WALSH: We Have Turned Childhood Into A Mental Disorder. And It’s Ruining Our Kids.

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According to a report, there has been a dramatic rise in children misusing and overdosing on ADHD medications. I happened to see that report a day after I read another study revealing an increased risk for obesity and diabetes in kids who take ADHD meds. This is not to be confused with the recent research showing that ADHD drugs could be linked to brittle bones. These must all be added, of course, to the cacophony of already known side effects, including insomnia, irritability, decreased appetite, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

Maybe this is why a majority of kids diagnosed with ADHD wind up developing other mental illnesses as they grow older. Pharmaceutical companies cite that latter detail as proof of the biological basis of ADHD. I think it is much easier to see it as proof of the pharmacological basis for the mysterious rise in mental illnesses across America. Drug companies and the psychiatric industry have so far gotten almost 20 percent of the country onto psychiatric drugs. Many of these drugs cause suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression. Meanwhile, a lot of Americans are having suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression. One need not be a detective to notice a potential causal relationship here.

The psychiatric industry has set out to catalog and medicalize virtually every human behavior, emotion, inclination, temptation, and personality trait. It would seem, as many leading mental health experts have warned, that soon nobody in America will be considered normal. Indeed, you wonder where the drug companies and psychiatrists get their idea for “normal” behavior, and “normal” brains, and “normal” emotions, considering they so rarely come across a behavior, brain, or emotion they consider normal.

But nowhere is this tendency to medicalize the human condition more apparent, or more dangerous, than with children. As most people know, there has been an astounding rise in ADHD diagnoses over the last several years. Somewhere around ten percent of all children in the country have been labeled with this alleged disorder, and the label is being stuck on kids at earlier and earlier ages. We are now told that kids as young as three years old can be diagnosed ADHD. New medical guidelines recommend psychiatric drugs for kids starting at four if their “symptoms” are “debilitating.” A third of kids with ADHD are diagnosed before the age of six. Doctors will assure parents that the drugs are safe and will cause no long term damage to their children, but, at best, we don’t know whether that is actually true or not. There is plenty of reason to believe that the drugs will alter your child’s brain for years to come.

And on what basis have we taken this incredible step, as a society, to drug into oblivion what used to be considered common (even charming, even crucial) childhood characteristics? After all, any experienced parent will recognize the list of “ADHD symptoms” as the most normal characteristics in the world:

-In constant motion
-Squirms and fidgets
-Makes careless mistakes
-Often loses things
-Does not seem to listen
-Easily distracted
-Does not finish tasks

Frankly, I would be more concerned about a child who doesn’t exhibit these “symptoms.” So, how can we know when normal childhood behaviors may be a manifestation of mental illness? It is quite easy to know when your liver, or kidney, or heart are malfunctioning. But, with ADHD (and so many other mental illnesses), pediatricians and psychiatrists claim to have identified a malfunction of the whole human person. It is non-controversial to look at a diseased liver and say, “A liver shouldn’t do that.” But doctors are now looking at physically healthy children and saying, “This entire person shouldn’t do that.”

How? On what basis?

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