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In the media, one can sometimes get the impression that there is deep scientific disagreement about what ADHD is and what causes ADHD. Such a disagreement is not real, according to leading researchers in the field. There is extensive scientific support that ADHD is a real disorder that is primarily due to hereditary conditions, the researchers believe.

Image: by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash


This is stated in a consensus report prepared by 84 researchers who are leaders in research on ADHD. It must be pointed out, however, that their statement came as early as 2002, and that various forms have emerged criticism of their views. Much new research has also been done in the field since the statement. Nevertheless, the key points of the researchers are reproduced here.


Corrects incorrect representations of ADHD

The over eighty researchers thus joined forces to write one letter which went along with what they perceived as "untruthful representations of ADHD in various media cases." Through the letter, they sought to summarize a common understanding of what ADHD is, based on what they perceived as scientific knowledge status in the field. 

They wrote:

We fear that inaccurate stories rendering ADHD as myth, fraud, or benign condition may cause thousands of sufferers not to seek treatment for their disorder. It also leaves the public with a general sense that this disorder is not valid or real or consists of a rather trivial affliction

The researchers, led by Russel Barkley, had extensive experience and high competence in relation to ADHD, and many of them had dedicated their lives to researching precisely this topic. They should thus have very good conditions for commenting on this topic. 

Here are some of the key points from the researchers. 


1. Little scientific disagreement

The first point they make is that sometimes in the media one gets the impression that within science, or the field, there is disagreement about where ADHD is a real disorder or not.

Researchers here are dealing with the media, which is likely to provoke debate about where ADHD is a real medical condition. In such settings, people with different views on the matter are often brought in, and they get to discuss the topic - as if it were a kind of duel.

The researchers write about this:

Such attempts at balance give the public the impression that there is substantial scientific 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.

Among researchers in the field of ADHD, there is no such disagreement to be traced, they add. 


2. Disability in a number of areas of life

They point out that there is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence to claim that ADHD is a genuine disorder, which is manifested through concrete "deficiencies" in the person with the diagnosis, and through the fact that these deficiencies are closely linked to disability in a number of areas. life.

They write:

As attested to by the numerous scientists signing this document, there is no question among the world’s leading clinical researchers that ADHD involves a serious deficiency in a set of psychological abilities and that these deficiencies pose serious harm to most individuals possessing the disorder.

They specifically mention the ability of behavioral inhibition (inhibition of impulses) and the holding of attention as key deficiencies in people with ADHD, which has been confirmed in hundreds of studies.

These difficulties have further consequences in social relations, in relation to education, family functioning, working life, being able to manage oneself, and in relation to adapting to social rules, norms and laws.


3. High heritability behind ADHD traits

The researchers also point out that there is scientific support for people with ADHD to have such specific disorders (deficiencies) in the brain, which form the core of the diagnosis. There is support for this from studies that with different methodologies have researched the functioning of the brain in people with ADHD.

Among other things, less electrical activity has been shown in certain parts of the brain in those with ADHD, as well as less responsiveness to stimulation in these areas. Brain imaging studies have shown relatively less mass in the brain, and lower metabolism, in those with ADHD. 

Twin studies have confirmed findings that ADHD as a condition that is primarily caused by hereditary conditions, the researchers write. 

The genetic contribution to these traits is routinely found to be among the highest for any psychiatric disorder (70–95 % of trait variation in the population), nearly approaching the genetic contribution to human height.


4. Environmental conditions are not a primary cause of ADHD traits

The researchers point out here that in other words, it has been thoroughly refuted that environmental factors (such as poor upbringing, trauma, or the like) cannot be seen as central causes of ADHD. They write: 

Numerous studies of twins demonstrate that family environment makes no significant separate contribution to these traits. This is not to say that the home environment, parental management abilities, stressful life events, or deviant peer relationships are unimportant or have no influence on individuals having this disorder, as they certainly do.

They elaborate by saying that heritage is expressed in interaction with the environment. 

The point is that the underlying psychological deficiencies that make up ADHD in themselves are not solely explained by, or pirmert the result of, environmental factors.


5. ADHD must be presented more realistically

They conclude by emphasizing that there are many explanations for ADHD in the market, but that many such perspectives completely lack scientific support and in many cases are misleading.

They write that there is no research support at all for explanations such as that ADHD is due to problems in the family, excessive use of video / computer games, poor diet, lack of care and love, or poor adaptation at school.

Furthermore, ADHD is associated with extensive problems in many areas of life, and researchers are making a furious showdown with perceptions that try to make the diagnosis of ADHD harmless, or in an unscientific way explain away the symptoms. 

They conclude:

ADHD should be depicted in the media as realistically and accurately as it is depicted in science – as a valid disorder having varied and substantial adverse impact on those who may suffer from it through no fault of their own or their parents and teachers.



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