ADHD – Fact or Fiction? (Reprise)

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Your child has been “diagnosed” with ADHD. Now what? While answering this question on a blog is no easy task, it is a question that I know many parents have wondered. Godly parents love their children dearly, and they certainly want what’s best for them. More often then not, however, when it comes to something like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, shouldn’t they just leave this to the professionals? The problem is, are the professionals being professional? Are the “professionals” even being honest?

A few years ago, in February 2012, there was a shocking confession in the Der Spiegel. In his last

Leon Eisenberg

Leon Eisenberg

interview before his death, Leon Eisenberg, who is considered the “scientific father of ADHD,” admitted in an interview with Der Spiegel, that “ADHD is a prime example of a fictitious disease.” When questioned further about this, he was asked, “Experts speak of 5.4 million American children (1 in 10 boys at the age of 10) who display the symptoms typical of ADHD. Are you saying that this mental disorder is just an invention?” Eisenberg responded, “That’s correct.” What was equally shocking was Eisenberg’s response, “It means more money.” Really? But if that’s the motivation of the psychiatrists providing treatment for your child, how can you trust their diagnosis? I have two goals in writing this post, first to show that ADHD is not an “organic illness,” and secondly, to provide a biblical solution.

The method of diagnosis itself demonstrates the lack of credibility in the diagnosis of ADHD as a legitimate illness. Many students are sent home with a note from their teacher or school, stating that he or she has ADHD and is not allowed to return without being placed on medication. But this diagnosis was not made by a doctor. It was made by the student’s teacher. Also, how was this diagnosis made? It was made by observing the student’s behavior. Sometimes, a teacher might even have extra motivation to make this diagnosis if it will remove the disruptive student from the classroom, taking the child away from the teacher’s responsibility. But isn’t the teacher just making his or her best assessment? Perhaps. Wouldn’t a doctor make a more informed diagnosis? Unfortunately no.

When a doctor diagnoses a child as having ADHD, his methods are virtually

Diagnosing ADHD

Diagnosing ADHD

always subjective. In fact, the medical criteria for diagnosing ADHD in the DSM-IV is also subjective. A child must match six or more descriptions of certain behavioral characteristics relating to inattention or hyperactivity to be medically diagnosed as having ADHD (I have provided a summary of these behavioral characteristics in my response at the bottom of this post). But doesn’t the fact that the drugs help the child behave, prove that ADHD is a disease? Not necessarily.

Many people think that because their child is on Ritalin (or whichever of the many ADD/ADHD medications) and it “helps,” that ADHD must be an organic illness. The problem is that two congruent events do not prove cause and effect. In fact, this principle applies to all psychotropic drug therapy. Dr. Robert D. Smith (M.D), addresses this very issue in his book, The Christian Counselor’s Medical Desk Reference.  For many parents, the fact that drugs such as Ritalin helps their child calm down proves the presence of a chemical imbalance. However, “in science, two concurrent facts do not prove one causes the other.” Case in point – if I broke my arm and took morphine, I would stop feeling pain, but it would obviously be wrong for me to conclude that the source of the pain was a chemical imbalance since the morphine altered what I was feeling. It made me feel better, but the problem of my broken arm still exists. In the case of ADHD, I will not argue that ADHD is the consequence of some unknown chemical imbalance, but that the problem is behavioral.  It is a problem of the heart.

Ritalin

Ritalin

Really, when we think about it, what ultimately causes an adult to investigate whether or not a child has ADHD, is whether or not the child does what the adult wants him to do. But what the child really needs, rather than psychotropic drugs, is salvation. This may sound obvious, but it’s shocking to consider how many parents overlook this simple principle, or assume their children are saved when really, external evidence shows they aren’t. Parents can’t overlook the great responsibility to bring up their children in “fear and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). Remember, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it away from him” (Prov. 22:15). I couldn’t comprehend the great love I would have for my own son the day he was born, but at only ten months old, he already expresses, and quite loudly at that, what he wants or desires. Unchecked, those desires will become the lusts of his heart (James 1:14-15) and will (when he’s older) require discipline. Although I dread that day, I also know that “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him” (Prov. 13:24). However, consistent discipline is also important, or your child will learn manipulation and hypocrisy. While there are many other verses parents can use in helping to teach their children disciplined living, parents can be confident that no matter what a child does or does not do, that “All Scripture is inspired by God and [is] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). That won’t mean it will be easy. Your child’s teachers will probably not understand and just want you to medicate your child. However, as Christians, we need to be resolved to trust in the sovereignty of God and agree with His Word that it contains all the answers for parenting a child with “ADHD.” Your child might require extra supervision, and a little extra discipline, but ultimately, your child will grow to love God and His Word, while being convinced in his or her own heart that the power of God is sufficient for “all things pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). Think about when your child was diagnosed with ADHD. Were you suspicious of your child’s diagnosis?

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Matt Tarr

About Matt Tarr

Matt currently serves as pastor-teacher at High Point Baptist Church, Larksville, PA. Prior to his ministry at High Point, Matt also served in the counseling department at Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA, and as a chaplain at the Scranton-Wyoming Valley Rescue Mission. He enjoys spending time with his wife Melody and his two children, Jonathan and Timothy.