homewatch onlinefour familiesthe drugsadhdbacklashdiscussion
a photo collage of kids in school
defining and diagnosing adhd

(arrow)What is ADHD?

Even among those who concur that ADHD is a real disorder, there's disagreement over what causes it, how it's diagnosed and how it affects the brain. Here are the views of Russell Barkley, professor of psychiatry and neurology; Peter Jensen, director of Columbia University's Center for the Advancement of Children's Mental Health; Lawrence Diller, author of Running on Ritalin; Harvey Parker, child psychologist and founder of CHADD; and ADHD scientist Xavier Castellanos. These excerpts are drawn from FRONTLINE's extended interviews which were conducted in late 2000 and early 2001.
(arrow)The NIH Consensus Panel on ADHD

In 1998 the National Institutes of Health convened a panel of experts in an attempt to come to a professional consensus on a number of questions surrounding ADHD, including whether or not it should be considered a valid disorder. This review remains the most comprehensive and unbiased evaluation of ADHD and its treatments as of April 2001.
(arrow)The Official Diagnostic Criteria for ADHD

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) provides the official definition of ADHD and many other psychiatric disorders. The DSM lists the symptoms required to establish an ADHD diagnosis and is used by the majority of mental health professionals as well as insurers and managed health care organizations. Throughout the 50-year history of the manual, the criteria for ADHD diagnosis evolved with each new edition. Here's a short history of these changes, plus the currently accepted diagnostic criteria as of 2001.
(arrow)Steps in Making A Diagnosis

The National Institutes of Health published this explanation for parents of how a specialist--whether a pediatrician, psychiatrist, or other practitioner--would go about evaluating a child for ADHD.
(arrow)American Academy of Pediatrics' Guidelines

The American Academy of Pediatrics published these guidelines for pediatricians and family doctors to provide clinicians with more user-friendly guidance in diagnosing ADHD than is provided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
(arrow)The Evolution of a Disorder

From a fictional patient called "Fidgety Philip" in a turn-of-the-century medical journal, to contemporary research into dopamine neurotransmitter systems, authors Edward Hallowell and John Ratey track how psychologists and medical researchers accumulated insights into the nature and causes of ADHD symptoms. Excerpted from Driven to Distraction.
(arrow)The Protean Diagnosis: Problems With Today's Version Of ADD

In this excerpt from his book Running on Ritalin: A Physician Reflects on Children, Society, and Performance in a Pill, Dr. Lawrence Diller critiques the current diagnosis. For example, he discusses how the process of defining 'objective' diagnostic standards for ADD has itself been quite subjective. He also criticizes the symptoms list, saying it doesn't take into account environmental and social factors that may contribute to a child's behavior.
(arrow)A Study: What Happens to ADHD Kids?

Researchers Dr. Rachel Klein and Dr. Salvatore Mannuzza have conducted one of the most extensive prospective longitudinal studies of children diagnosed with ADHD. They followed 226 children over sixteen years to determine how long ADHD symptoms persisted, and if the children were at further risk for other problems as they were growing up. Here are some key findings from their work.


home · watch the program · four families · adhd drugs · adhd · backlash
readings · adhd in schools · interviews · discussion · the producers · viewers' guide
synopsis · tapes & transcripts · press reaction · credits
frontline · wgbh · pbs online

pill photograph copyright ©2001 photodisc all rights reserved
web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

NEXT ON FRONTLINE

The Rise of ISISOctober 28th

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS