Faking Out The Fakers: A Litmus Test For ADHD

Let’s not pull any punches here; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has meaning only so far as people give it meaning. It’s not a real “disease”. It’s a bogus “disease”. Belief in “mental illness” gives the “disorder” life and keeps it “breathing”. ADHD as a sect of the “mental illness” religion would collapse under any serious sustained assault from skepticism and responsible parenting.

Well, now a study has been conducted on people who fake having this fake “disease”. Bloomsburg Businessweek covers the subject with an article in their executive health section, Some Fake ADHD to Get Meds, Special Treatment.

“People who want to fake ADHD could be able to do a good job of faking on a number of standard clinical instruments that are used to diagnose ADHD,” said David Berry, senior author of the report appearing in the current issue of Psychological Assessment. Obviously, health-care professionals need to be concerned, he said, adding that “our evidence suggests [fakers] are pretty good at it if they want to be.”

Why fake this fake disease? Why, of course, drug dealers need drugs while bad students need performance enhancers and other shortcuts to success.

Seventy-three University of Kentucky students were split into two groups, one of which was instructed to respond honestly to questions on standard assessments of ADHD. The others were given five minutes to review easily accessible information from the Internet on the condition and told to do their best to fake it. Their incentive: $45 if they succeeded (in reality, all participants were given $45 at the end of the study).

A third control group consisted of people labeled ADHD sufferers.

“Almost nobody [in the fakers’ group] failed the test,” said Berry.

“Drugs is the obvious [motivation], but there are others,” he continued. “Most universities provide people who have a diagnosis of ADHD with a variety of things that vary from one institution to another — extra time on tests, copies of teachers’ notes that they’re lecturing from. They may get special accommodations in terms of where they’re staying at the university, a single room versus a double room.”

Having a diagnosis of ADHD has its perks then. Should we call these kids disabled or previleged?

A review of the data from other studies had suggested to researchers that 8% – 35% of the current ADHD cases were phony.

Some of the “side effects” of the stimulants used in the treatment of childhood are touched upon briefly in the article. These “side effects” include high blood pressure, irregular heart beat, heightened anxiety, and chemical dependence.

Berry advocates using additional anti-fraud screening — also called “malingering” tests — to sort out the ADHD frauds from the legitimate cases. (In medical terms, “malingering” means fabricating or exaggerating symptoms of physical or mental disorders for a variety of “secondary gains” motives, such as drugs, money, or even sympathy and attention.)

I would suggest instead that we remove ADHD from the “mental disorder” category altogether, and consider it a misnomer for misbegotten traits of childhood and adolescense. Childhood and adolescense are not disorders. You’re malingerers test, in this instance, would only be good for separating the con artists from the con artist victims while the main con artist grouping, those people who have convinced people of the reality of ADHD, gets off scot free.

What they don’t tell you is that attaching this label to kids can lead to other and more serious “mental illness” labels being attached to them. It’s not because we’ve got an infectious “disease” label here. It’s because the drugs used to treat the disorder trigger effects that resemble other “mental illness” labels.

Nope, there are better ways to treat children and adolescents. Perhaps the time has come when we should return to some of those better ways.

15 Responses

  1. While I disagree that ADHD is a fake disease, I agree that it’s a good thing there’s a malinger detection test for it. I don’t think people consciously fake ADHD for meds as much as they are bribed into believing they have it by various incentives.

    • ADHD is all about school performance. In a mostly illiterate world, before academic achievement came to mean so very much, ADHD didn’t register. Now that a degree is seen as the difference between pulling in a 6 digit salary and working for peanuts, parents freak when they think their kid isn’t making the grade. Class clown, conduct problem, slow learner, etc., just slap the ADHD label on ’em, and they’re given 1. psych drugs and 2. special treatment. I imagine sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t. Healthwise, it’s a disaster. There used to be an advertisement that went “speed kills”. Well, one thing is sure, speed isn’t good for the brain.

      This thing started years ago with a few, a very few, problem students. At that time the mental health authorities came up with the idea of claiming these students were suffering from minimal brain dysfunction. Stimulants were suggested as the solution to these slower than usual brains, minimal brain dysfunction was redubbed attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and a trend was born. Years later, you are no longer looking at a few problem students, you are looking at millions and millions of children and adolescents labeled ADHD. In truth, minimal brain dysfunction, ADHD, it’s all bunk. This is where the real child of flesh and blood meets the perfect child of societal expectations and comes up lacking.

