barkley, Faraone argued in 2005 that ADHD was a valid condition due to frontalsubcortical abnormalities. Not long afterwards, Halperin and Schulz noted that theories such as Barkley’s had led to numerous inconsistencies in the literature, to the extent that it was impossible to identify the precise nature of ADHD pathophysiology. But, rather than question the notion of abnormal neurological functioning, the authors proposed that a different brain area might be defective.

On this basis, “the largest dataset to date” was pooled by Hoogman et al., and supposedly found evidence of brain abnormalities. However, this research was criticized so roundly that Lancet Psychiatry devoted an entire issue to rebuttals by researchers as distinguished, again, as Allen Frances and Keith Conners, who all argued that Hoogman et al.’s own data did not support their claims.

In the Hoogman et al. study, the list of financial conflicts of interests tying the researchers, including Biederman and Faraone, to the pharmaceutical industry, is extensive. This is problematic because it has been found that researchers receiving money from industry biases the results; the greater the bias, the less likely research findings are to be true. John Ioannidis explained this in an article titled “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”. He presented a formula to support his hypothesis, then outlined the many forms that bias can take.

Cosgrove and Wheeler specifically examined conflicts of interest in psychiatry, and concluded that organised psychiatry’s dependence on drug firm funding had distorted the science. In particular, they found that the evidence bases upon which “accurate diagnosis and sound treatment depend” had been corrupted.

This is not altogether surprising, since industry funds research with the expectation of financial gains. Biederman and Faraone made this commitment to Johnson and Johnson back in 2002 when they received funding for the Center for Pediatric Psychopathology at Massachusetts General Hospital, the largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. Part of their brief was to “move forward the commercial goals of J&J”.

They also acknowledged that it was equally important to demonstrate the validity of childhood disorders as brain disorders. They stated that without data from genetic and brain imaging studies, “many clinicians question the wisdom of aggressively treating children with medications, especially those like neuroleptics, which expose children to potentially serious adverse events”.

Since their first citation of Barkley’s theory, with its false connection to prefrontal abnormalities, and with their continuing insistence that ADHD is a valid brain disorder, diagnoses and prescribing rates have sky-rocketed worldwide, and numerous new medications have entered the field.

But are we any the wiser, and are children diagnosed as “having” ADHD benefitting from current interventions? ADHD is now a worldwide phenomenon with large volumes of data available. Many of these are presented in a recent publication by Faraone et al. in what they claim to be an update of Barkley et al.’s International Consensus Statement. Space does not allow for a discussion of their “cataloguing of important scientific discoveries from the last twenty years”; but under the heading of “What we have learned from studying the brains of people with ADHD”, they reported that differences “are typically small and…are not useful for diagnosing the disorder”.

Meaning, as the researchers critiquing Hoogman et al. emphasized, there is no evidence of any structural abnormality, prefrontal or otherwise, in ADHD. The airplanes have not landed, nor are they likely to.

When Timimi et al. responded to the International Consensus Statesman on ADHD, they argued:

Not only is it completely counter to the spirit and practice of science to cease questioning the validity of ADHD as proposed by the consensus statement, there is an ethical and moral responsibility to do so. History teaches us again and again that one generation’s’ most cherished therapeutic ideas and practices, especially when applied on the powerless, are repudiated by the next, but not without leaving countless victims in their wake.

The data are now accruing to vindicate the stand taken by Timimi et al., including evidence on the poor long term efficacy of stimulants. A population-based cohort study by Fleming et al. analysed the health and educational data of 766,244 children attending Scottish primary, secondary, and special schools between 2009 and 2013. They concluded that:

The 7413 children receiving medication for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder had worse education outcomes (unauthorized absence, exclusion, special educational need, lower academic attainment, left school earlier, and higher unemployment) and health outcomes (hospitalizations overall and for injury).

