History of ADHD

If your child’s teachers suggest that your child might have ADHD, your first reaction was probably one of alarm. A million thoughts start running around your mind along with even more questions. You wonder if your child is going to need to take medications. What exactly is the history of ADHD?” After all, aren’t all children fully of energy and tend to not pay attention?

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The simple fact is, ADHD is a very real diagnosis, one that many must live with every day of their lives. However, it is not one anyone should attach to every overactive or over-imaginative child. Don’t rush your child to the doctor worried that your child may have ADHD quite yet. Before you go that far, let’s take a look at the history of ADHD. This will help you have a better understanding of the disorder. Then you might see why teachers, mentors, and even doctors – might be trigger happy providing that diagnosis.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Unveiling the Timeline: The Evolution and History of ADHD

The history of ADHD is a fascinating narrative that sheds light on the complex journey of recognizing and understanding this neurodevelopmental disorder. The roots of ADHD can be traced back to the early 20th century when it was first recognized as “Minimal Brain Dysfunction.” Over the subsequent decades, the disorder underwent various name changes and conceptual shifts, reflecting the evolving understanding of its nature.

In 1980, the release of the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) officially recognized ADHD as a distinct diagnosis. This acknowledgment marked a turning point, leading to increased research, awareness, and efforts to refine diagnostic criteria.

As we progress through the history of ADHD, societal attitudes and perceptions also come into focus. The disorder has faced its share of controversies, including debates over overdiagnosis and the role of pharmaceutical interventions. Evolving educational and healthcare landscapes shape the identification, treatment, and accommodation of ADHD in various settings.

Today, ADHD is recognized as a multifaceted condition with both cognitive and behavioral components. Ongoing research continues to deepen our understanding of its neurological underpinnings, genetic factors, and the impact of environmental influences.

Exploring the history of ADHD not only illuminates the milestones in its identification but also underscores the importance of continued research, destigmatization, and tailored interventions to support individuals navigating the complexities of this neurodevelopmental journey. Join us on this historical excursion, where we unravel the intricacies of ADHD’s past and appreciate the strides made toward a more comprehensive understanding of this unique and nuanced condition.

The Medicine Preceded the Diagnosis

Although doctors mentioned an “abnormal defect in the moral control of children” in the early 1900s (NOT the language or understanding of the diagnosis today). The invention of Benzedrine accelerated the discovery of the condition. The original intention that led to the development of a drug that people would use as an attention-correcting treatment.

The original 1933 advertisement for Benzedrine claimed it made an excellent decongestion. However, it didn’t take long for people to recognize its stimulant effects. Not only did it increase a person’s energy, but it also gave people motivation to complete mundane tasks.

It wasn’t until 1937 that the first studies began to use this drug on children with demonstrated neurological and behavioral issues. The government gave it to troops in WWII to help them stay awake when out on patrol or in combat. Vietnam era troops are only too familiar with the little red “Bennies” Uncle Sam provided for the same reason. 1960s moms used “mother’s little helpers” and truckers have used them for decades.

The Diagnosis Was Not Recognized in the First DSM

In the 19th century, Sir George Frederick Still described kids with ADHD as having a “defect of moral control.” In the first decade of the 20th century, Alfred E. Tredgold expressed the following. Children who probably had a mild form of brain damage resulting in ADHD he said were, “high-grade and feeble-minded.”

The DSM, or the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, did not recognize ADD or ADHD as a diagnosis. This was the first edition of the DSM in 1952. The history of ADHD began to change in 1968 as the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) gave out study grants. In this edition, the condition is known as hyperkinetic reaction of childhood or adolescence. It was also known as organic brain symptom

When the third edition of the DSM came out in 1980, ADD with and without hyperactivity and ADD residual type were on the list. Later, as Ritalin became the most popular treatment for, essentially, improved behavior in teenagers in school, ADD/ADHD became more and more recognized.

The Focus Shifted to Attention Span in the Late ‘90s

Attention Deficit Disorder finally received its name in in the 1980 edition of the DSM (III). Before then, doctors and researchers called ADHD:

  • First: Mild Brain Damage (MBD)
  • Then: Mild Brain Dysfunction (once studies showed that brain damage or injury is not a prerequisite to ADHD)
  • Then: Hyperkinetic Impulse Disorder.

As research continued, scientists named “attention problems” as the main issue with this disorder. In 1987 this disorder became known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD with several variations.

The increase in the number of cases of ADHD during the 1990s may be due to:

  • Doctors being able to better diagnose ADHD
  • Parents becoming more aware of their child’s problems and talking to their doctor.
  • An actual increase in the number of children developing ADHD

Why People Are So Quick to Say “ADHD” Today

The rise in individuals being diagnosed with ADHD is a phenomenon that has gripped society in recent years. No doubt, the acknowledgment and discussion of ADHD have become prevalent, but this has also led to a culture of quickly attributing inappropriate behaviors or lack of concentration to this condition. While ADHD is a recognized disorder, it’s essential to remember that this recognition followed numerous challenges. This recognition, though, should not create a bias towards an immediate ADHD diagnosis. Careful consideration is needed each time a child exhibits behavioral issues.

The development of medicines specifically designed to treat ADHD has certainly played a huge role in promoting this. These drugs are not only easily accessible but also highly marketed. This, in turn, fuels the ease with which people consider and mention ADHD when a child behaves disruptively or struggles to stay focused. As a consequence, the condition of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has garnered extensive recognition and is a subject of constant public discourse.

Yet, it’s paramount that parents and caregivers don’t rush into accepting an ADD/ADHD diagnosis or resorting to these medications without proper medical advice. Pressures from school or society could tempt you to put your child on medication, but it’s a decision that should be taken after thorough, educated consideration. The best way to handle it is to consult with a health professional about the concerns and symptoms observed.

Hope for People with ADHD

Those who truly have a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder have options for treatment. While some ADHD medications may be right for you, there are plenty of holistic approaches to try. You can either try these as a substitute for medication, or you can use them as companion treatments for your medication:

  • Improving your diet
  • Exercising regularly (at least twice a week, for 30-minute intervals)
  • Make time to play
  • Drink plenty of water

Our founder, Daniel, has ADHD himself and saw the benefits of exercise on his symptoms. Since opening Special Strong, he has seen how exercise has improved the lives of others. If you’re ready to improve your life and lessen the impact of ADHD, consider signing up for private training sessions with our personal trainers.

Special Strong provides adaptive fitness for children, adolescents, and adults with mental, physical and cognitive challenges. Start your own Special Strong gym franchise today and create a lasting impact on your community.