      The prognosis for folks given the ADHD label is not good. Too much speed makes people psychotic. Doctors don’t get it, and instead of seeing a person who has OD’d on speed, suddenly they’ve got a schizophrenic or manic bipolar disordered person on their hands. Well, the problem is drug toxicity pure and simple.

      ADHD, that’s bunk. In world of farm hands there is no ADHD, in a world of white collar workers, ADHD helps fit folks to their desk and cubicle.

  2. I don’t believe that ADHD is FAKE- just EXTREMELY over diagnosed. I think perhaps… .25% off all people diagnosed actually have it. People should remember that something has to interfear with your life in order to be a “disorder”. I know pleanty of people who are “ADHD” that do perfectly fine without any meds or intervention at all… that’s not ADHD.

    And i don’t mean to say that you MUST take meds to have a “real” disorder, it just shas to have effected you STRONGLY.

    • Belief is a matter for religion. I neither believe nor disbelieve. At one time there was no ADHD, then there was little to no ADHD, and now there are millions upon millions of cases of ADHD. Children mature at different rates. Acting like a child can get a child labeled with ADHD. Adulthood may, or may not, be the cure to childhood and adolescense. When it isn’t a cure you have adult ADHD. There wouldn’t be any adult ADHD if it weren’t for the ADHD label being applied to children. Children grow up, but they don’t always grow out of the labels attached to them in infancy. Spontaneous generation as a theory just doesn’t hold water. ADHD wouldn’t interest me as a religious sect even if some shrink thought it should. Case closed.

      Say 25% of the people so diagnosed had the disorder, and 75% didn’t. That would make this disorder 75% fake then, wouldn’t it? The point I’m trying to make here is that members of the American Psychiatric Association agree on these diagnostic tags and the symptomology with which to identify them in committee. The label then is determined by human beings, and human beings are prone to make mistakes. The source of these behavioral disorders themselves is still pretty much elusive even to them. It isn’t the same thing as finding the microorganism under a microscope slide that caused this or that physical ailment. Find a microorganism at the source of kids labeled ADHD, and you’d really have something tangible there, wouldn’t you? Write a paper, and you still have nothing.

      One problem with saying distracted kids have dysfunctioning brains, and prescribing stimulants for this conjectured dysfunction, is that these stimulants are known to slow down the growth of the child. Children on ritalin and similar drugs have been found to be smaller than their classmates. I would think that would be enough to cause a little bit of concern over attaching the ADHD label to any child.

      • At one time there was no ADHD, then there was little to no ADHD, and now there are millions upon millions of cases of ADHD.

        Just like at one time there were millions of cases of neurasthenia. Now for some reason it no longer exists. Both ADHD and neurasthenia seem to be afflictions fashionable in their respective eras, with no objective basis in empirical data. They only exist because the snake oil salesmen want them to.

  3. There also didn’t used to be AIDS, and Diabetes- and now The Plague doesn’t exist anymore… so… what about those?

    • AIDs is a virus. “Genetic research indicates that HIV originated in west-central Africa during the late nineteenth or early twentieth century”, says Wikipedia. I imagine some sort of more benign virus made an evolutionary leap, mutating into the deadly variety we deal with today.

      Diabetes is a metabolic condition that has probably always been with us. It has plagued humanity since ancient times. It has to do with “high blood sugar”. It has only been treatable since 1921 when insulin became available.

      The Bubonic plague is caused by the bacteria, Yersinia pestis. The plague was spread by rats carrying plague infected fleas. (Nope, you can’t make this stuff up. Nobody would believe you.) The Japanese used the plague as a weapon of biological warfare durring WWII. In 1994 and 2010 there were cases reported in Peru. When you get cases of Bubonic plague, it can’t be said to be non-existent.

      Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, on the other hand, is all crock.

      • I didn’t mean it as a one to one comparison. but the rate of diabetis (type II anyway) has been effected by the way we live. Is it aso possible that a difference in lifestyle (not just lack of parenting and personal restraint) could account for 25 in 10 000 cases? I think that is the size of the “real” ADHD.

        But- i agree that 9 975 in 10 000 cases are probably frauds… so does that make the diagnosis a fraud? Probably.

