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  • Dr. Henry J. Svec

Are We Over-Diagnosing Our Children?

Mental Health and our children are taking center stage today. Young children are being diagnosed with ADHD, depression, psychosis and even bi-polar disorder. The diagnosis can often label the child prematurely, which then leads to life altering treatments.

Dr. Jerome Kagan explains how this trend may be due to the influence of pharmaceutical giants or the poor understanding of normal child development:

“We could get philosophical and ask ourselves: ‘What does mental illness mean?’ If you do interviews with children and adolescents aged 12 to 19, then 40 percent can be categorized as anxious or depressed. But if you take a closer look and ask how many of them are seriously impaired by this, the number shrinks to 8 percent. Describing every child who is depressed or anxious as being mentally ill is ridiculous. Adolescents are anxious, that’s normal. They don’t know what college to go to. Their boyfriend or girlfriend just stood them up. Being sad or anxious is just as much a part of life as anger or sexual frustration.”

Dr. Kagan makes a strong argument for his position. This includes his thoughts on ADHD:

“Every child who is having problems in school is sent to see a pediatrician, who then claims it’s ADHD and prescribes 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.”

As we approach Bell Let’s Talk Day in Canada, being aware of Mental Health issues is extremely important. It is also necessary to better understand the normal development of children and to be careful when making a diagnosis. Comprehensive assessments of children suspected of having a diagnosis and a “wait and watch” attitude of very young children (under the age of 6) are often recommended. For ADHD, review the “Not ADHD Checklist” found here to clearly look at this issue for ADHD.

By all means, if as a parent or teen you feel something isn’t right, seek out assistance immediately. Educate yourself on the options available and the comprehensive nature of any assessment that gives you a diagnosis. After that, listen to what your parental instinct is telling you. If all else fails, get a second opinion. As always, your comments are appreciated at

You can now read my quarterly insider report “The Psychology of Investing” found here: If you manage your own investments or retirement fund, you need to read this. In this blog I also share how I invest personally based on psychological principals. All revenues go to support our Sport Concussion Research Center. Get your copy today.

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