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Over Diagnosing ADHD

Ask the Experts by Nicole Runyon

Q: I recently read that children with ADHD symptoms have parents who are overwhelmed and anxious. How does an overwhelmed, anxious parent create symptoms of ADHD in their child?

A: One thing to keep in mind is that ADHD is often over-diagnosed, and in this case, I am talking about children who may exhibit some ADHD symptoms but should not be considered ADHD. It is important to understand the core issues with these children and once we do, we can work on the symptoms. 
Children are immature emotional beings and they do not know how to regulate their emotions. That’s why you see things like tantrums. Tantrums are totally normal developmentally, but not after a certain age.

Our job as parents is to help contain those emotions. This is done mostly through modeling. Children are so highly connected to their parents so that when a parent is anxious, their child is going to pick up on that. Overwhelmed, albeit well-meaning parents may take out their frustrations on their children without considering that children are watching. If you as the parent have a difficult time processing your emotions, children will inevitably follow suit.

A child with ADHD symptoms will exhibit difficulty focusing, acting out behaviors, coupled with hyperactivity, often a result of non-regulated emotions. When I see children with ADD and ADHD symptoms in my practice, I often end up working more with the parents. In order to see any lasting change in children parents have to make changes first.

Nicole Runyon, LMSW, is a licensed clinical social worker in Grosse Pointe. She has 12 years of experience working with children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families focusing on various psychological issues. Nicole can be reached at 313.215.1186 or Her practice, Professional Psychotherapy LLC is a member of The Family Center’s Association of Professionals. 

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