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A Disease Called Childhood: Why ADHD Became an American Epidemic
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A Disease Called Childhood: Why ADHD Became an American Epidemic

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  205 ratings  ·  39 reviews
A surprising new look at the rise of ADHD in America, arguing for a better paradigm for diagnosing and treating our children
In 1987, only 3 percent of American children were diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD. By 2000, that number jumped to 7 percent, and in 2014 the number rose to an alarming 11 percent. To combat the disorder, tw
Hardcover, 250 pages
Published March 24th 2015 by Avery
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Jun 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: education, parenting
I really liked the second half of the book as she gives really helpful parenting tips for all children, not just those with ADHD.

However, I wish she wasn't such a firm believer there is no biological link to ADHD. I have seen the connection across generations in my own family. That doesn't mean you must medicate. It just shows the relationship is there.
Laura Hoffman Brauman
This was an interesting read, although it was clear that the author had a very specific opinion/perspective. Some good things to think about -- particularly some of the differences culturally between the US and other countries. The book also gave some solid behavioral recommendations to reduce concerning behaviors, although none of them were innovative or unusual. Ultimately, I think the book might have been more effective if it had presented both sides of the diagnosis coin as well as both side ...more
Aug 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
This book was incredibly insightful.
Oct 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Good book on the current state of ADHD diagnosis and treatment. Although I do think there are specific instances where ADHD is definitely a medical problem requiring medication, I agree with the author that in a large number of cases the underlying cause of hyperactivity/inattention has an emotional or behavioral cause requiring different intervention both at home and at school. I was surprised to learn that there are not a lot of good research studies on the benefits of ADHD drugs. Yes, they ma ...more
May 17, 2015 added it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book really spoke to many of my personal experiences with "ADHD" children, both in my martial arts classes and working as an ESL teacher in the public school system. The author added nuances to my understanding of ADHD by addressing "psychosocial & situational" factors that deeply affect children's behavior. Great information for educators, but also left me feeling overwhelmed by the many places where things go awry for today's children. ...more
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
Well written, but same old stuff - don't eat artificial foods, don't take medicine, go to therapy. Have you tried to get a teenager to stop eating junk food and go to therapy?
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
In a nutshell: According to Wedge, data do not support the classification of ADHD as a biological illness. Rather, it's a cluster of related symptoms that can improve when environmental factors change (e.g. parenting style, educational mismatch). In the 1970s, a shift occurred in psychiatry away from psychoanalysis/a more “psychosocial” approach and toward a biological one. Doctors wanted to be able to diagnose psychiatric problems more uniformly, so diagnostic criteria that simplified the proce ...more
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
It was a very interesting read and one I'm glad I was able to find. If I could I would give it 3.5 stars, but it doesn't need to round down to a 3.

There was a lot of good information on the history of how the ADHD diagnosis developed and the differing opinions on what it entailed. The book was well written, easy to understand, and the chapters were self-contained but flowed together into a comprehensive narrative. There are endnotes, but they aren't particularly easy to use because there are no
Oct 31, 2017 rated it liked it
I had higher hopes for this book. The author argues that there are 3 main beliefs about ADHD: that it is a biological disorder that needs to be treated with medication, that it is a combination of genetic/biologic risk factors and a child's environment, or that it is a set of behaviors completely caused by the child's environment. The author firmly believes it is the last of these. I tend to believe it is the middle option. She makes great points annoy the risks of medicating young kids, the nee ...more
Chelsey McNeil
She doesn't quite find a balance between advocating for top-down, federal-level programs with early interventions for children at risk for ADHD diagnoses, and trusting parents to do what's best for their children. As a homeschooler, I am wary of in-home visits, supervision by social workers, and universal programs. So when she talks about those things being necessary to stem the tide of ADHD in America, I cringe a little bit.
Despite that, there is so much helpful here, especially tracing the lin
Sharon Bodnar
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Well written and informative; I totally agreed with her premise. My son’s elementary school teachers suggested we see a psychiatrist for ADHD which we did for a while but I disagreed with the diagnosis and didn’t like keeping him on drugs. My husband actually has it and his behavior and habits were way more in line with that diagnosis.

My son is a creative, imaginative person and has done well.

That said every parent should do research, consult with perhaps more than one doctor and then decide wh
Feb 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Enjoyed this book, learned a lot. The only frustrating part was that it seems like every other paragraph says, ".... but we'll get into that in Chapter Seven..." or "As I'll discuss later in Chapter Eight..." and it made it sound a little like it was constantly starting things and then saying, "never mind we'll go back to that". Still a very interesting book, just a little disjointed.
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous book. Author does a great job of focusing on skepticism and encouragement of alternative treatments instead of creating an "I'm right, they're wrong" argument concerning ADHD. The history she provides as well as stories of patients, physicians, amd researchers creates the tale surrounding ADHD throughout the decades. highly recommend this book.
Rajan Desai
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fast/easy read. Author does a good job of recounting the evolution of ADHD in the USA versus other countries. Some statistics were a little misleading in phrasing like comparing 54 kilobits to 20 million bits. Provides great insight into other factors to consider instead of or before reaching for a cure in a bottle.
Fry (Evra) Morgan
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Love the content and premise - ADHD is disturbingly overdiagnosed at best, a questionable diagnostic entity at worst. I found the writing style a bit loose and fragmented. The "case reports" seemed pointless to me, particularly from a PhD author. I would have preferred a deeper focus on the date that is swept under the rug in favor of the stimulants-for-ADHD narrative. Recommended read, overall.
E Hella
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Should be required reading for all parents and teachers in the US. Wedge unearths alliances between child psychiatrists and drug companies who produce stimumants, plus airs buried data about the proven relationship between artificial food dyes and hyperactive behavior.
Bethzaida E Adorno