Even the NIMH’s MTA study—the seminal study of stimulant use, whose 1999 short-term outcomes have been used to support stimulant prescribing for 20 years—has confirmed, in every long-term publication, that taking stimulant drugs leads to worse outcomes, not better. This includes the three-year follow-up, the six-to-eight year follow-up, and the 16-year follow-up.

These outcomes are all the more concerning when considering that the youngest kids in a classroom are far more likely to be given a diagnosis of “ADHD” and medicated (when it’s likely just an age/maturity gap)—a finding that has been corroborated over and over again in numerous countries.

Added to these concerns is the lack of knowledge about how the medications affect the developing brain. This was discussed in an article by Stern et al., where they proposed that early treatment with stimulants might actually worsen ADHD symptoms. They attributed this to “neuronal imprinting”—in which exposure to a drug can influence the functioning of the brain even when the drug is no longer present.

Stern et al. argued that neuronal imprinting altered behavior, including the way individuals responded to stimulation and to drugs. Based on evidence from animal and human studies, they proposed that, for some, stimulants might contribute to ADHD turning into a chronic lifetime disorder. Interestingly, although Barkley has proposed that the locale for his hypothesised defect is the prefrontal cortex, the word “neuron” only appears in his lengthy article once.

The point of Feynman’s address and his tale about “Cargo Cult Science” was that:

We’ve learned from experience that truth will out. Other experimenters will repeat your experiments and find out whether you were wrong or right. Nature’s phenomena will agree or they will disagree with your theory. And, although you may gain some temporary fame or excitement, you will not gain a reputation as a scientist if you haven’t tried to be very careful in this kind of work. And it’s this type of integrity, this kind of care not to fool yourself, that is missing to a large extent in much research into Cargo Cult Science.

Feynman was optimistic about the self-correcting processes of science, but he probably never envisioned a situation where the commercial interests of multiple pharmaceutical companies were prioritised to the extent they are now. Faraone et al. wrote that the worldwide economic burden of ADHD is in the hundreds of billions of dollars—a “burden” which largely goes to the pharmaceutical industry as “profit.”

Whilst key “experts” would have us believe this is due to some sort of frontalsubcortical abnormality, the alternative explanation is that the burden is due to the creation of a false narrative, intended to counteract those questioning what Biederman and Faraone called “the wisdom of aggressively treating children with medications, especially those like neuroleptics, which expose children to potentially serious adverse events”.

***

Acknowledgement: I would like to thank my supervisors, Professor Jon Jureidini and Dr. Melissa Raven, for feedback and assistance with this blog.

Show 1 footnote

  1. In the interest of full disclosure, the principal supervisor of my PhD, Professor Jon Jureidini (University of Adelaide), was a signatory to the Timimi et al. (2004) critique. He kindly took over this role when my original supervisor, the late Professor Kevin Ronan (Central Queensland University) was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 2018.

***

Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Like most mental “diseases”, ADHD is a description and not an idenntity unto itself. Also, like many other of these “diseases”, the behaviors that give it its name are also likely to have a variety of origins and likely to have a variety of proper treatments, once you determine the specific identity of the condition you’re dealing with.

    • ADHD is a fabrication to explain the behavior of some young people (getting older all the time), and in particular, why they don’t do so well in school (i.e. concentrate). I would say that ADHD is an identity, much as Bipolar Disorder is, or becomes, an identity. Ditto, Autism. Serious disorders warrant serious study, which, in my book, is a very good reason to lighten up lots. Just consider. I would imagine its replacement by Outrageous Clowning Disorder has a great deal of potential to change the world in a positive direction. Yeah, there you go.

      • Personally I have diagnosed myself with Moody Cow Disorder and I expect Reasonable Adjustments under UK disability legislation. I find it a very helpful diagnosis when I question the validity of ADHD, Autism and Nuerodiversity with people who identify as such. My condition is every bit as real as theirs and I am just as offended by people questioning it’s validity as they are when I question the validity of their diagnosis. I don’t think anyone who does not have this diagnosis should in anyway comment or draw it into question – qed get out of jail free card init?

