ADHD Real or Manufactured

The whole subject of ADHD is not short on controversy – some people insist that ADHD is a “manufactured disorder” intended as a ploy to sell more Ritalin; others point out that ADHD is a real disorder with discernable brain wave activity that is correlative to symptoms. Amid all the discussion is the quiet voice that questions the disciplinary practices of some parents with ADHD-positive children.

The “Manufactured Disorder” Approach

There are some who believe that ADHD is not a “real” disorder, and that it’s a manufactured label that was pushed by the pharmaceutical industry to make money. There are those in the medical profession who believe that ADHD is not a true disorder as well, or that it is a condition brought about largely by environment (home and school), and/or unrealistic expectations of children.

Those who believe that ADHD is not “real” point out the potentially harmful and even fatal side effects of Ritalin, the most commonly prescribed drug for this disorder.

Proponents of this “manufactured disorder” approach point to the fact that children with ADHD suddenly “develop” symptoms when they start school. They maintain that this could indicate the presence of a code of behavior that the child can’t live up to, and is therefore diagnosed with ADHD.

Those who believe ADHD is manufactured also lament the fact that medication is given to children with ADHD symptoms while the child’s home environment and his/her parents’ parenting style are not taken into consideration. Some doctors who disbelieve the reality of ADHD maintain that it’s not overdiagnosed or misdiagnosed; they claim it simply does not exist at all.

The “Real Disorder” Approach

Other medical professionals claim adamantly that ADHD is a true disorder, a chemical imbalance and true malfunction of the brain. Those in this camp do not necessarily focus on Ritalin, but instead tend to take a balanced treatment approach, not necessarily shunning medication, but advocating combining it with other forms of therapy to bring about symptom relief.

Because ADHD is a brain disorder, say proponents of the “real disorder” approach, it’s easy to label it as a character defect or the result of poor discipline. They liken this to the frustrations that people with depression undergo as friends, family, and colleagues try to “cheer them up” only to be met with no success.

Those who claim ADHD is a true disorder point out that many kids with symptoms do not exhibit them only at school, but to some degree in all situations. It defines their approach to life.

The Role of Discipline

There are helpful tips for parents as to how best to discipline their ADHD child. But experts note that lack of discipline is probably not implicated in causing ADHD, although some people will insist that more or harsher punishment will “solve” the problem. It may instead be an issue of ineffective discipline – ADHD kids often need specific disciplinary techniques to thrive.

What is your experience with ADHD and discipline? What works for you or your child?


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  1. I have a son with ADHD. We had suspicions by his second birthday, his behaviour had driven me to Depression by his fourth. When he was diagnosed in his first year of school (his teachers were so concerned that the school paid a relief teacher so his primary teacher could come to the appointment) it was SUCH a relief to have an answer. He is happier on the medication – suddenly his natural intelligence has emerged and he has gone from being a massive challenge to being able to participate in class. We give him the lowest effective dose, and of course I agonised over the potential risks and side-effects (his only lasting side-effect is appetite suppression, and he makes up for it at breakfast and dinner when the medication is not in place).

    For some children and adults, ADHD is very, very real. I have a brother who also has ADD (it runs in families, there is a definite genetic component) and as an adult he has been known to forget that he’s supposed to be holding a ladder in the time it took my husband to climb it! He manages without medication, but is very conscious of how it effects him. He has chosen a career where his ADD is a strength rather than a weakness. It’s a difference, and it’s OK to be different.


    The first psychiatrist I went to asked me when was the onset of my depressive symptoms. “Onset” ? At birth, of course. I do not remember a time in my life that I was not depressed though I have been told that as a young child I did not seem to have any problems. My first “problems” came when I started school. I could not read, or understand the placement of letters in the words. Example, all words beginning with “th” were ” that “…..not this or there or the or any thing else …only “that”. Same song and tune with “wh” …that was “what ” etc.

    Well that was in 1954. Who knew anything about learning disorders at that time…..not many. So I was just “slow”. The only choice my parents had was to try and find a private school that I could give more one on one instruction and that they did. It helped tremendously because they sent me to the only type private school in our area which was a Catholic Elementary School near us. The nuns were fantastic, the teaching methods agreed with my learning capabilities and by the 4th grade I was reading on the level with all my classmates even though I did repeat the 2nd grade at the Catholic school since my grades were so border line in the public school that my parents thought it would help me to do this and it did. Of course no doctor knew what to call it. They tested me as much as they knew how to only to discover I tested “normal”. But I was not “normal” I was different and I knew it. I did not learn the way other children could learn. I did not do my problems the same way they did to get the same answers in math.

    As I aged and went on up in school I learned to teach myself different ways to absorb what others were learning so easily. It was a long hard road to getting into high school but by that time I had taught myself how to teach myself because no amount of “teaching” from the teachers helped me. My attention span was almost non-existent, my brain was like a speeding train jumping from track to track, my thoughts were all jumbled up at all times so most of the time I didn’t know what end was up.

    I finished high school and went to vocational school for cosmetology. I was good, in fact very good at my career choice but back in the late 60″s you’d starve to death doing hair even if you worked 6 days a week, 10 hours a day on your feet. I was married by then and had a young son to help support so I decided to try out “office” work. Joy Joy, back to the old “stupid” rearing it’s ugly head. Also about that time I discovered the wonderful little things to help new mothers lose that baby fat called “diet pills” . Not only did I lose tons of weight I got smarter by the day. I could work circles around all the other office personnel. I did not know until years later at the age of about 49 that those little “diet pills” that helped my brain work so well probably saved my life.

    I’ve always been suicidal and I know that if they had not come into my life when they did I would not have been able to cope and earn a living. My psychiatrist agreed that they were probably a good thing in my life even though at the time none of us knew what I suffered from. When my son started school and began having problems I was lucky enough to have a pediatrician who also had sons with the same symptoms and he said they’d been diagnosed as having DYSLEXIA. Finally a name to put on what I had spent my life suffering from…..Dyslexia.

    I immediately started studying every word I could find on the disease and how to treat it. I was led to a school for dyslexic children. I was in Heaven… had a name and it could be treated and the treatment also calmed my son from super hyper to normal. We used a combination of medication and diet and IT WORKED!!!! Not just for my child but for every other child that attended the school. Every single one went by the same diet. No sugar, no dyes, no chocolate, only honey from clover fed bees could be used as sweetener, no artificial ingredients or chemicals or additives. My grocery shopping turned into one extra long educational lesson but was so worth it.

    Still ADD/ADHD was not mentioned, just the hyperactivity, in the mid to late 70’s. Then as my depression worsened and I began constant psychiatric treatment I was diagnosed at the age of 49 with ADD AND DYSLEXIA. Great, huh? Near retirement and my crazy self finds out what made my life miserable as a child and I had passed these very same genes to both my children. Only later to find out that the grandchildren also inherited it!!

    It is definitely hereditary, as is the depression I have always suffered from. So my children and grandchildren have all had to deal with these 3 brain disorders all at once. But thank goodness that the doctors, scientist and teachers know what to do to help where as the blind led the blind in my day.

    I take medication to this day for the ADD, without it I could not function at all. I also take all the psychiatric meds prescribed for me and with the combination I still breathe today and hopefully with the help of my doctors, medications and mostly my God I will see many more years of this life…life I would not have if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have doctors that cared enough to help and not brush me off with “slow” and “lazy” or worse yet “retarded” !! Treatment is available. The disorder is real. You do not have to be a child to have it….and some of us never out grow it. SO DON’T LET YOURSELF OR SOMEONE YOU LOVE SUFFER NEEDLESSLY!!!!