Great read for those trying to understand inventiveness. Highly recommend before you take a drastic medication approach that may hurt your child in the long run. Remember that education is a lifelong marathon and not only measured by good grades.
Aug 21, 2016 rated it liked it
The pharmaceutical industry and current medical practice would have everyone believe that all indications of ADHD arise from a chemical imbalance that should be treated with various levels of powerful drugs. The author points out that rates of diagnoses of ADHD in other similar Western societies are less than half of the ever increasing numbers in the United States. The knee-jerk reaction in the US to medicate hyperactive children rather than to try other strategies that she has successfully pur ...more
Mama K
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
BREEZED through this book and I LOVED it. this book exposed, with detailed and valid research, EVERYTHING I have long believed about the ADHD epidemic in the U.S. This book details the hoax that Big Pharma and paid off doctors have perpetrated on the American Public. WEdge uses case study after case study after case study, and even Big Pharma's own records, to expose how the ADHD disagnosis has become BIG Buisness for the pharmaceutical companies but also BIG trouble for the future our our natio ...more
Jane Lack
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very interesting read for anyone with kids.
Christina Dudley
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Fortunately I haven't had to deal with this with my own kids, but I was interested in the rise of this previously unknown diagnosis. Author Wedge is a longtime family therapist who is pro-therapy and dealing with causes, rather than going straight for the drugs. She covers how Big Pharma is intertwined with the journals publishing pro-drug articles, the different philosophies toward inattention and hyperactivity that France and Finland take, and even the possible connections to diet and processe ...more
Palimpest Living
Oct 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Very well done book. Explored the social, physical and nutritional aspects of how and why the rates of ADHD have skyrocketed. Plenty of case studies of the many diverse and sometimes complex situations in which children are being unnecessarily diagnosed, and made it shockingly clear how quick phyicians are to hand out psychotropic drugs to our children!

Although I was skeptical of some of them (the trauma-safe schools), the author did provide a variety of ideas and suggestions on how we can reve
Sep 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Chapters on Big Pharma and Biological Psychiatry and "How did we get here?" were especially interesting, comparing "prevalence" of ADHD, and use of stimulant drugs in US vs. other countries. End of book was more filled with parenting advice and examples of family therapy. Good read for sure.
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
Good and interesting. Wedge is a family therapist with years in practice and her book is very easy to read and understand. The book is a longer version of an article: Why French kids don't have ADHD. I enjoyed reading a book that backed up my ideas about ADHD with information. The book is also absolutely f*cking terrifying with its information on Big Pharma companies and the lack of medical evidence for ADHD.
Jean Pace
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book. At times it was discouraging to read because it seemed there was nothing to be done to fight some of the big influences (such as big pharma) influencing the over-diagnosis of ADHD. But there were also several chapters that made a parent feel that there were steps to take within our own spheres that could help. Throughout I felt that the book was thoughtful and well-researched. It also contained several good doses of common sense.
Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have long been skeptical about ADHD and the mass administration of stimulants to children, but as the dad of a particularly energetic and enthusiastic son who will start kindergarten soon, I feel that I have reason to be concerned. The last thing I want to do is medicate, and this book suggests that there are, at least, other options. Good parenting advice in the last chapter, although some parts of the book come off as paranoid.
Pamela Marshall
Jan 17, 2016 rated it liked it
This is an expansion and rehash of her earlier work and her article "Why French Kids Don't Have ADHD." I gave it 3 stars because much of the book was not new to me, since I had read her previous writings. That being said, if you're not familiar with her previous work, I'd highly recommend the book. It's easy to read, she's a very good writer, and she intersperses the anecdote and the science well.
Stephanie Woolford
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is so informative and objective. I have a sibling with ADHD and watching him grow and develop with the medications and diagnoses that the doctors gave him has been a source of conflict between myself and my mother. Dr. Wedge addresses that although in extreme circumstances, ADHD exists, it is over diagnosed and over medicated. she takes an objective and educated stance on our children's futures.
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An informative analysis of how Big Pharma, Psychology (The science of lies), and Corporate America has bamboozled uninformed parents, teachers, and doctors into believing that ADHD is a biological issue causing an American Epidemic - thus another disease to combat with drugs. Once again "the emperor has new clothes".
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
"As a society, we have grown so comfortable with psychiatric diagnoses such as ADHD that we are apt to forget that mental health categories are tied closely to culture. Every culture defines what is considered normal behavior and anyone who behaves differently is considered deviant or abnormal" (92).
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Marilyn Wedge, Ph.D., lic. MFT, is a family therapist and author of three books and numerous professional articles in the field of family therapy. She has a Bachelor's Degree and a Doctorate from the University of Chicago, and was a post-doctoral fellow at the Hastings Center for Bioethics in New York. She has taught at the California State University, East Bay, the College of the Art Institute of ...more

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“[T]he biological model of psychiatry appealed to parents who had often felt blamed when they took their child to a psychoanalytically oriented therapist. Parents became resistant when therapists began suggesting making changes to their parenting model as part of their children's treatment.
[...] [P]arents found relief in the idea that their child suffered from a real biological illness, in whose origins they or other family members played no role. [...] Instead of "blaming" parents for their children's problems, the new biological way of diagnosing children let parents off the hook entirely.”
“There's no doubt that stimulant drugs work to improve attentiveness. The catch is that research has shown that stimulants help anyone focus, whether or not they have symptoms of ADHD.
[...] With this in mind, I can't help but wonder whether we are actually treating a childhood mental illness with these medications or instead are allowing the drugs to transform our very image of childhood.”
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