A Harvard Doc Says My Son Doesn’t Have ADHD

Jerome Kagan, one of Harvard University’s dominant psychologists is making quite the rounds on the internet. In a 2012 interview, he shared a very controversial opinion regarding Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder — he believes it doesn’t exist. If you’d like to read his entire interview here, feel free, but let me spoil it for you: He believes we are over-medicating our children and ADHD, an invented disorder, could be dealt with through tutoring and paying more attention to our children.

Should I have started with the disclaimer that my oldest son is diagnosed with ADHD?  Probably. I think it matters because my point of view in raising a child with ADHD verses a psychologist who merely studies them may garner different results.

With that said, I do agree with quite a bit the good doctor stated in his interview. For instance, when asked about the difference in numbers between mentally ill children (aka kids with some sort of mental disorder attached to them) now and in the 1960s, Dr. Kagan replied:

“We have a 7-year-old child who is bored in school and disrupts classes. Back then, he was called lazy. Today, he is said to suffer from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). That’s why the numbers have soared.”

However, he then goes on to say he believes ADHD to be an invented mental disorder.

“That’s correct; it is an invention. Every child who’s not doing well in school is sent to see a pediatrician, and the pediatrician says: “It’s ADHD; here’s Ritalin.” In fact, 90 percent of these 5.4 million kids don’t have an abnormal dopamine metabolism. The problem is, if a drug is available to doctors, they’ll make the corresponding diagnosis.”

Here’s where we disagree a bit. I completely believe our human race, as a whole, to be over medicated. I believe there have been man-made inventions which are preferred for instant reward. Headache? Pain reliever. Sore muscles? Muscle relaxer. Heart Burn? Antacid. You get the idea.  I also agree these “issues” are symptoms to something greater; more often than not, we don’t want to take time in discovering the cause of our symptoms–we just want the problem fixed. Now.


SEE MORE: Parenting ADHD: 6 Things I Wish I  Had Known


Essentially Dr. Kagan is saying this is exactly what happens with ADHD. He believes that doctors and pharmaceutical companies drive prescriptions. And they may.


My doctor didn’t drive me to medicate my son.

In fact, my doctor preferred to try everything else before meds. Once on medication, he strongly advocated for the lowest possible dose.

Additionally, we spent many times in the office where our doc made sure it was very clear to my son that his meds would not solve all of his issues in school.

This doesn’t sound like a doctor being courted by a pharmaceutical company. And my monthly budget certainly didn’t want to add meds to the shopping list.

Are there families and children that are victim to greedy doctors and drug companies? Sadly, I believe there are. But for Dr. Kagan to make such a blanket statement regarding any and all children with this diagnosis is, well, dangerous.

Luckily he is just one doctor. One believer. One man. Forgive me if adding Harvard to the end of his name doesn’t impress me much.

Let me introduce you to Dr. Amen. The first thing I loved about Dr. Amen is he deals with disorders in children within his extended family (nephew) and his own daughters. I beg of you to watch the video below from its starting point to minute 37:15–about 5 minutes.

This man has been in the trenches and watched, lived with and loved children who have “abnormal” brain function 24 hours a day. This is a man whose opinion I value.

In watching many of his lectures, my biggest realization has been this: My ADHD son is not mentally ill. I will not refer to him as having a mental disorder or brain disorder.  What he does have is a brain that works differently than majority of humans.  Does this mean he’s abnormal? It does not. This means that instead of having blue eyes, he has brown. Instead of having freckles, he doesn’t have any. It means he functions differently from you and me.  Does everyone love studying frogs in the rain forest? Nope. Does loving to do that make them abnormal? Heck no. And maybe this is what Dr. Kagan is trying to say…but his wording simply doesn’t sit right with me. Rather than saying ADHD is an invention, let’s understand that ADHD is describing the way in which my son’s brain functions.

One more thing I will agree with Dr. Kagan about is that our current state of society and expectations makes it hard with someone (like my son) to function in the expected manner. Tutoring and more one-on-one time would help tremendously. It would resolve some of the “issues” those with this invented disorder have, but certainly not everything.


SEE MORE: Don’t Give Up On Me Because I’m ADHD: A Letter From My Son


If we were in the 1800s, my son would most likely have been milking cows and doing hard labor starting at 4am. After chores were done, he’d be in a classroom with 20 less kids than today, for a shorter amount of time. His diet would be significantly different and then he’d be back outside until dark doing more chores or playing until his legs dropped dead. So yes, Dr. Kagan, our society is different now. Our lifestyles have changed in a way that is not friendly to those who need to keep busy and function in an “abnormal manner”. But guess what? The ADHD diagnosis allows my son to get the extra tutoring at school you say he so desperately needs; without this “made-up invention” he can’t get exceptions in school with his 504.  Instead he’d be stuck in a classroom of 32 kids drowning.

