"The numbers shouldn't be taken at face value. The history of psychiatry is a history of fads, and we are now suffering from a fad of ADHD," Frances said. He says the rates have tripled over the past 15 years because of sales pressure from pharmaceutical companies selling stimulants to treat ADHD.
"We are medicalizing immaturity and turning childhood into a disease," Frances said.
Susanna Visser, lead author of the study, says she understands Frances' concern. She pointed out that according to the survey, more than half of ADHD diagnosis were done by age 6.
"A lot of symptoms of ADHD, like hyperactivity, can also be appropriate developmental markers of age," she said. "You have to see a more 'wait and see' approach. Can they better be attributed to other things: sleep, divorce, trauma? A lot of things can look like ADHD, and once those symptoms aren't appropriate for a child's age, then we need to get treatment."