1 in 5 Children with Mental Disorder? Please.


A new report from the CDC states that 1 out of every 5 children have a mental disorder.  Who else wants to call bullshit on that?  Talk about over diagnosing!

The report goes on to give its top five:

  • ADHD: 6.8 percent, or 1 in 14
  • Behavioral or conduct problem: 3.5 percent, or 1 in 28
  • Anxiety: 3.0 percent, or 1 in 33
  • Depression: 2.1 percent, or 1 in 50
  • Autism spectrum disorders: 1.1 percent, or 1 in 100
I am using just my opinion here but I think ADHD is way overdiagnosed.  Behavior or conduct problems, to me, can be a function of crappy parenting.  Anxiety and depression are soft calls, at best.  Lastly, autism spectrum disorder is just that…a spectrum.  The obvious cases are, well, obvious.  The high functioning ones are highly questionable and what used to called “quirky personalities” in the old days.   This report seems overblown and now the media will have a field day with it.  The worst part is the overdiagnosing that led to this report will lead experts to say that doctors need to be more vigilant in spotting (and treating) mental disorders which will lead to, you guessed it, more overdiagnosing.  It is a vicious and self fulfilling cycle will only end in controversy when there is a future report saying doctors are overtreating children with psychiatric medications.  And so the bullshit pendulum swings again.

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  9 comments for “1 in 5 Children with Mental Disorder? Please.

  1. Vance
    May 26, 2013 at 2:16 am

    Naturally I agree with you all on this. All of these disorders are real, and all of them are REALLY over-diagnosed. I won’t repeat anything else that’s been said. I would refer you all to this South Park clip, one of my favorites:


    And by the way doug, thanks to you my new favorite phrase is “BULLSHIT PENDULUM.”

    • Doug Farrago
      May 26, 2013 at 6:53 am

      Consider it yours.

      Loved the clip!!

  2. Marlene Sell
    May 23, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    I worked in Juvenile Court for years and these kids are a lost generation. No male figure, most have been sexually molested by one of moms many boyfriends. Moms are drunks and drug addicts. Most are on welfare so kids will never learn any work ethics. Teachers can’t dicipline the kid or they get in trouble so the only thing to do is medicate the kids. What a disgrace this country has become. If a parent spanks the kid, they go to jail or the kids get put in foster care. We seriously need laws to encourage these people to volunteer for sterilization because all benefits will be cut off for future pregnancies. Very depressing place to work. Also want to put my two cents in to stop the ultasound on the fetus just to get money. Never heard of Autism until the docs started the ultrasound as soon as a woman misses a period.

  3. May 22, 2013 at 11:45 am

    I totally agree as well. Although, as a man who was undiagnosed for 60 years with Asperger’s (they finally noticed this year, while I remember my parents running me from doctor to doctor from the age of 4 asking them what was wrong with me), I can attest that you can survive high-function autism (my IQ is 125)… but it surely would be easier to survive with a lot more information and tools and support groups. Here in Knoxville, all the support groups are for the caregivers and parents, none for the diagnosed patients. It has taken a lot of financial support from my parents to get through, although I’ve usually been able to find work or survive from Disability (gotten for another less-likely diagnosis, but based loosely on the data caused by my Aspergers, i.e., inability to keep a job or relationship, “something missing”, “doesn’t get it”).

    ADHD is mostly an excuse to give children drugs. Not much here but a profit center. The drugs they give them stunt their growth and their ability to socialize, with major negative outcomes long-term. See “Anatomy of an Epidemic” by Robert Whitaker for a compendium of the information.

  4. Tom Durante
    May 22, 2013 at 11:25 am

    As a psych nurse who has worked with children in both inpatient and outpatient settings, Doug is 100% correct. I have seen ADD/ADHD diagnosed in response to parent and/or teacher complaints. Most of the children were victims of poor parenting and nothing else. We should not medicate based on learned behaviors.

  5. Stacy RN
    May 22, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Not that I’ve ever held my opinion back here, but now that I’m officially dropping the RN – yes, I’ve left health care/nursing, as I couldn’t sell my soul any longer – I have no problem saying it: I call shenanigans. And Docs, why aren’t you standing up against this bullshit?

    Over-diagnosis is an understatement. The straw that broke my back was working with two children: one diagnosed ADHD with severe anxiety (8) and austistic/high functioning with ADHD (5). Seriously? I’ll tell you how both children could have been helped instead of Adderall, Intuniv and Prozac (yes, you did read that list right). What would have made a REAL difference is a highly structured household with parents who don’t do drugs, don’t verbally and physically abuse each other in front of their children, parents who interact with their children other than with an iPad, etc.

    I’ve done everything from floor nursing in a busy med/surg unit at an inner-city trauma hospital to managing a vent-weaning unit to home health with these children. All I see in both adults and children is over diagnosis of mental illness and a jump to throw the patient on an antianxiolitic, an antipsychotic, and antidepressive, when what we really should be doing is relaxation, structure, exercise and a bit of therapy in most cases.


  6. Ken
    May 21, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Absolutely agree with Doug and Pat. Real autism is a horrible problem that can be diagnosed across the waiting room–“autism spectrum disorder” is as much a garbage basket diagnosis as “fibromyalgia”. Clinicians are just too cowardly to tell parents that: A-they are lousy parents, or B-their kids are just kids and that there is no such thing as being normal.

  7. Kathy Wire
    May 21, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    One of the problems is that things are labeled disorders to get insurance coverage. We had a kid with a few issues (personality trait vs personality disorder?), and we sought help to design our parenting structure appropriately. We needed the advice and it really helped us, as many of the things we did were counter-intuitive and went beyond typical parenting books. Our provider called it a disorder so we could get insurance coverage. Was it really? Probably not. Was it necessary? It sure as hell made our lives better, and we have a great kid. I do have a major issue with the over-medication of behavior.

  8. Pat
    May 21, 2013 at 11:10 am

    This is BS. We have made mental health such an industry that everyone wants to get into the act (literally).
    1. Real psychiatric disorders are very serious, as anyone with experience treating them can tell you. Conjuring up a lot of fashion/faux feelings and observations frankly diminishes the finite energy and compassion of physicians left to deal with REAL problems.
    2. Bethoven was deaf, Eddie Van Halen has OCD, and Steve Jobs was a bucket of personality disorders. How many examples of compensatory creativity have been lost for being dampened away by crop-dusting the last two generations of children? (and yes, Van Gogh was a nut, but as Doug pointed out, this is a spectrum).
    3. Now teachers can willy nilly bar fidgety students in many states from the classroom until they are put on stimulants ie speed. It’s only a matter of time before the teachers demand the same prescribing autonomy as nurse practitioners. Although come to think of it…

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