This essay is based upon Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The definition of ADHD determined by Oxford Dictionaries (2012) is; any of a range of behavioural disorders occurring primarily in children, including such symptoms as poor concentration, hyperactivity, and learning difficulties. It is argued by some that ADHD is not an illness but an ‘easy’ way for parents to excuse deviant behaviour, some peoples opinion is that the label of ADHD provided a way for parents and others to shirk responsibility. Whereas others say that ADHD is an illness which needs professional diagnosis and medical treatment.
I will research both arguments, and look at the history surrounding mental health and how it’s changed over the years. I will also investigate the effects ADHD can have on a child in today’s society. “ADHD became a popular diagnosis in the 1980s, as more parents went to work and the role of schools and teachers changed,”( Stephen R. Herr 2010) he went on to say “The creation of ADHD as a psychological disorder was in part an attempt to deal with some of the difficulties of raising children. Unfortunately, that attempt has fallen short. In other words, children can be difficult to raise especially when parents have other commitments. He believes that it is natural for a child to misbehave, he says that this is not a sign of a medical problem such as ADHD. In the medieval times, if people acted differently than how society expected them to behave, they would have been accused of possession by the devil or witchcraft and would have been tortured, hanged or burned at the stake. In the 1700’s people behaving abnormally such as the symptoms of ADHD, would have been put into mental institutes such as Bedlam.
Bedlam was an institute in London where people who were seen as ‘insane’ were placed to live. Medical students would experiment on them; rich people would buy tickets to see how they lived and taunt them. The living conditions were poor and patients were treated like animals. By the nineteenth century people started to look at science more rationally and understand illnesses. Doctors, psychiatrists and scientists realised that there was a link between mental illness and Biology, and if this was the case they could establish the cause and treat the problem.
The cause of the illness may have been hard to find but the chemicals in medication did seem to have some effect on patients, although the drugs appeared to be working they didn’t always know how. Professionals believed that illnesses such as ADHD or depression could be an imbalance in the brain, and therefore could be treated with medication such as Ritalin or antidepressants. Psychological help was offered, for example, counselling for those who had suffered a disturbing event like abuse.
Many Illnesses were being diagnosed and treated with medications rather than being tortured or admitted into a hospital. The National Health Service was introduced in 1946 which offered additional options to people. Psychoanalysis is one example; a psychiatrist could look deeper into the unconscious mind of an event which may have happened in childhood, which could have caused the person to become unwell. After diagnosis the illness could be treated with counselling and medication, whereas in earlier years peopel would have been labelled ‘mad’ and admitted into a mental hospital or tortured.
Thomas Szasz (1961) believed madness was a label which was applied by society to those who did not ‘fit’ and this was varied depending on culture and historical period. He suggested that some irrational behaviour was natural reactions to certain stressful events in people’s lives. For example, in the early part of this century ‘unmarried mothers’ were deemed ‘mad’ or at least ‘mentally unstable’ The anti- psychiatry movement argued that psychiatry was not being used to cure people who were sick, but to control those who were considered deviant.
This thesis has been extended by many social scientists, who point to the way drugs are used to ‘correct’ many aspects of deviant behaviour. A child may once have been labelled naughty but now they are diagnosed with ADHD. In a society where sick is more acceptable than to be naughty many parents may find a diagnosis to be a relief, some might determine bad behaviour to be justified once diagnosed with a condition. The child can also be treated for the illness and bad behaviour is looked at as an illness and not deviance.
Rosenhans experiment proved how easily it is to be diagnosed by asking sane people to say they could hear voices to a doctor. All eight pseudo patients were admitted to mental hospitals and diagnosed with schizophrenia. The pseudo patients were instructed to “act normally”, reporting that they felt fine and no longer heard voices after admission. It took on average nineteen days for them to be released. Once the pseudo patients had been labelled people stopped listening to what they saying and only heard the label they had been given. His experiment proves the dangers of labelling.
Rosenhan would argue that medication is not needed for ADHD as irritability and hyper activeness is natural behaviour for a child, he would dispute the illness and in his opinion ADHD would not exist. Whereas Scheff (1966) sees mental illness as ‘residual rule breaking’ and would believe ADHD is deviant behaviour which needed acting upon. Rosenhan would suggest that diagnosis and medication is given to easily. His view would be that diagnosis of ADHD could be dangerous, he would propose that labelling someone with this illness would make society see them as a ‘ADHD’ child or the ‘naughty child’.
He would claim that everyone has phases of certain behaviours should that be bad, depressed or hyperactive but this does not mean they have an illness. Rosenhan would consider the side effects of the medication including insomnia, headaches, irritability, loss of appetite and weight loss which could be a potential danger to a child’s health. It is argued that Self-fulfilling prophecy could be the reason for certain behaviours which link to ADHD. For instance, when a child is labelled some might suggest that a child may act in a particular way to match that label.
Research shows that labelling can have a negative effect on a child’s social skills and academic work. Ivan Illich, a radical south American catholic priest argued that medication was being given to easily to people who didn’t need it. For Illich medicine had ‘gone too far’ and was about to reach its nemesis (Illich 1975) Looking at the history of health care it seems that the nineteenth century was a turning point for medical diagnosis and health care improved a significant amount. People would argue that Rosenhan’s experiment was wrong, hough it did highlight how quickly people are diagnosed and how dangerous labelling can be. Instead Scheff believed that people should be labelled so that they received the treatment they needed, should that be institution or medication. He saw drunkenness as a temporary mental illness and was quick to diagnose. Looking at modern practise and the variety of medical professionals which are available for all aspects of health care we have improved a substantial amount. Studies show that society feels confident with the care and the diagnosis they receive, though some still dispute the illness ADHD and if it really exists.
Research has shown that one in five children are diagnosed with ADHD, in my opinion it is worrying that the number of children being diagnosed is rising rapidly. As a result of prompt diagnosis many children are potentially taking unnecessary medication and being labelled which may lead to crime, bullying or depression. Bibliography Alderman. L. ,2011. The Rise of ADHD. [online] everyday health. Available at http://www. everydayhealth. com/adhdawareness/the-rise-of-adhd. aspx. [accessed 4th November 2012]. Bupa, 2011.
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