Is ADHD Recognized as a Mental Health Condition?

CADDAC National Director

Thursday October 10th is World Mental Health Day. Which means that it is a great time to remind everyone that ADHD is considered a mental health condition.

ADHD is medically categorized as a neurodevelopmental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Autism and Learning Disabilities are also included in this category. In 2013, when the DSM 5 was published, ADHD was moved to the neurodevelopmental category from the behaviour category. I was personally thrilled along with many ADHD experts. Why? Because we all hoped that perhaps now those who incorrectly thought of ADHD as just “bad behaviour” would start to re-conceptualize ADHD as the “real” mental health condition that it is.

ADHD like so many other mental health disorders is on a continuum.

It can result in relatively mild to significantly severe impairments. However, when left unrecognized and untreated it can impact many areas of someone’s life. Indeed, new research has indicated that not treating ADHD costs our Canadian economy more than thirty billion dollars annually, on par with depression. Recent data from Dr. Barkley’s 2018 study indicated a greater than nine-year reduction in life expectancy for children with ADHD, and a nearly 13-year reduction if the disorder persists to age 27. This is 2.5 times greater than the top four risk factors that we focus on as a society combined, obesity, alcohol use, smoking, and coronary heart disease.

Has there been increased recognition of ADHD as a mental health disorder since 2013? Some perhaps. But I must admit that there is still a very long way to go. The largest mental health facility in Canada has few resources for ADHD. And we rarely, if ever, hear about ADHD from any of the large mental health organizations or national mental health awareness campaigns.

While I certainly understand the reluctance of some to label ADHD a mental health condition, having my own close family members with ADHD, if we hope to gain recognition of ADHD as a disorder that can impair daily life functioning and impact our economy we need to stop being squeamish about these labels.

We need to start speaking out about how ADHD impacts our families, our schools, our communities, our workplaces and the social economy of Canada.

October is ADHD Awareness Month.

ADHD Speaks is CADDAC’s campaign to get people talking about ADHD. For this year’s Awareness Month CADDAC had developed several tools to help you speak out about ADHD.

Go to ADHD Speaks to find out how you can help build awareness of ADHD in a few easy steps.

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