In the previous article I said that to err on the side of caution when it comes to ADD/ADHD would be to eliminate all other explanations before even thinking of a formal diagnosis. By making this statement I am of course implying that there are many conditions and sets of circumstances that can lead to erroneous ADD/ADHD diagnoses. So what are these conditions and circumstances? I am planning to bring out a complete guide to ADD/ADHD misdiagnosis in the near future where this question will be answered in detail. I would encourage you, in the meantime, to carefully check for the following things that can very easily lead to a misdiagnosis.
Sleep Deprivation: Most children do not sleep nearly enough and the lack of attention and fidgeting that are sure signs of sleep deprivation, can very easily be mistaken for ADD/ADHD. I would therefore recommend that one of your first responses to behavioral issues should be to increase the amount of sleep that your child gets. I realize that this will probably not happen without a bit of resistance, but this is a battle that is worth winning.
Giftedness: It is sobering to think that many of the geniuses of history would probably have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD had they been alive today. Our highly standardized education system does everything in its power to put people into ‘appropriate’ boxes. Really gifted people will always struggle with being boxed-in in this way and may respond with restlessness and even disruptive behavior. If you have an exceptionally bright child who gets into trouble quite a lot, the problem may not be ADD/ADHD but rather that he/she is completely bored by what is served up in class.
Addiction: The possibility that your child is abusing drugs or alcohol is something that no parent would like to face. It could however be that heavy use of these substances (and addiction to it) may be behind the behavioral problems of some children who are ultimately diagnosed with ADD/ADHD.
Bipolar disorder (or some other psychiatric condition): In most cases of ADD/ADHD misdiagnosis the real cause behind behavioral problems is much less serious than full-blown ADD/ADHD. In some cases, however, it might be that there are more serious explanations. A case in point would be that bipolar disorders in some young people have been missed due to the condition being mistaken for ADD/ADD/ADHD. It is therefore highly recommended that the state of a person’s mental health be thoroughly investigated before a final ADD/ADHD diagnosis is made.
Bloodstream diseases: Some interesting work has been done over the past three years about some of the blood stream-based diseases that are spread by ticks. Two of the most dangerous types of bacteria spread by these critters are bartonella and babesia, both of which can mimic the symptom of ADD/ADD/ADHD. Both types of bacteria can be easily detected through a blood test and can be treated with antibiotics.
Adverse personal circumstances: It has been shown that children who recently suffered bereavement or experienced the divorce of parents are much more likely to be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. The simple fact is however that the ‘acting out’ that set the diagnostic process in motion is usually much more indicative of attempts to cope with very difficult circumstances than it is of serious neurological malfunctioning.
Deficient diet: The human brain is a highly complex system that requires several key building blocks in order to function properly. These building blocks are obviously derived from our food intake. If there are certain vital ingredients that are not present in our diets this can obviously have a seriously detrimental effect on optimum brain function. It is my firm belief that changes in nutrition can often be one of the key ways of avoiding an ADD/ADHD diagnosis and also of dealing with the condition if a diagnosis has been made.
Alternative learning styles: It is a fact that human beings learn in a wide variety of ways. Unfortunately most schools are so focused on one particular style and any other learning style exhibited by a child would immediately be regarded as a problem to overcome.
Shortsightedness/Hearing problems: The ADD/ADHD diagnostic cycle most often begins in the classroom and is most commonly triggered by a student being disruptive or not paying attention. One of the first questions that I always ask in situations like this is whether a particular child can actually see and hear what is going on. If this is not the case it would be only natural for such a child to be bored and to ‘act out’ in various ways. If, therefore, the pressure for a diagnosis comes from a classroom getting sight and hearing tests done should be very high on your agenda.
The items listed above represent just some of the avenues of investigation before a formal ADD/ADHD diagnosis can be arrived at. I would certainly encourage you to first eliminate all of these possible causes before proceeding any further down the path towards diagnosis. Doing so will be the responsible and, indeed, the cautious thing to do.