Is ADD Over or Under Diagnosed?

Is ADD Over or Under Diagnosed?
It is a rare month indeed, that doesn’t bring another scary mainstream news story about to what extent Attention Deficit Disorder is over-diagnosed. So, how much of a problem is this, really? A new study shows that in some areas, over-diagnosis is a problem. However, in other areas, the problem runs in the opposite direction. Attention Deficit Disorder is under-diagnosed and those children with ADD are going without treatment. This study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and ran from 2002-2012. What did they find? Just what are the facts?

This research was a large, community-based study that allowed over 10,000 children to be screened for ADHD in Oklahoma and South Carolina. The screening was conducted by teachers based on reports from parents and teachers about the students’ diagnosis and medication. Then, students who were at a high risk for ADD/ADHD and at a low risk for ADD/ADHD, based on the initial screening, were referred for further screening. This examination gave surprising results:

Students initially evaluated with enough symptoms of ADD to fit a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder
*South Carolina-8.7%

Parents reporting children in the study who were taking medication for ADD/ADHD
*Oklahoma-7.4 %
*South Carolina-10.1%

Students taking medication who really fit the diagnostic criteria for Attention Deficit Disorder
*South Carolina-39.5%

Thus, the researchers found that there were many children who had not been previously diagnosed and were not being treated. They also found that a lot of children who were taking medication did not meet the diagnostic criteria for Attention Deficit Disorder. So, depending on where a student lives, how involved the child’s parents are, and the access that a family might have to well-trained diagnosticians, ADD can be either over-diagnosed or under-diagnosed.

Why is there so much trouble with appropriate diagnosis? There is not a single test for Attention Deficit Disorder. Clinicians use a variety of measures that lead to diagnosis. These measures vary somewhat from country to country. Besides, there are different problems that can be mistaken for Attention Deficit Disorder. When seeking a diagnosis, it is best to find a health care professional with an abundance of experience in diagnosing ADD.

In addition to the treatment patterns of Attention Deficit Disorder, this study was designed to look at the behaviors of children with ADD that led to health risks, what disorders occur with ADD/ADHD, and how prevalent Attention Deficit Disorder is among children. Data collection ended in 2012, and information about the treatment patterns of Attention Deficit Disorder was published. This study should yield much more research-based information about ADD/ADHD.


University of South Carolina (2012, October 19). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is both under and over diagnosed, study suggests.ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2012, from

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You Should Also Read:
ADD Medication Research
Medication Myths and ADD
ADD Meds and Long Term Effects Research

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