Are ADHD Rates Increasing?

  • Medical Author:
    Dennis S. Phillips, MD

    Dr. Phillips received his bachelor's degree in Psychology from Stanford University. After graduating from medical school at the University of Southern California, he completed his residency training and served as Chief Pediatric Resident at UCLA- Harbor General Hospital in Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Ask the experts

I know so many parents who have a child with ADHD. Is ADHD on the rise, or do we just have better methods for diagnosing children with ADHD?

Doctor's response

The studies and statistics generally tend to favor the latter suggestion. It is definitely a fact that the number of children diagnosed and treated with ADHD has risen sharply in the last two decades. Much of this increased identification is because of a much greater parent and teacher exposure to, and understanding of, ADHD through expanded media interest and heightened consumer awareness. Teachers are better trained and more experienced in recognizing the possibility of the condition and more willing to suggest that the family seek help, especially in the more mild to moderate cases.

The condition has become much more clearly defined and definitely more concisely diagnosed now. And families are more willing to accept the condition as a treatable physical disorder and seek the help that their child needs. The stigma of having a child with ADHD has dramatically decreased, thank goodness! No longer is ADHD thought to be the result of "poor parenting" or "ineffective teaching." It is now known to be a biochemical disorder that responds in most cases to a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.

We have come a long way with ADHD, but have so much more to learn!

Medically reviewed by Margaret Walsh, MD; American Board of Pediatrics


"Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adolescents: Clinical features and diagnosis"

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Reviewed on 6/7/2017