  2. Psychiatry exposes itself again and again.
    It takes 50 to 100 years to show their magical fallacy thinking and it is gone and forgotten only for them to continue their really crazy thinking, always thinking about others.

    The job is for those who think they are thinking, and do not realize that it is ALWAYS about others and how they should be. It is an escape.
    So hardwired that there is no changing the belief.
    And to them, that is what normal seems to be 🙂

    A wretched state of living to ruin not one person but whole families because of cookoo ideas about people and their lives should look like.

  3. In his 1981 book Hyperactive Children, Russell Barkely wrote:

    “Is there a true syndrome of hyperactivity in which the major symptoms covary, respond uniformly uniformly to treatment, and have a single etiology? The answer to this question seems to be ‘no.'”

    Oddly enough, this didn’t stop Dr. Barkley from writing a 450-page book about the diagnosis and treatment of a syndrome which, according to Dr. Barkley, doesn’t even exist.

    And here it is forty years later, and he still is peddling the same poisonous wares — figuratively and literally.

  4. about 12 years ago I wrote a play which deconstructs psychiatry. The play is called Mental, it has a scene about ADHD and rips the construct apart in a knock about comedy manner. Now I find people writing scholarly articles about it which are much more learned, but mine version is funnier.

    Scene 5: PSYCHIATRY IS EVERYWHERE!

    Suzannah: My daughter had a problem with an educational psychologist you know. They’re a kind of therapist. The special educational needs coordinator at her school sent her to see one.
    Mark: What did they say it was, ADHD?
    John: Or was it Sadburgers, sorry, Aspergers.
    Mark: Oi, don’t’ be rude.
    John: Just because you’re a bit of train spotter does not mean you’ve got a disorder. Just a bit annoying, unless you like trains that is. Personally I think a diagnosis of Aspergers is about as useful as knowing what star sign someone is.
    Suzannah: What’s your star sign John? Are you a fire sign?
    John: As it happens, I’m Sagittarius.
    Suzannah: Ah, that explains it.
    John: Well Suzannah, I’m not really into Astrology, but it’s a lot less dangerous than a psychiatric diagnosis.
    Mark: Tell us about your daughter then Suzannah.
    Suzannah: They said she had ADHD.

    John returns to the Tourettes syndrome symptoms.

    John: Idiots.

    Suzannah and Mark look odd at him as if he might have ADHD.

    Suzannah: The school. The special educational needs coordinator and the educational psychologist wanted to put her on Ritalin.
    John: Idiots! Ritalin’s all over schools these days, just like head lice.
    Suzannah: I know, people end up on it for life sometimes. And it makes the children look really drugged up. My daughter kept playing up and getting into trouble, but she hated her teacher and was getting bullied by the other children in her class.

    Suzannah and Mark sit down and start acting out naughty school children. Mark pulls Suzannah’s hair, she makes as if to hit him, looks at John and sits down.

    John: ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

    He barks it out like a teacher shouting out orders.
    Mark and Suzannah start sticking tongues out at each other and acting like naughty children, throwing things at each other, getting up and looking at John like he is the teacher.

    John: Attention Deficit.

    Mark speaks an aside to Suzannah.

    Mark: Thinks he knows it all.
    Suzannah: Oi, Sir, is you gay?
    John: Now, now, Suzannah, get on with your work

    Mark giggles, gets up and pushes Suzannah in a bullying way, John looks at Mark.

    John: Oi you, stop talking to your mate and pay attention boy. Attention Deficit – not paying attention. Well that’s not a disorder.

    Mark gets up and sneaks behind John, Suzannah stands up and follows him.

    John: Hyperactivity.

    Mark stands on a chair and makes like a monkey.

    John: Right, you, Mark, sit down, over there. And you, Suzannah, sit down, over there. And get on with your work.
    John: To audience Hyperactivity: Not sitting still, running around. Well that’s not a disorder. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD, its pants. ADHD, yes, ADHD it’s pants. What does ADHD mean? It’s the doctors medicalizing a particular distress. What kind of distress? Well in this case naughty boys.
    Suzannah: And a few girls.