If you want to get to the root cause of over-diagnosing ADHD, I’m all for it. The first order of business isn’t to look at the kids who are struggling, but to look at the environment they are struggling in. This very well could be one of those moments where the problem isn’t them — it’s us.  Let’s find ways to understand those who struggle, how they work, and what we can do to help them be successful.

Until our entire society can change together instantaneously, please be understanding and respectful to those who actually have brains which function differently than the average person. These are the ones who need to be labeled ADHD;  they need extra help, even if that extra help includes labeling them with what Dr. Kagan would call a “made-up invention” so they can get medication, or therapy recommendations, or exceptions in school…and the list goes on.

I am okay with medical professionals labeling the way my son’s brain function as ADHD. It’s not made up. Dr. Amen’s lectures and thousands of brain scans have made it very clear that my son’s brain is special, unique and needs a little bit of help to fit in to our societal boxes.  I just hope everyone else out there who runs in to a kid (or mom, or co-worker, or spouse) with ADHD can fully understand this and love these wonderfully special people we call ADHD.


See More on TodaysMama.com!

Parenting ADHD: 6 Things I Wish I Had Known

5 Signs Your Child Has Anxiety (That You’re Probably Ignoring)

Dear Anxiety, You Are Paralyzing.

The post A Harvard Doc Says My Son Doesn’t Have ADHD appeared first on TodaysMama.

Dear Anxiety, You Are Paralyzing.

Dear Anxiety,


I see you.


In the last two years I have gotten to know on a pretty close level. You have come in and out of my life. We are not friends. To be honest, I kind of loathe you, actually. More recently, you have become a daily battle for me. You can take any moment, any situation, and use it to bring some of the greatest panic and fear I have ever experienced. It’s been a tough season for me as a Mother. I am trying hard to be strong, to be brave; to find my value in who I am as Mom. There are times I feel lost in raising tiny humans, but I know I am doing a good job. I know that Motherhood is not having the right answers. It is sometimes simply winging it and not having a clue what you are doing.

However, if I am being entirely honest, the days you sneak up on me I have a pretty hard time seeing just how good of a job I am actually doing, especially when I feel like I should have the right answers. I should know how to handle tantrums. I should have a well behaved children. You are a master at speaking lies to me. You are crippling. You instill fear. You cause me to worry about things that may never even happen. There have been days when I can’t even take my kids to the park because I am afraid they will be kidnapped.

You are paralyzing.

dear anxiety hate you

I first encountered you after the triplets were born. You used sleep deprivation to suffocate me. I had no amount of energy and could never catch up on my sleep. The panic attacks kicked in and swallowed me whole. At the time, it was hard for me to even recognize and admit how difficult things were for me as a new Mom. I wasn’t enjoying the season. I waited for so long to become a Mother and you hijacked my heart with guilt and told me lies about who I was as a Mom. You stole moments I could have shared with my babies. I felt so lonely, so misunderstood.

I hated you then like I hate you know.

Eventually, I saw what was happening to me. My husband, friends and family-they saw it too. And I got the help I needed to learn how to manage you.

And yet, here we are, two years later, and I see you trying to poor the physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion over me once again. You are using the terrible twos to make me question myself as a Mom and if I can even handle this tiring and often thankless job. You use tantrums to suck every piece of patience right out of me. You constantly steal the grace I should have for myself as a Mother and exchange it with panic and guilt. You use Mom-shamers to steal my confidence. You know all the tricks to make me believe untruths about who I am as a Mom.

However, the difference between two years ago and now is, now, I know how to face you a little better than I did before. I know the importance of being vulnerable even when it is hard, even when I don’t want to. I know that I have to talk about the fact that right now, I am having a hard time enjoying this season of Motherhood; and that it is okay. I have to cling to the people I trust most in my life; the ones who don’t judge me when my kids are throwing yogurt across the room during breakfast and enjoying a lollipop before 9am. The ones who still love me even when I lose my temper. The ones who know I am just as mortified when my kid bites theirs. The ones I can share my secrets with and know they are safe there.

dear anxiety

I know when my husband says, “Go to target. Buy a new dress. I will get the kids to bed tonight,” I need to let him because he means it. I see you and so does he. I have been incredibly impressed by the actions he took to ensure we could walk through this season together and find solutions to help me through some pretty tough days. He made the big moves. He was willing to be there for me however I needed, to help me through this strangling season.

