IS ADHD Over-Diagnosed in Children and Adolescents?


A recent study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association)  Network has revealed that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children and adolescents is over-diagnosed and overtreated. The review, which reviewed  334 studies, also found that a diagnosis for individuals with milder symptoms, could do more harm than good.


Over diagnosis can occur for many reasons including diagnostic inflation- the broadening of definitions to include ambiguous or mild symptoms-  including behaviours that  would not usually have been considered as abnormal.


Within the review, it was highlighted that the youngest children in a class were more likely to have an ADHD diagnosis.


The positive benefits of a diagnosis for individuals with mild ADHD symptoms can be very empowering, providing a medical explanation for behaviour, supporting legitimacy and decreasing guilt, blame and anger. The diagnosis can also increase perceived control, confidence and belonging. Enablement was also  experienced due to the increased support offered to those with a diagnosis, plus  an enhanced ability to seek and also accept help.


Potential negative effects of a diagnosis for mild ADHD are less documented and can include disempowerment; providing an excuse for problems, a decrease in responsibility, deflection from other problems, loss of control and passiveness. The diagnosis can also create prejudice from others leading to negative consequences.


At Re:Cognition Health, we believe in the importance of an early and accurate diagnosis for any condition affecting the brain and mind, in order for individuals to access the very best treatment and support. Dr Dimitrios Paschos, Consultant Psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health comments, “Our expert team of consultants routinely cross check the validity of ADHD symptoms with evaluating information from informants, school, clinical presentation, data from validated questionnaires, data from ADHD online testing tools, or other neuropsychology to confidently rule out other medical, developmental or psychiatric conditions that can mimic ADHD. Our assessments are systematic and thorough, using the best available method to diagnose ADHD with high accuracy by known medical ADHD experts.”


Dr Paschos also believes that in the UK, ADHD is under-diagnosed, due to many factors including extensive waiting times for assessments, limited knowledge of symptoms and scepticism of GPs.


Dr Maite Ferrin, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, who is also part of the pan-European steering committee of the Continuum ADHD Project, also adds that there is a big divide between ADHD and the sexes. She explains , “ADHD is diagnosed three times more often in boys than girls, and boys are referred more frequently to a Child and Adolescent mental health service.  This is because symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity are more pronounced, and because boys usually present with more externalising symptoms, such as aggression, defiance and conduct problems.”


Receiving an accurate diagnosis:

The only way to receive an accurate ADHD diagnosis is through a specialist assessment in a clinical environment which lasts 2 hours. The assessment includes an online test, QbCheck, a clinical interview which is the only ADHD test CE marked and FDA/TGA cleared for use as an aid in the assessment and treatment evaluation of ADHD. The technology measures attention, impulsivity and motor activity and is used to support the final clinical judgement. At Re:Cognition Health, our null hypothesis is that this person does not have ADHD, our team use all collated information from the assessment to make the unbiased diagnosis.


For further information on ADHD assessments, contact our team on: 0203 808 5439

For further information on ADHD visit :


To read the review on Jama Network visit:




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