The Accuracy Of Current ADHD Statistics

By Steven Finkelstein|Updated October 5, 2022

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a condition that has become better known in the past couple of decades. In many contexts, this is because more doctors began to diagnose it and more children started being placed on medication for it. ADHD statistics began to rise, and as they did so, the question of how many people have ADHD has seemed like a natural one to ask. Many parents have wondered if their child has it or whether they're merely rambunctious or high spirited. In this article, we'll talk about some of the current ADHD statistics and how much they can be trusted.

How Many People Have ADHD?

In 2015, the CDC came out with a report that stated that the number of Americans, both adults, and children, with ADHD were rising steadily. They reported that it had been 7.8 percent in 2003, that it had been 9.5 percent in 2007, and that it was 11 percent in 2011. There was also a notable disparity as it relates to gender. Boys were close to three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as girls, at a rate of 13.2 percent to 5.6 percent.

ADHD Is Common And Treatable

How Credible Is This Report?

It is generally understood that the CDC, the Center for Disease Control, should be regarded as an authority when it comes to the reporting of facts and figures concerning any illness or medical condition. Moreover, it's hard to argue with these stats because the CDC isn't trying to state conclusively that each person who has been diagnosed with ADHD has it. What seems clear is that the number of people who are being diagnosed with ADHD is going up steadily amongst the American population.

ADHD: A Uniquely American Problem?

There has been some thought among medical professionals going back several decades that ADHD is a more prevalent issue in the United States than elsewhere in the world. These doctors and researchers felt that cultural and societal factors in America specifically might be to blame for the rise in ADHD. In some other countries and societies, those factors were not as prevalent, hence fewer cases of ADHD were being diagnosed.

However, another school of thought is that ADHD is just as prevalent in other parts of the world, but that medical professionals in different countries and societies might be hesitant to diagnose it. That may be because of a stigma associated with the disorder. Children (or adults) diagnosed with ADHD might be ostracized so that other reasons might be given for their behavior.

ADHD Seems To Be Widespread

World Psychiatry came out with a study that seemed to enforce the belief that ADHD was just as prevalent the world over, and that a smaller rate of diagnosis in countries other than America was due partly because of stigma, and partially because doctors might be confused as to the symptoms or behaviors indicative of it.

If we are to believe the study, then ADHD statistics which show a continuing rise in the condition mean just one thing: there is something, or many things, about modern society in many parts of the world that is leading to higher ADHD rates, and there doesn't seem to be any sign of the numbers flattening out. The thought is a bit alarming, and it leads to two questions: first, exactly how harmful is ADHD? And second, what is it that's causing it?

How Harmful Is ADHD?

First, let's address the issue of exactly how harmful or detrimental it is to have ADHD. There are numerous ways that the disorder can manifest itself, but the most common symptoms or behaviors associated with it are difficulty with hyperactivity and keeping oneself under control. If we're talking about school-aged children, then that can lead to problems in the classroom, as the youngsters who have ADHD are likely to distract their fellow pupils through their fidgeting, joking, talking, singing, etc.

This brings up the question that lots of people have had almost since the concept of ADHD was put forth: before the condition was discovered, might not the children who had it have been labeled "troublemakers," and unjustly punished for their difficulty concentrating?

It Can Lead to Serious Problems

While ADHD is not a life-threatening condition, children who can't concentrate might not be able to retain the information in school that they need to pass tests and ascend to higher grades. As adults, these individuals can have a difficult time holding down jobs. They may have issues with their self-esteem because they feel that there's something "wrong" or "different" about them. In extreme cases, they might even struggle with addiction, as self-medicating is common among those with ADHD due to feelings of depression or worthlessness.

What Causes ADHD?

As for what causes it, if there was a clear answer to that then perhaps steps could be taken to remove whatever environmental factors are playing a part. However, while studies continue, there doesn't seem to be any one thing that causes ADHD. Genetics do play a role, as those who have a family with the disorder are likelier to have it themselves. Some medical professionals have cited video games as a problem, or television, or the widespread prevalence now of cell phones and the many apps and games that are available for them.

Others believe that the presence of certain environmental factors can play a part. Exposure to lead, they feel, may be an underlying cause of ADHD, while some think that problems with the central nervous system during development may play a role. Some have also pointed to maternal smoking, drinking, and drug use during pregnancy.

ADHD Is Common And Treatable

What Can Be Done About It?

Content Warning: Please be advised, the below section might mention topics that include prescription medication, abuse of medication, and addiction. The information found in the article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have.

What seems clear is that ADHD is a serious condition and not one to be taken lightly. If a child or adult is diagnosed with it and it is causing problems in their life, then they should consult a medical professional to get more information as to their options.

It is also worth mentioning that there are millions of individuals living with ADHD, and many of them are doing fine thanks to combinations of behavior modification approaches alongside the use of prescription drugs. There are several drugs on the market now that have shown great promise in tempering many of the behaviors associated with ADHD, and new ones are being developed all the time. A doctor might prescribe one to see if it works, and if it doesn't, then they can adjust the dosage. If that drug proves ineffective, then there are others. There is no reason that a person who has been diagnosed with ADHD should feel hopeless. There are more options now than there ever have been before.

Resist The Urge To Self-Medicate

It's vital to mention, though, that for those with ADHD who aren't getting the professional help they need, the urge to self-medicate can be powerful. That's because of the problems with jobs, school, and relationships that we already mentioned. Some people with ADHD even face negative attention from people that they know, again because of the stigma associated with being "different."

If you find yourself in that situation, your first action should be to seek out a caring doctor who can give you some good advice. Together, you and that doctor can talk about your options. Avoid dulling the problem or pushing it away through the use of alcohol, marijuana, or the many illegal drugs that are out there.

There Is Hope For Those With ADHD

The answer to the query of how many people have ADHD may be surprising to some, as the numbers keep going up. It's true that plenty of our friends, family, and neighbors have the disorder, and while that's not an ideal situation, it does present us with an opportunity.

As a population, we can send a message to those who have it that they are not different or in some way less than us. We can send strong indicators that we are accepting of them. 

As for those who have been diagnosed with the condition, by no means should it be regarded as the worst news in the world. The essential thing to remember is that options do exist now, and while more people are being diagnosed with ADHD, there is also a greater understanding of it, and there are more options that exist for combating the more harmful aspects of having it. When you seek out medical help from professionals, like one of the thousands licensed mental health providers at BetterHelp, you can take the first steps toward normalizing your life, and often that is what those with ADHD want more than anything else.

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.