Author: Shernide Delva
Jerome Kagan is not only a professor at Harvard, one of the most prestigious universities; he also is considered one of the world’s best psychologists. He was named the 22nd most eminent psychologist of the 20th century.
Yet, Kagan does not believe one of the most diagnosed mental health conditions in existence is a real condition. Kagan does not think ADHD exists. What?
That’s right; Kagan put out a statement saying that his position on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is that it is a complete hoax. Kagan’s proclamation has stirred controversy in the mental health community. Psychologist and other medical professionals have gone on the offensive, attempting to argue and discredit Kagan’s statements.
Still, Kagan is stern in his thoughts:
“…(ADHD) is an invention. Every child who’s not doing well in school is sent to see a pediatrician, and the pediatrician says: “It’s ADHD; here’s Ritalin.” In fact, 90 percent of these 5.4 million (ADHD-diagnosed) kids don’t have an abnormal dopamine metabolism. The problem is, if a drug is available to doctors, they’ll make the corresponding diagnosis.” – Jerome Kagan, Psychologist, and Professor at Harvard University
Kagan’s criticism is that the pharmaceutical industry is acquiring excessive amounts of profit from the sale of prescription drugs and this is creating a whole host of problems.
First, he says physicians financially benefit from promoting and prescribing certain medications. This incentive encourages them to prescribe more of these medications rather than recommend natural alternatives. Conditions begin to become over diagnosed because physicians want to earn supplementary income. Some doctors receive hundreds of thousands of dollars just for working with the pharmaceutical industry. In Kagan’s view, he believes this is both an immoral and corruptive practice.
Second, pharmaceutical companies have a significant influence on the political process. “Big Pharma” spends upwards of billions of dollars lobbying politicians to get what they want. Kagan believes this is contributing to the corruption within Washington D.C and elsewhere.
Finally, Kagan says more money flows to the psychologist, psychiatrists, and others who conduct research on conditions such as ADHD which results in more diagnosis and prescriptions. Kagan does not exempt these professions from criticism.
The Problem of Misdiagnosis and Over-diagnosis
According to Kagan, “If you do interviews with children and adolescents aged 12 to 19, then 40 percent can be categorized as anxious or depressed. But if you take a close look and ask how many of them are seriously impaired by this, the number shrinks to 8 percent.”
Kagan continues to elaborate using depression as an example. He believes that not everyone who exhibits symptoms of a condition has a mental health problem. Some children are a “bit” prone to unpredictability.
According to the Center for Disease Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age (6.4 million) have been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011.” Kagan makes the argument that children diagnosed with the condition are children not doing well in school.
“Who’s being diagnosed with ADHD? Children who aren’t doing well in school. It never happens to children who are doing well in school. So what about tutoring instead of teaching?”
Kagan believes mental health professions must shift their approach for diagnosing ADHD, depression, anxiety and other disorders. His solution is that mental health professionals should make diagnose the same way doctors do: by looking at the causes, and not just the symptoms. When it comes to children, Kagan thinks, even more, attention should be taken since they lack the ability to explain themselves fully.
Kagan makes no illusion that it will be an easy task. When confronted with criticism that mental illnesses are an invention of Big Pharma and others. Kagan goes on the offensive.
“There are mentally ill people who need help. A person who buys two cars in a single day and the next day is unable to get out of bed has a bipolar disorder…There are people who, either for prenatal or inherited reasons, have serious vulnerabilities in their central nervous system that predispose them to schizophrenia, bipolar disease, social anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorders. We should distinguish these people…”
In other words, Kagan believes that those who administer brain-altering drugs need to search a bit deeper.
Should the mental health industry reflect on Kagan’s thoughts? What are your thoughts? Mental illnesses continue to be stigmatized. However, it is important we look at all sides involved to determine the best approach to treating these conditions. If you or someone you love is struggling with mental illness, substance abuse or addiction, please call now.