ADHD diagnoses and stimulant prescriptions are common in classrooms across the nation. One doctor, however, has taken the controversial stance that ADHD isn’t real and should never be diagnosed.

Controversial book says there is no ADHD

Chances are you know someone — adult or child — who has been diagnosed with ADHD. Neurologist Richard Saul, however, has a new book coming out that states that there really is no ADHD. In fact, treating ADHD instead of assessing for the “real” issues is a huge problem for the children and adults who suffer from the symptoms.

Do you think that ADHD is real, or is Dr. Saul on to something with this theory?

ADHD in the DSM

Attention deficit disorder was first described in 1980 and appeared that year in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). The term was changed to ADHD several years later and diagnostic criteria has expanded over the last few editions, which has resulted in a significant uptick in diagnoses.

The number of children with an ADHD diagnosis has gone from 7.8 percent in 2003 to 11 percent in 2011, and two-thirds of those with the diagnosis are prescribed medication. Dr. Saul, however, has evaluated many adults and children in his practice and has been able to uncover other culprits behind their poor behavior and believes ADHD should be removed from the DSM altogether.

Off his rocker?

Some moms we spoke with think that Dr. Saul is misguided and unrealistic. “I think this dude needs to go back to school!” shared Ashley, mom of four. “ADHD is real and does exist. There may be misdiagnosed cases just like anything else... but saying it's a crutch and caused from other things such as needing glasses is absurd!”


Jana, mom of one, agreed that there are true cases of ADHD, but feels that many are diagnosed incorrectly.

"So we diagnose them as ADHD and pump them full of drugs so that they fit better into the education system."

“There's some research that suggests that a lot of ADHD is just a mismatch between learning style (we now expect little kids to sit quietly at desks and follow directions) versus what 5-year-old boys are developmentally capable of,” she explained. “They look hyperactive because they can't sit still, but they can't sit still because many aren't developmentally there yet. So we diagnose them as ADHD and pump them full of drugs so that they fit better into the education system.”

Amanda, mom of four, agreed. “I think that he is too extreme in his views, but I do agree that delving further into a patient’s life to uncover exactly what is going on is an excellent idea,” she told us. “I think doctors would do their patients a better service if they determine who really has ADHD, who is displaying similar symptoms but has something else going on — instead of filling out a two-minute checklist and writing out a script with little thought.”

Parents whose children really benefit from therapy and medication, of course, feel that Dr. Saul is a dangerous threat. But they agree that the over-diagnosis of the disease has done them a disservice as well as those who have other problems that are cloaked by the diagnosis itself. While Dr. Saul's stance is controversial, maybe this is what's needed to help medical professionals, parents and patients make better decisions in regards to potential ADHD.

More on ADHD

ADHD: The debate continues
The difference between bad behavior and ADHD
Outdoor activities for kids with ADHD and autism


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Comments on "ADHD: Is it real, over-diagnosed or completely made up?"

Gina Pera January 08, 2014 | 11:27 PM

It's not a "controversial" stance. It's an idiot stance. A completely unfounded stance. An attention-grabbing stance. A look-at-me stance. This fringe neurologist knows nothing about ADHD. Most neurologists are not trained in conditions such as ADHD; they are more concerned with pathologies such as tumors or epilepsy. More clear-cut, less nuanced conditions. The man is so out-of-touch he doesn't even know that ADHD is a syndrome, which is a collection of variable symptoms. There are other medical syndromes, including diabetes and hypertension. Why is this fringe attention-seeker getting so much attention? Can I write a book "Gravity Does Not Exist!" and get this kind of attention? No, it's just because he has MD after his name. Guess what? There are many stupid, poorly trained and even sociopathic or narcissistic MDs. Their rogue opinions don't get splashed all over the Internet, especially when they fly in the face of the preponderance of scientific knowledge. Stop giving the bullies attention! Maybe they will go away! Gina

Ray M. January 08, 2014 | 5:34 PM

I have four wonderful children. My eldest was diagnosed with ADHD at about 7yo. During his school years I believe he was assisted with concentration through his medication. His responses to occurrences at home and school became far from appropriate as he grew older and, looking back, I feel he learnt how to manipulate the situations in his favour. Threats to break or injure have since become routine when he gets angry. This I believe is a learned strategy that is now his favourite. Without blaming myself or my wife, I feel that we failed to manage him in the early formative years, now leaving us with a monster at 18yo. His Paediatrician has advised that he is probably working at about three years behind his physical age, thus he is mentally 15yo. My belief is that he is very smart, cunning, manipulative and there may be more underlying issues, yet to be revealed. We are now at a loss which way to turn. Family (and my lovely wife) are advising to kick him out, but as I have four children, it is my intent to raise all four to the best of my ability. He does work, though not very happily, as an apprentice Plasterer and is still in his first year. We are unable to get him to understand that, in order to help himself, he must simply do what is necessary to change jobs and move ahead. Would dearly appreciate any advice, guidance or direction to turn to obtain assistance with him.

sarah b. January 07, 2014 | 11:42 AM

i don't know if he's right or wrong but there is definitely a link between the rates of the diagnosis and the push for early accelerated learning. we expect kids to sit in desks all day at younger and younger ages, give kindergartens over and hour of homework. children are stressed and overworked from practically toddlerhood these days. we need to give kids time to be kids. they also need outdoor time and less screen time. all of these things are definitely contributing to the rise of "ADHD" cases. mostly, we are expecting far too much of young kids and making diagnoses way too early.

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