    They start acting like naughty kids in school. Throwing things, getting up from the table and looking at John like he is the teacher.

    Mark: But mainly boys.
    John: And what do Dr’s do with naughty boys?

    Suzannah scowls at John.

    John: And girls. Give them drugs. In this case Ritalin.

    Mark and Suzannah speak in a speedy way.

    Mark: I’ve got ADHD me.
    Suzannah: I’ve got ABCD me.
    Mark: I’ve got HIJK me.
    Suzannah: I’ve got ICUP me.

    The giggle, John gives them a dirty look.

    John: Is there something you two would like to share with the rest of the class?

    They calm down, lean over table and get on with work.

    John: Ritalin has almost the same effect as cocaine. Or speed. But for some reason it slows kids down, probably because it’s poisoned their brains.
    Mark: He raises his hand. Sir, the headmaster won’t let me in school unless I’ve taken my Ritalin.
    John: Yes, well the less said about that sadistic idiot the better.
    Mark: I’m telling on you Sir. I’ll tell the headmaster you called him a sadistic idiot.
    John: Get on with your work Mark.
    Suzannah: My mum likes me to have Ritalin. When she runs out of money she takes my Ritalin off me and sells it to her mates down the pub.
    John: Now I think that is the better option. Drug free children, adults taking responsibility for their drug taking, stimulates the local economy; it’s all good! Imagine if what happens in school happened at work. You have your annual review, your appraisal, whatever. Just you and your manager in a little cubicle, and she says:

    Suzannah and Mark sit at table opposite each other. Suzannah as manager, Mark as employee.

    Suzannah: Now Mark, I’m afraid you’ve not been hitting your targets.
    Mark: Ah, sorry.
    Suzannah: I’ve been noticing that you’ve been finding it hard to concentrate. We’ve paid for you to have extra tuition on your computer and it hasn’t helped; you keep making spelling mistakes, which, as I am sure you are aware, is not acceptable in this line of work.
    Mark: Sorry.
    Suzannah: Also, Sally, the manager in sales says you’ve been wandering in there and talking to John and Sarah. Sally’s put in a complaint about you distracting them from their work.
    Mark: Oh.
    Suzannah: I’m going to recommend a referral to the occupational health team for a psychological assessment.
    John: Next thing you know they won’t let you back into work unless you’re on class B drugs.

    Mark pretends to pick up a phone.

    Mark: Hello, is that Unison? My line manager is refusing to let me into the office unless I take Ritalin. I agree. It’s an abuse of my human rights. What can I do?
    John: There’d be an outcry!
    Suzannah: Unless you’re a kid of course, when a doctor can give you a dodgy diagnosis and force you to take class B drugs, possibly for the rest of your life.
    John: Mind you, some people like that!
    Suzannah: My daughter doesn’t pay attention and plays up when she’s bored or angry.
    Mark: I wonder if lot of kids diagnosed with ADHD are like that?
    John: Hey, lets not look at that, just in case someone starts to wonder why the kids are so bored and angry at the world.
    Scene 6: CAPITALISM MAKES YOU SICK
    ………….

  5. Thank you for writing this Sheelah. You could make the case that the rest of psychiatry consists of mainly cargo cult science also. I will look for references to John Frum (see the wikipedia on cargo cults) in psychiatric journals in the future (lol). Have you looked at enactivism with regard to cognitive science and so-called ADHD – e.g. Michelle Maiese’s work? Enactivism, with its acknowledgement of fast & slow thinking, fits better with Bronowski’s musings over language evolution. Maiese suggests many of the kids attracting this diagnosis can best be helped by intensive activities that engages the whole body rather than focus on so-called executive brain functions; although many will grow out of any differences with their peers naturally – and the problem all along was the industrialisation of education assumed children develop at the same rate.