I know that I have to be willing to face you even when I am ashamed of the events of the day and how I responded to the whining, biting, fighting, crying, and hitting (And yes, sometimes all of that happens within minutes of each other). Those are the days when my Mom anger kicks in, guilt takes over, and I am entirely ashamed of who I have become and how I have responded. Any kind of grace I could have had for myself is gone. Those are the hardest days. I have learned how important grace is. I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t have all the right answers. I fail every day. And that is okay. That is grace. I have to pray. I have to pray hard and know that God chose me to a be a Mom to my babies because He knew I could handle it.

dear anxiety parenting

I know when it is time to make a Doctor’s appointment and talk about medication to help. To be honest, this step was probably the hardest for me. It is hard to walk into the Doctor’s office and admit that you don’t have it all together. However, I know that sometimes going on medication is just the best way to manage you. There is no shame in that. And this time around, I knew I needed to take those steps to get the help that I needed in order to get through my days a little better.

I am in the trenches of Motherhood trying to hold onto every bit of patience I could possibly have for my kids. My days spent with three pretty active testing your limits two year olds are filled with all kinds of challenges. The days are getting better and you and I aren’t as close as we used to be, but it is still hard. However, the beautiful thing is, is that God always makes beauty out of our ashes. It is seasons like this that change you. They allow to grow and become a stronger, wiser version of yourself. They give you hope and remind you just how great of a Mother you actually are. And that is what I will choose to take away from this incredibly exhausting, yet entirely empowering season of Motherhood.


The I still don’t always have it together Mom


Desiree Fortin is a Mom to almost 2 year old triplets. Her journey to become a Mom was not easy, but it is one of hope and beauty. Desiree is a blogger and photographer.  You can read Desiree’s blog, visit her on Instagram, or visit her Facebook page to learn more.


See More on TodaysMama.com!

This Is What My Postpartum Depression Looked Like

To My 12 Remaining Embryos

6 Things Depressed Parents Need To Know

This Is What My Postpartum Depression Looked Like

I am not a medical professional. I wasn’t even diagnosed with postpartum depression by a medical professional after any of my 4 pregnancies and deliveries. I am, however, a mother who has spent a few years in her body and has recently been enlightened; all it took was paying a little attention to my before and after self.

Once you become pregnant, or even start reading up on pregnancy and delivery, postpartum depression gets thrown in to nearly every conversation. I read about and lots of conversations about it. I even read Brooke Shield’s book “Down Came the Rain”. I felt for her and every other story I heard regarding postpartum depression.  Problem was: I couldn’t relate to any of them. I was having a hard time, but that’s called running on two hours of sleep and being a new mom, right? My entire life had changed–I wasn’t depressed like the stories I had heard or read. I pushed through.

When my first son was a just over a year old we moved to a new city, my husband had a new job, and I had left the workforce as a full-time employee and was simply “Mom” 24 hours a day. I had an infinitely busy child and life wasn’t my favorite. Things were hard. I was angry all the time. I was inexplicably sad just as often. I excused my anger and sadness because life had turned upside down. Of course I was unhappy and struggling to adjust.  The first notion that something may be more serious than just “change” was the afternoon my husband called from work stating he had looked in to our insurance plan and psychologists were covered. Um… thanks, babe? You can go jump off a cliff now. (I guess he had noticed something was off.)

A short time later I became pregnant with my second baby and moved back to the city we were previously in. Life had settled down. I completely forgot about my anger, I cried less and simply laughed about my husband’s well-meaning, but absurd phone call.

This routine continued every 2 years for the next 3 babies.  Waves of emotions, moving, new jobs, change of plans, less sleep, more babies and one hundred more reasons to explain why I was having a hard time–I became an expert at justifying my emotions. If only I had realized what was truly going on.

(From RenoVatio)

My last baby is now seven; if I could go back to the new-mom version of myself, I would shake her and tell her to go to the doctor. Incessant anger and crying is not normal and, more importantly, is not normal for me.  My unknowing fault was chalking up these new emotions (that seem to be sticking around) to the new version of me. Kids change you, they say. Your hormones will be crazy, they say.  So I dealt with it. This had to be the new me.

I’m here to tell you that you should not accept a sad, angry, stressed out version of yourself as the new you. Babies change you, but they don’t (and shouldn’t) ruin your emotional stability (at least in the long term <wink>).

