Hello to all my ADHD peeps and ADHD loved ones,
Today I want to talk about what ADHD actually is. When I grew up I was always told that the kid that was bouncing off of the walls was a kid that had ADHD. (Yes that kid was myself) And the kid that just couldn’t pay attention no matter what was going on was the kid with ADD. As with all things, things have changed and adapted over time. This post is going to discuss a little bit of the history of this diagnosis and what the current diagnosis is.
The discovery of an ADHD-like disorder started all the way back in 1798 by a Scottish physician by the name Sir Alexander Crichton. This physician was unique because mental health issues were often overlooked during this period. Crichton defines inattention as “The incapacity of attending with a necessary degree of constancy to any one object.” Pretty straight forward, and I think everyone today would still agree this is a spot on definition. Crichton did a wonderful job, but did miss one point, he believed as all of these kids became older they grew out of the inattentive symptoms. This belief was held for almost 200 years until the 1990’s. The current research shows that about 50% of people diagnosed with ADHD will retain symptoms into adulthood.
We skip forward to 1902 and scientific research on ADHD starts to begin. A British pediatrician born in London by the name Sir George Frederic Still started his research into childhood diseases and wrote full length textbooks on his findings. In the Goulstonian Lectures by Still he discusses a finding of certain children having issues with morals. He defines moral control as, “the control of action in conformity with the idea of the good of all.” Still designs an experiment with two groups one group with physical diseases such as tumors or head injuries. The other group is composed of children without physical impairment or without intellect impairment. Let me explain the reasoning behind this if it isn’t fully clear. He separated these two groups to compare them. At this time people believed that the only people that were having problems following societal rules were either fully mentally disabled or had a physical ailment that was causing these individuals to have problems following these societal norms. So Still went out of the current scientific bounds and believed that he had found a group that was having problems with impulsive decision making that did not fall into either of these groups. Still determined that children without intellectual or physical impairments were able to lack moral control and this helped people understand this disorder. Still ends up mentioning that the kids that he is observing exhibit an “abnormal incapacity for sustained attention.”
Next post I will talk about how modern treatment was discovered and when it was discovered spoiler it was an accident.