Monday, July 28, 2003

Hyper diagnosis

Opponents of the MMR vaccine point to a rise in levels of autism over the past few years as a strong piece of circumstantial evidence in their favour.

Yet, Professor Priscilla Alderson of the Institute of Education in London argues that this is a case of misdiagnosis. For example, she visited one school where 27 children had been diagnosed as autistic, she found only two that properly met the criteria for the condition. She believes a similar process has been in evidence with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The result is the medicalisation of behaviour previously regarded as normal. Professor Alderson lays the blame at the tendency of parents to keep their children indoors, and at a money-grabbing mental health industry. In fact, the entire field of mental health is ever-expanding, and the notion of a distinction between 'normal' and 'abnormal' is increasingly blurred. However, the reassurance of a label to explain behaviour also has the effect of reinforcing it, and often denies the possibility of doing something about it. And, as in the case of MMR, we get a panic about a new epidemic that probably does not exist.

Hyperactivity 'just high spirits', BBC News, 28 July 2003

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