Parents of children who have ADHD are “not taking a neutral decision” when they opt not to treat them as their choice comes with implications, according to psychiatrist Anthony Dimech.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, he stressed, “is a very real condition” that is genetic and causes a lot of distress.
However, it was unique in that 90 per cent of those treated showed results that could be visible within 30 minutes, he said, stressing that treatment drastically improved patients’ quality of life.
This view is shared by Pamela Muscat, from the ADHD Family Support Group, who urged parents of children with the condition not to fear treatment.
“There is a stigma about medication and this is a pity since it can really help these children,” Ms Muscat said, agreeing with Dr Dimech that ADHD was real.
In recent weeks global media reported the views of Richard Saul, a behavioural neurologist based in Chicago, who essentially says ADHD does not really exist.
Hearing people say it does not exist is very frustrating... it is like a dagger to our hearts
He claimed society was stuck in a “cycle of misdiagnosis of ADHD” and overprescription of stimulants, arguing that as it was known ADHD patients had coexisting conditions, such as depression or autism, treating those conditions meant treating ADHD.
But psychiatrists Ethel Felice and Dr Dimech – who specialise in the field – begged to differ.
Their experience taught them that ADHD was a “very real condition” that required multifaceted treatment. While it was true treating coexisting conditions was necessary, this was not enough.
Dr Felice agreed there was an element of misdiagnosis but this was often due to a lack of awareness, which led to under-diagnosis.
Ms Muscat, from the support group, said under-diagnosis was why awareness was important so that professionals and parents knew how to recognise symptoms.
Regarding reports that the condition did not exist, Dr Dimech said: “We don’t rely on individual opinions but on extensive research. It is hard to turn a blind eye to a condition that is very genetic and is treatable with measurable results.”
As a parent, Ms Muscat had something else to add: “Hearing people say it does not exist is very frustrating... to those people I say: come and spend a day with our children. We wish the condition does not exist. Hearing this is like a dagger to our hearts.”
What is ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurobehavioural disorder characterised by inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.
It is normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving sometimes. However, children with ADHD do not grow out of these behaviours. Symptoms persist and can cause difficulties at school, home or with friends.
In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of medication and behaviour therapy. No single treatment is the answer for every child and good plans include close monitoring, follow-ups and any changes needed.