Us And France Perspective On Treating Adhd: This Is How They Define & Treat It

What is ADHD? ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The symptoms can be categorized into two types of behavioral problems. These categories are inattentiveness and hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

The symptoms of ADHD in children and teenagers are well defined, and they’re usually noticeable before the age of six. They occur in more than one situation, such as at home and at school.

The main signs of inattentiveness are:

  • having a short attention span and being easily distracted
  • making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork
  • appearing forgetful or losing things
  • being unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming
  • appearing to be unable to listen to or carry out instructions
  • constantly changing activity or task
  • having difficulty organizing tasks, and
  • Hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

The main signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are:

  • being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings
  • constantly fidgeting
  • being unable to concentrate on tasks
  • excessive physical movement
  • excessive talking
  • being unable to wait their turn
  • acting without thinking
  • interrupting conversations, and
  • little or no sense of danger.

These symptoms can cause significant problems in a child’s life, such as underachievement at school, poor social interaction with other children and adults, and problems with discipline.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 11% of children aged 4-17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, as of 2011.

The Pharmaceutical industry, or Big Pharma, wants parents to know that this disorder is common in America and it needs to be medically treated, but in other countries, ADHD is defined, diagnosed and treated quite differently.

Doctors in France, for example, diagnose this disorder in less than 0.5% of cases, maintaining that the disorder is the result of psycho-social and environmental or situational factors and not a biological disorder to be treated with medication.

Child psychiatrists in France use a system which classifies childhood emotional problems differently to Americans.

The French system focuses on finding the underlying issues leading to the child’s behavior and on taking a psychopathological approach to target them.

In France, doctors define ADHD as a disorder which is sociological and the result of a set of situations, whereas in the U.S. it is regarded as a neurological disorder caused by a chemical imbalance or biological dysfunction in the brain.

This is due mainly to the fact that, in the U.S., the pharmaceutical industry helped to define ADHD, which is why there is also such a dramatic difference in its treatment in the two countries.

ADHD Treatment Methods in France

When children in France are diagnosed as having ADHD, doctors look for primary causes, with psychiatrists investigating the child’s distress and comparing it with their social situations.

Because the disorder is regarded as a social context problem, it is usually treated with family psychotherapy or psychoanalysis and medications are considered unnecessary. The patient’s diet is also investigated, looking at possible causes such as unhealthy eating habits.

They believe consumption of food with artificial colors or flavors, sugar, preservatives, allergens may have a negative effect on the child’s behavior.

From other hands, the different ADHD treatment could be the result of cultural differences in raising children in the two countries – US and France.

French parents often choose for more structured lifestyles for their children and tend to emphasize strict schedules, self-discipline and letting babies and infants ‘cry it out’ instead of giving in to children’s whims.

Another difference is that spanking and moderate corporal punishment is not considered child abuse in France but as acceptable behavior to discipline children. However, the effects of the different methods of treating ADHD in France are probably due to the holistic approach which takes all the different factors into consideration, including behavioral and social context and diet.

On the other hand, the huge pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. have the main role in the definition of ADHD and in its treatment and many doctors and researchers are funded by them to emphasize the risks and promote the use of medications for ADHD.

Even some renowned universities, such as John Hopkins and Harvard, have been connected with such practices, and the general public is not aware that the studies are paid for by the companies benefitting from the sale of the drugs.

We could learn so much from the way the French define and treat ADHD, their holistic approach and the way they do not immediately reach for medications, a practice which is damaging to children’s self-esteem and unethical.

The pharmaceutical industry, of course, is mainly responsible for the way ADHD is misdiagnosed and over-diagnosed in the U.S., while many now believe that it is necessary to provide alternatives to medication.

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Rachell S. Anderson, Senior Writer

Written by Rachell S. Anderson, Senior Writer

Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a masters degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.

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