        I’m thinking 1 of 2 things, actually:

        (1)- scrap the ADHD diagnosis and come up with a more stringent set of criteria that are harder to fake, with clear distress nessicary for diagnosis, perhaps we could find an actual neurological basis? And use “real-life” therapy instead of drugs. (ie. class room training, and focusing techniques)


        (2)- admit it is NOT a disorder (which it prolly isn’t but people DO need help with it sometimes, and I don’t agree that drugs are usually (if ever) needed to treat it) and make “class room” skill seminars/workshops available to the public.

        Do you see anything wrong with those?

        (btw yersinia pestis =/= the plague, yersinia pestia + atherax(excuse my inability to spell) = plague. I know both still exist, you just dont find them together anymore)

  4. I can see you’ve been busy but I’m waiting for a blog about the diagnosis of depression and the administration of anti-depressants via a 700 meter long tube.

    • The “neurasthenia” label is still with us in many ways. It sort of evolved into “neurosis”, and then further evolved into “minor mental illness” (ie. generalized anxiety disorder, much obsessive compulsive disorder, minor depression, etc.) I wouldn’t call “minor mental illness” an improvement though. If a person is very sad, we call them ‘sick’, and we send them into ‘treatment’. Does this make sadness a ‘sickness’? No. Even if they are so sad that that sadness interferes with their work, this doesn’t make it an “illness”.

      The difference between so called “minor mental illness” and “major mental illness” is only a matter of degree. Clinical depression used to resolve itself fairly regularly. This was before the introduction of SSRI antidepressants. Clinical depression is now thought to be chronic. The problem here is one of toxicity. You have people dependent on a chemical substance, and if you remove that chemical substance suddenly, there will be withdrawal symptoms. These withdrawal symptoms can keep some people prescribed to the chemical substance.

  5. Roguesophia, I understand we have 0.25% of the diagnosed cases of ADHD to go before we’ve dispensed with the diagnosis altogether in your estimation. I wouldn’t imagine that would be such a difficult task to achieve.

    Of your 1 of 2 suggestions, #2 hits closest to home.

    (2)- admit it is NOT a disorder (which it prolly isn’t but people DO need help with it sometimes, and I don’t agree that drugs are usually (if ever) needed to treat it) and make “class room” skill seminars/workshops available to the public.

    There are so very many things wrong with the public education system. It is this system that produces children labeled with ADHD. “Class room” skill seminar/workshops might not do the trick, but they wouldn’t hurt either. I think we need to develop schools that are more adept at bringing their less enthusiastic students up to speed. We need to develop schools that spend more time helping students succeed than they do helping students fail. We give students low marks for not learning. We don’t give teachers low marks for failing students. I think a new approach to education is needed. The advantaged usually well to do student with the competitive edge is groomed for success. The student coming from an impoverished neighborhood, out of a broken family, and dealing with a lot of home issues, is more or less mussed up for failure. I think we can change these things.

    • I would prefer to do away wtih the label- personally. I think it does more harm than good- HOWEVER- I think before that happens there needs to be a support system for those who had “ADHD” symptoms.

      By class room skils- I mean skills that would help in classes. Ways to study, teacher support, tutors. I agree that teachers dont spend enough time with poor or down and out students. I came froom a poor family, but education was always important, and I am gifted with being a very quick learner- I often end up tutoring my school mates.

      • Yeah, you’re right. Some people could use a few friends, they could even call those friends a support system. You see I think we have a system that is all about functioning, and I think it should be more about caring. I think it would be preferable to have a relationship with a real person rather than with a functionary who says what he or she says because he or she get paid for doing so. There should be more to life than a case manager in other words.

        There are students who need help in school, yes, and a class or workshop on study skills wouldn’t hurt in the slightest, and would probably help a great deal. You’ve got your prize pupils, too, your teachers pets, and I think that something is often a little off kilter about them as well. Other student don’t seem to like them that much (despise isn’t too harsh a word), and they’ve got their reasons. Some teachers probably see through that kind of thing, but other’s actually have their pets push their buttons. (BTW, it’s probably not by accident that both the hardest working and the most slacking of students have been shown in a studies to get labeled with bipolar disorder.)

        I’d like to see more responsive schools, and I think we could see more responsive schools. I’d also like to see avenues to success available to people who are less inclined or less suited for higher education. I think if we are going to “make a village of it”, everybody has to pitch in. Sometimes its the pitching in of the people we need the most that is the most lacking. That is how I feel anyway. When people treat other people dismissively, it can come back to haunt them.

      • I completely agree with what you have said here. I think this is ABSOLUTELY true, and I would LOVE to help things like this happen. I hate to see kids get passed by, academically AND socially.

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