  6. Bravo Sheelah, a thoroughly efficient and surgically concise critique of (some) of the more off-stage actors and shenanigans behind the ADD fraud. There’s nothing unique or rare with bad faith actors like Barkley, et. al, they have robust representation in all our institutions. But psychiatry is, if not the best place for these fundamentalist’s careerist to thrive-while chasing their theories like a dog its tail, then certainly a most excellent bunker to operate in institutional obscurity with impunity.

    The first reported ADD ADHD-like issues were observed in 1798 in Scotland by a physician (sorry, the details escape my memory right now). I mention this history because though I do not subscribe to the ADD-ADHD diagnosis-in the least!, I do believe there are atypical brains that have or mimic one or more of the alleged ADD characteristics-whatever multi-variant (truama, etc.) other mimicking causes. My point here is that the ADD trope doesn’t show up (in the West) until the beginning of the Enlightenment and Capitalism, save the ensuing “rote compulsory” education. To wit: these children/people who suddenly do not make this epochal transition, were not only normal and vital to their communities, they very well were some of its most essential and productive members before this profound social and economic transition. Perhaps our historical institutional response to ADD-like behaviors is more a case of maladaptive evolution (societies unable to inclusively accommodate), than pathology? Your essay sure as heck suggest something along these lines…

  7. To be a child and to be told and shown, made to feel that there is something abnormal and defective about you.
    To tell a child that the reason he cannot open a jar of jam, or run as fast, or throw as hard is because there is something defective about him.

    Johnny, it is not your fault, you were born biologically abnormal. You have a body that does not work the way it “should”.

    And then, of course, every time he fails at opening that jar, he remembers that his wrists and fingers are defective. Not like others who can open a jar.

    Yep, everyone of us carries the load of not “meeting normal”….some just get to make name calling and belittling, calling others not the way they “SHOULD BE”, a legal and binding branding.

  8. Before I was declassroomed, I taught community college. Students who had dropped the ADHD label did better than students who still clung to it, was my experience.

    https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/22/health/selena-gomez-wondermind-mental-health-wellness/index.html

    Article: And she announced on Miley Cyrus’ Instagram show “Bright Minded” in April that she has bipolar disorder.

    “I went to one of the best mental hospitals in America, McLean Hospital, and I discussed that after years of going through a lot of different things, I realized that I was bipolar,” Gomez said. “And so when I got to know more information, it actually helps me. It doesn’t scare me once I know it.”

    Her mother revealed being misdiagnosed for over 20 years with bipolar disorder that later turned out to be attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, with trauma, according to the Wondermind website’s welcome video. (end article)

    Please, some pros write an open letter to pop star/actor Selena Gomez who buys into labels and psychiatry, and who is about to add to psychiatric misinformation. Tell her what she might not have been told at Mclean hospital and by the people she is talking to.

    • This is my non peer reviewed opinion:

      We had a growing number of people diagnosed with Depression and on pills since 1980, ie when Thatcher and Reagon got in power, decimated the unions, started selling off public services and reducing workers rights. This resulted in growing inequality. The encouragement to label misery as an illness and get the pills did two things:

      1 provide product for Big Pharma, paid for out of health insurance.
      2 distract people from the societal causes of their misery.

      The depression market if just about saturated but after the crash on 2008 another means was needed to individualise misery and distract from societal causes and all the varieties of Nuerodiversity does that very well. What if you are anxious, a bit out of the ordinary (and ordinary is becoming ever more closely defined) and struggle at work? Maybe it is not because work is a badly paid living Hell with ever rising cost of living but rather an inherent, possible inherited, may genetic disorder that results in you being anxious, not able to concentrate and throwing wobbles (now called Melt Downs). Great explanation that lets the boss and the state off the hook and slows down unions and community groups organizing and fighting back if you ask me.

      Well that’s my two pennyworth worth for the evening.

LEAVE A REPLY