Mental conditions: overlooked or overdiagnosed?

Breanna McKinney, Copy editor

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According to The National Institute of Mental Health, 18.3% of adults in the U.S. in the year 2016 had a mental illness, yet 43.1% of adults received treatment for mental illnesses. This overuse of treatment could be due to overdiagnosis of mental illnesses. There is an especially troubling amount of overdiagnosis in children who are said to have illnesses like ADHD when they are just hyper and fidgety because they want to play with their toys.

Children are diagnosed with anxiety (and some are later said to have “outgrown” it) because they are very irritable and emotional, but again, this is just because children are generally very sensitive. According to the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International, 274,804 children age zero to one were put on psychiatric drugs in 2013 (drugs for ADHD, depression, anxiety, and antipsychotics). This is just the amount of babies put on these drugs, there were over eight million children put on these drugs in 2013.

The only justifiable reason I can find for this is if the child was born addicted to drugs. After all, they are just babies and cannot yet focus their thoughts on feelings of anxiety or any mental illness in general.

Of course, there must be some reason that there is such an increase in diagnosis of mental illnesses. It could be due to new information, or it could just be because people believe they have an illness before seeing a professional, which leads to self-diagnosis.

People self-diagnose all the time, which could also be the reason that so many people are taking drugs for mental illnesses when they do not actually need it. While this may be viable for adults and even teenagers, it does not make sense when dealing with young children or babies. Most children of four or five years of age do not know what anxiety, depression, or ADHD is, so they cannot really self-diagnose. So, are doctors taking normal child behavior and confusing them with early signs of these illnesses?

According to NBC News, “Approximately 13 percent of the children ever diagnosed with the autism spectrum disorder was estimated to have lost the diagnosis, and parents of 74 percent of them believed it was changed due to new information,” Stephen Blumberg of the National Center for Health Statistics said.

It is not difficult to mistake tendencies for signs of a mental illness, people do it every day. The supposed signs of these illnesses, especially anxiety, are sometimes very vague and sometimes just things that children do and then grow out of. If you go to any website that claims the signs of anxiety or ADHD, it will most likely explain that moving around constantly or being unable to concentrate is a sign of a disorder. However, most children and some adults I know are often fidgety and have trouble focusing on one task, especially if they have a busy schedule.

Having trouble focusing could just be because you have too much on your plate, so they feel like they have to go at hyper speed to get everything done quickly. Moving around constantly could just be because you are bored, so you tap your finger or move your leg to give yourself something to do.

Determining whether something is just a tendency you have or whether you have a mental illness is often a difficult task. This is especially true when someone self-diagnoses. A doctor may have a harder time convincing you that you do not have a disease than if they just told you that you had it and gave you medication or treatment for said disease.

People depend on self-diagnosis way too much, if blinking were a sign of bad eyesight then everyone would freak out and determine that they have terrible eyesight because they blink constantly. This is the same thing that we do with illnesses or conditions. A child may not like going to school and cry before school, although this has been said to be a sign of anxiety, it does not mean that every child that doesn’t want to go to school has anxiety. They could just not want to go because the work is hard, or they have trouble making friends. However, some people take signs like this to mean that they surely have anxiety before even seeing a professional.

According to Child Mind Institute, it is normal to have anxiety, which I completely agree with. Every person has at one point in their life been extremely nervous or anxious to do something such as present a project or go to a new school, etc. They also say, “Not all that moves is ADHD.” Even if you suspect that a hyperactive person may have ADHD, there are many more factors that go into determining if you or another person has ADHD or any other illness. Going to a professional who knows about that specific illness is much better than telling yourself that you or another person has a mental illness, and it is something that more people need to do.

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