Changing Perceptions of a Stable Condition: Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in contemporary United States society
Rone, Jennifer M.
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Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been growtng tn popularity, both in terms of its prevalence and in terms of how well it is known by the general public. Likewise, the amount of literature on the disorder, the number of different ways of viewing it, and the questions about why ADHD is suddenly affecting so many people, are also rising. Meanwhile, psychology is struggling to refine its diagnostic methods and its understanding of the disorder's symptoms, several sources in the media are making claims about ADHD's relationship to current society's cultural ills, and scientific research is confirming ADHD's biological validity. However, none of that research has answered the original question: if ADHD is a real disorder, then why is it just recently becoming so popular? The two main hypotheses are: one, as it was not well known before, ADHD was previously underdiagnosed; and two, now that it is so well known, ADHD has become overdiagnosed. This paper clarifies what the disorder is, explains the domain of psychology as the point where the biologically determined characteristics of individuals become problematic within their social contexts, and then combines these two points to hypothesize that the current characteristics of United States society are making ADHD more problematic than it was before. In other words, this paper offers a third explanation for ADHD's increasing prevalence within contemporary US society: as the latter undergoes rapid change, the interactions between ADHD and US society are becoming more problematic, causing the relatively normal traits of inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsivity to become increasingly dysfunctional.