Has The USA Become An ADHD Nation?

Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT

Published 12/22/2020

You may have heard someone say, "it's because of my ADHD!" This is a common statement in America these days. Has the USA become an ADHD nation?

We can see that many children and adults struggle with ADHD. The numbers have drastically increased over a short amount of time. According to an assistant professor in the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa, 1 in 10 children have been diagnosed with ADHD. ADHD was common in the past, but the numbers have continued to climb over the past two decades.

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An article on WebMD states that the numbers of children diagnosed with ADHD jumped 6.1 % from 1997-1998 and 10.5% from 2015-2016. This is a huge jump in numbers. Is there a reason for this large jump, or is it merely that more people are having their children tested?

According to the CDC, it is hard to tell if these numbers are jumping due to greater awareness or other factors. Even though the rising numbers have been varied, we have no doubt seen a steady increase in ADHD. The research reported through the Washington Post states that there have been few complaints from parents or teachers stating the condition is over misdiagnosed.

According to this same research by the Washington Post, the cases of ADHD in the United States are higher than in other countries. The research found in the Berkeley Political Review found that the rates of ADHD in the USA are 11%. Other countries, such as Brazil, China, and most European countries, are at 5%.

The rise in ADHD poses the question of how the USA became an ADHD nation. Have the cases of ADHD risen, or has there been a greater number of cases diagnosed?

Knowing ADHD

The rise in ADHD rates are high, no doubt, but there is debate over the statistics. The symptoms of ADHD increase in a society that is fast-paced and driven by multitasking. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, work is one of the number one stressors in our society. Due to high pressure and demands, lifestyle balance can be difficult to achieve.

On top of this, our society is full of distractions by the media and social media. Smartphones have begun to train the brain in ways that nothing has before. These devices encourage immediate gratification, which can lead to impatience. This is based on research done by two psychologists at Temple University. Though their findings also correlated the need to check our devices often with already-existing impulsivity and impatience. Regardless, what we see in our society is this high level of immediate gratification. This is one of the common main symptoms of ADHD.

In general, based on how our society is functioning, it would be easy to call the USA an ADHD nation. Even those who have never been diagnosed with ADHD are living as they have it. Could it be societal stressors? Is the average workplace too stressful?

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The symptoms of ADHD include difficulty concentrating, impatience, irritability, forgetfulness, hyperactivity, restlessness, mood disorders, and difficulty finishing tasks.

The symptoms do not always include this entire list, and the list can be expanded, depending on the individual. However, similar ADHD symptoms could show up in someone who is highly stressed out regularly.

For example, living in a stressful society can lower our dopamine levels. According to psychcongress.com, chronic stress can lead to lower levels of dopamine.

Serotonin is another neurotransmitter that can be affected by stress, according to The National Institute of Health. Some individuals with ADHD may seem hyper-focused. This is due to both lower levels of dopamine and serotonin.

Some people with ADHD have lower levels of dopamine, and others have higher levels of dopamine. The behaviors of the different types of individuals with ADHD are going to vary and require different treatment. Some people may be more hyperactive or hyper-focused. Others may be more spacey and "up in the clouds."

This all depends on brain chemistry.

The first place to begin an actual diagnosis for ADHD is to do a general test. You can find online tests that are very accurate, but an actual diagnosis can only be given by a health care provider.

Understanding ADHD is important. Otherwise, we could look around at what seems like an ADHD nation and think that everyone has ADHD!

Since it may be difficult to distinguish actual ADHD from the symptoms of being stressed out, the best way to learn is to get an official diagnosis. If the diagnosis is positive for ADHD, speak with the professional for further treatment options. A few sessions with a therapist or counselor may help the person distinguish which type of ADHD they have.

Further diagnosis to get a clearer picture of someone's brain activity can be made through a brain scan, such as MRI or SPECT. Ask your healthcare professional about these options.

Pharmaceutical Influence

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One major factor in the awareness of ADHD in our nation is the pharmaceutical industry's influence. As stated by research done at Berkeley, pharmaceutical marketing campaigns have become more prevalent in the last 20 years. A diagnosis must first be given to receive the medications being advertised. This has led many parents to seek a diagnosis for their children. Parents often struggle with their ADHD children. Due to a high volume of advertisements, they may see medication as the most obvious solution.

Since these medications are being advertised and are widely available, more parents see this as the solution and are more likely to get tested.

This could impact the fact that there are more diagnosis these days than previously. Regardless, it is easy to say that the prevalence of cases of ADHD in the United States is high. Whether or not they have always been high is the question.

Finding Support

Whether or not a person has ADHD or experiences symptoms like ADHD, people need support. Support is available through holistic modalities and practitioners who can help with stress management and lifestyle changes.

Support can include the following:

  • Therapy or Counseling
  • Meditation
  • Breath Work
  • Neurofeedback

Therapy Or Counseling

Therapy and counseling are ways to get support with symptoms of ADHD, even if it is largely due to chronic stress. A therapist or counselor can work with you on lifestyle management. ADHD can create challenges with organization and add stress to work life and relationships. A professional can help people navigate their disorganized thoughts and manage their stress.

Meditation

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Meditation allows us to pay close attention to our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behavior patterns. We could see it as a form of attention training. It gives the mind a rest from the constant stimulation of this seemingly ADHD nation. Much research has been conducted on the effects of meditation on the mind. Meditation works by helping people develop their inner voice. Instead of focusing on what is on the outside all the time, it helps us to look at what is within.

The key to using meditation for ADHD is to practice each day. By meditating each day, you can be more mindful of your actions and the reactions of others around you. The more consistently you meditate, the more results you will recieve.

Meditation alone may not be the answer, but it is a great compliment to other treatment forms. Children often benefit greatly from meditation!

Breath-Work

Like meditation, breath-work helps to calm the nervous system and give the person a break away from everyday life distractions. Breathwork can be very slow and simple, or it can be intense and vigorous. Pick up a book for some basics, or find a breath-work practitioner in your area to learn more in-depth.

Neurofeedback

Neuro-feedback works by applying electrodes to the scalp and measuring brain activity. The brain responds to this treatment, and it works to train the brain to function more efficiently. Neurofeedback is also called EEG biofeedback.

The electroencephalogram is the piece of technology being used to perform the procedure. Neurofeedback is painless and non-invasive. It does take regular sessions to produce optimal results. Neurofeedback does not cure ADHD, but it can certainly help, according to eeginfo.com.

The way to access neurofeedback is to find a practitioner in your area. You may also ask your counselor or therapist for recommendations.

Combining these practices such as talking to a professional, meditation, breathing, and neurofeedback can provide successful results regardless of one's condition.

Whether someone has ADHD or struggles with similar symptoms due to stress, support is available. This may be as simple as taking 20 minutes each day to breathe or simply calling a professional. For more information about your symptoms of ADHD, take this online test today!