According to the World Health Organization, postpartum depression affects roughly 10 to 15 percent of women in industrialized countries and 20 to 40 percent in developing countries. The American Psychological Association puts that number at 1 in 7 women in the U.S. But hear me out–if I had taken this survey I would have marked that I did not have postpartum depression because I had no idea that is what I was dealing with! Makes you wonder what the real numbers are.

I can tell you now that my postpartum depression came in waves and usually displayed itself as anger and sadness.  Anger at everything. Anger at myself. Anger at my kids. Anger at life. But it was never out of control–I never felt like I was going to hurt myself or my children. Mine was a consistent grouchiness (which I could turn on and off depending on my social interactions).  When the anger fled it usually was replaced with sadness. The most frustrating part was trying to explain it to my husband. He would ask what was wrong and I truly could not explain it to him. Not even a little bit. I’d assure him that I really was happy (because I was), but sometimes I just felt off and didn’t know how to climb out of it.




Let me describe my sadness–it isn’t what you think. Fine, it isn’t what I thought.  I read about depression and saw all the commercials.  I wasn’t withdrawing from what I loved. I still went out with my friends. I still laughed with my husband. I still got out of bed without having to pry my legs off the mattress. However, I was sad about everything. I cried when I dropped my spatula on the floor.  I cried when I didn’t have time to stop and grab a diet coke.  I cried when my son stopped abruptly and spilled his crackers. I cried when someone told a random story that had nothing to do with me or my children or my life–like at all (I hid these tears real good).  I cried when I read about a mouse named Chrysanthemum.  I cried when I forgot to change the laundry to the dryer.  The most interesting part to me now?? I didn’t question this behavior at all. None of this raised red flags to me, even though I had NEVER been like this before. This angry-sad-crying-thing is just what “having kids has made me”.  Right?! No. Guys…this is not normal. A dropped spatula should not make you cry.

As my youngest hit year 2-5, things had evened out. I cried less. I was angry less. I was happy!  Again, our life situation had adjusted, calming down a bit, and I chalked it all up to that.

And then the tears started again. Everything was hard, and sad, and so sad and then sometimes I didn’t want to get out of bed because my whole life would start over again and I just couldn’t.

Ding! Ding! Ding! Lightbulb!

Oh… so this feels more like the depression I read about.

Then one morning I looked at my clock and said “I don’t need to get up. I don’t want to. I won’t. Kids are better without a grumpy, crying mom.” And then the word depressed washed over me. Every. Single. Thing. Clicked. So this is what depression looks like… for me. Anger and tears. In the last 12 years I only had this one inkling of what depression looked like on paper, but that was enough to tie it all together for me. Wow.  What a long 12 years. Hindsight, amiright?

Bless our dear, sweet, patient (hopefully) spouses. This is hard on them, too. PsychologyToday.com published a wonderful article for dads (or any spouse) on how to help and what is not helpful when your loved one is dealing with postpartum depression. Share this with someone you love.


My dear friend who works as a doula and has spent many, many hours with postpartum moms made an off-the-cuff comment that postpartum often times mimics PMS.  Imagine your bad PMS week — then extend it for weeks and months and sometimes years. This is what I had! This was me! This was so very much me!  And It is Not. Normal.  Check yourself, Mamas! I plead with you. Assess your emotional state. Ask your spouse if need be. What is different about me? Your postpartum depression may not look like Brooke Shields or the pamphlet from the hospital. That doesn’t mean you don’t have it and it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek help.  Don’t compare your struggles to someone else. And the kicker–just because you are completely functional doesn’t mean you are living your best possible life. If something feels off, get it checked out. It can’t hurt anything to have a conversation.


See More on TodaysMama.com!

3 Ways I’m Working on my Postpartum Fitness

6 Things Depressed Parents Need to Know

My Postnatal Depression Made Me a BETTER Mom




I Love My Son, But His Mental Illness Makes Me Not Like Him

He often told me, without any basis, that I was the sole cause of his problems.

On an early spring night, my husband and I stood in our front doorway, watching as two police officers bundled our son into the back seat of the patrol car.

By Nancy Wolf

The first time I saw our son being led out of our house in handcuffs was when he was 17 years old, three months shy of his high school graduation.

On an early spring night, my husband and I stood in our front doorway, watching as two police officers bundled our son into the back seat of the patrol car. Quickly they sped off, lights blazing but sirens thankfully silent, to drive him to the psychiatric unit of the hospital. My husband and I walked back inside, sat down on the nearest chairs, too stunned to talk.

Our son’s behavior had been spiraling out of control for months. We had pleaded with him, argued with each other, pleaded with him and then returned to arguing. He wasn’t listening to us, and my husband and I could hardly bear to listen to each other, so far apart were we in our thinking.

