In a new article in Frontiers in Psychiatry, researchers explain the four strategies used to erroneously conflate the construct of “ADHD” with a medical disease. According to the researchers, the label of ADHD is merely a description of children’s behavior, but the way it is usually discussed “reifies” it—or assumes that description is an objective fact with explanatory power.
“The descriptive classification Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often mistaken for a disease entity that explains the causes of inattentive and hyperactive behaviors, rather than merely describing the existence of such behaviors,” they write.
Why is this distinction so crucial? The researchers explain:
“The errors and habits of writing may be epistemologically violent by influencing how laypeople and professionals see children and ultimately how children may come to see themselves in a negative way. Beyond that, if the institutional world shaped to help children is based on misguided assumptions, it may cause them harm and help perpetuate the misguided narrative.”
When the complexity of human experience is reduced to a label, other explanations and possibilities are eliminated, and potentially harmful interventions go unchallenged. This is even more problematic, they write, with a contested category like ADHD, which has been disavowed by the very people who created the construct in the first place, such as Allen Frances and Keith Conners.