“It will get better,” my husband said, “This is just a stressful phase.”

“I don’t think so,” I told him, “This is beyond stress. I’m afraid of what might happen next.”

And when the vindictive comments became raging anger and the raging anger turned into threats, that night when it all erupted, we called our son’s psychiatrist who suggested we call the police.

I knew to ask for officers with mental health training. The older officer had a calm presence and his young female partner spoke in a soothing voice. Our son grew less hostile as they spoke with him. He cooperated and readily gathered up his clothes and his backpack, as if he were going to school.

But he wasn’t. They don’t put you in handcuffs for carpool.

We arrived at the hospital late that night. The reception desk directed us to the locked door of the “mental health” unit where we had to press the button to be admitted. A social worker introduced herself, and led us to a corner of the waiting room where she, casually dressed, impassive faced, wearily asked us questions and duly took notes of our responses.

Those were the high (or low) points. Then the social worker left us until morning and my husband and I settled in to doze through the rest of the night in those soon-to-become-very-familiar hard orange plastic chairs. Our son spent that night in another room down the hall, with the door left open and the overhead light on all night so he could be easily observed by the nurses. He refused to talk to us.

The hope that rose up in me that first night, that this was a promptly fixable medical problem, has long since been replaced by reality.

We have seen other police officers come into our home, have spent many hours on those waiting room chairs, been woken up by frantic phone calls, and lived through the failures of overly-optimistic treatment programs and the false promises of new medications.

As the months became years, I have become an involuntary expert.

I applied my lawyerly persistence to press for solutions in the overly-complex, often inhumane, mental health system. Fighting through my frustration with doctors, therapists, insurance companies and pharmacists was the easy part.

Much harder was trying not to take it personally when our son, in his late teens and early twenties, frequently hurled vile invectives at me. His ugly words intended to deeply hurt me did so. He often told me, without any basis, that I, his Mom who had nurtured him, understood him, was the sole cause of his problems.

As the nasty phrases tumbled out of his mouth, there were many days when I loved our son but did not like him at all. The sympathy I had felt in the early days of his struggles waned. I grew angry: with him, with the many doctors, one after another, who could not find treatments that helped. Part mental illness, part behavioral, his is a complex mix that no doctor could readily grasp.

“He’s so brilliant,” the doctors and therapists would tell me.

“I know.” I would respond.

“If only he was less smart and more compliant.”

“If only,” I would agree.

A few years after that first hospitalization our son came back home to live with us, to return to college. At first he seemed engaged in his courses, we were warily hopeful. Then the familiar pattern of anger and irritability emerged. He tinkered with his meds. He disagreed with his psychiatrist. He argued with his professors. He rattled his classmates. His behavior became erratic.

One night he burst into the house after an evening class, on a tear, upset with everyone. We were in our regular places in the family room. I was on the couch doing my nearly finished needlepoint of a calming coastal scene; needlepoint I wasn’t very good at but indulged in because my mother had done it before me.

Our dogs lay dozing next to me as our son began his monologue of vitriol.

We tried to soothe him. He wasn’t listening. Whatever we said only enraged him more. Suddenly he grabbed the needlepoint canvas out of my hands, ran into the kitchen, turned on a gas burner on the stove, and held the canvas above it until it went up in flames.

“No, no, stop, please stop, don’t do that!”

I could not move from my seat on the couch.

Next he went into the living room, found the antique bottles that had belonged to my mother before she died; he knew how much I treasured them. He smashed them to the floor, then picked up some of her vintage plates and threw them against the wall.

Then more door slamming, harsh words exchanged, before he went to the basement and barricaded himself in. The next morning he left our house again. Involuntarily.

A decade has passed since that that first hospitalization. Five years have gone by since the night he destroyed the tangible memories of my mother. The warmth that I felt towards our son has faded. I love him, but I no longer care as deeply as I once did. The caring had cost me too much of myself.

Our son still struggles, my husband and I still disagree but the mega-rollercoaster that our lives were for many years has slightly slowed its speed. In its wake I have become more empathetic to the sorrows of others. Every day worries glide right past me.

I try to stay positive, to put my involuntary expertise to good use. I started a support group called “parents of young adults who struggle” at my synagogue, now five years strong. I am on the board of a mental health non-profit, I advise other parents, I write articles to inform them — mental illness can happen to your young adult son or daughter, here’s what to do, here’s what not to do — and here’s what you may want to do — but it likely won’t work, trust me on that.


More From YourTango.com