Is Being a Boy a Psychiatric Disorder?

In my Hardwire post today at The College Fix, I question our culture’s rush to “cure” boys of their natural bent for physical activity.

The New York Times reports that nearly 1 in 5 young boys in the U.S. has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Welcome to the Ritalin nation.

Give me a break.

Anyone ever think that maybe boys, with their strong drive for physical activity, simply aren’t made for sitting around at a desk all day?

Two thirds of those diagnosed are on some kind of medication, such as Ritalin or Adderall.

Something’s wrong when we’re drugging 15% of the young males in this country. We should be thinking about redesigning the educational experience to accommodate young boys’ needs for more frequent physical activity, not sedating them with drugs so that they will sit in a drug-induced stupor throughout the long, tedious (and often wasted) hours of a typical school day.

I’m sure these drugs benefit some kids. But, overall, the rush to diagnose millions of boys with a psychiatric disorder is a grave injustice in our culture.

Question of the day: Do you think doctors and parents are over-medicating boys in this country?

  1. Casey
    Nathan Harden:

    Question of the day: Do you think doctors and parents are over-medicating boys in this country?

    Probably no more than boys are over-medicating themselves.

  2. Ryan M

    Yes.  I absolutely do.  I also agree w/ Casey, sort of … but that is a teenager thing, not just a boy thing.  Replace the family with working moms and dads who expect the state to raise their kids, and have them sitting in large groups all day long (as you mention in the post), and one is hardly surprised that they grow up confused.

  3. Nick Stuart

    Most primary school teachers are women.

    A woman’s idea of a good little boy is a little girl.

    The boys don’t behave like girls, and there you are.

    Something must be done, so drug them.

  4. Byron Horatio

    My parents were thankfully very hands off about raising me. I’d just run around with reckless abandon for hours and days on end with my bicycle. Occasionally get in fights or beat up, explore dangerous parts of the city, and run away from police for trespassing. That wasn’t very long ago but it’s sad that I just never see kids on their own anymore. Such a structured, soulless childhood.

  5. DocJay

    You left one out.  The parents, the doctors, and most importantly the liberal educational establishment have participated in over medicating children.  No question some kids need behavioral therapy and medication.  Run our kids more and it will all improve.  

  6. Britanicus

    As an adult who benefits immensely from his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medicine, I’ll offer a slightly different opinion. I was only diagnosed two years ago–well out of college–and I wish that I had gotten treatment as a little boy. I can’t tell you how much of a difference it makes.

    That being said, it does seem that we’re over-medicating our little boys. Boys will be boys. We should embrace that to an extent. But some boys will also have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and will greatly benefit from medication. We shouldn’t be too quick to rule it out.

  7. SEnkey

    Nick Stuart hit the nail on the head, the biggest problem with boys is that they are not girls.  But it is bigger than that, boys don’t hear as well as girls, especially softer voices like those of the mostly female teaching corps. Boys are also developmentally slower, many are not ready to learn to read until they are seven or eight years old. When they struggle to learn what others are grasping they can become frustrated and act out. This is accentuated by the focus on non confrontational learning, zero competition, and a lack of focus on topics that interest boys. (Thank goodness Harry Potter, Rick Riordian, and others have come along) By sixth grade most boys are turned off from learning and school. 

    Another less known problem is the tendency to misdiagnose PTSD as ADHD. Many of the children from inner city and other troubled areas are in fact suffering from PTSD which requires far different treatment methods than ADHD. 

  8. Guruforhire

    I think as more work becomes more of a sit quietly and study text sort of thing, its going to get harder for boys and men.

    I certainly would like to be able to read more than a half page at a sitting without fuzzing out.

  9. DocJay

    There is no ADHD while playing Xbox.  My 18 yr old and I, both non-medicated, will attest to this.

  10. Paul Erickson

    Yes, we are overmedicating young boys. 

    And girls, and teens,  and seniors…

  11. Sandy
    DocJay: You left one out.  The parents, the doctors, and most importantly the liberal educational establishment have participated in over medicating children.  No question some kids need behavioral therapy and medication.  Run our kids more and it will all improve.   · 27 minutes ago

    A critical addition, but I’d add further that I  don’t know a liberal (and unfortunately I know lots and lots) who isn’t upset about this, too.  They just don’t see clearly where it is all coming from, although there are progressive  home-schoolers who do get at least part of the picture.  Even PBS had an excellent documentary some years ago on the problems boys experience in school, especially in the inner city, and I recall that it was quite sympathetic to single-sex education.

  12. Sandy
    Paul Erickson: Yes, we are overmedicating young boys. 

    And girls, and teens,  and seniors… · 4 minutes ago

    Amen.  But I do think (without having any data to back his up) that boys suffer the most.  

  13. DocJay

    Boys are like my yellow lab.  Run them til they’re wiped a couple times a day and the obedience level improves.

  14. Leigh

    Yes, we’re over-medicating them.  No, they aren’t created to sit at their desks all day and need more breaks and physical activity than they get in most schools. 

    Yes, they can and should learn the self-control to sit still, quietly, and attentively for a reasonable period of time.

  15. DrewInWisconsin
    DocJay: You left one out.  The parents, the doctors, and most importantly the liberal educational establishment have participated in over medicating children. 

    Yep, and in some places if the school has decided to drug your child, he will not be allowed to continue attending unless you agree to medicate him.

  16. Mantis9
    Britanicus: As an adult who benefits immensely from his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder medicine, I’ll offer a slightly different opinion. I was only diagnosed two years ago–well out of college–and I wish that I had gotten treatment as a little boy. I can’t tell you how much of a difference it makes.

    I second that. I was diagnosed with ADHD in my thirties. As a diagnoses it was a complete paradigm shift, explaining many, many behaviors (though not “bad” per se) that placed me at a disadvantage in school.

    Additionally, Ritalin is a stimulate. It doesn’t help anybody, especially boys, be more sedate if they don’t have ADHD. It makes them worse! Also, it doesn’t change the behavior of a person with ADHD, it simply helps them maintain focus. In my case, that meant I could read a paragraph once and retain the information, instead of repeatedly losing my place, reading it multiple times, and still forgetting what I just read.

    For a thirty-seven year old, I’m still relatively hyper.

    It’s extremely weird for me to hear parents explain physical behavior in boys as ADHD.

    See DocJay’s advice above.

  17. Leigh
    Sandy

    Paul Erickson: Yes, we are overmedicating young boys. 

    And girls, and teens,  and seniors… · 4 minutes ago

    Amen.  But I do think (without having any data to back his up) that boys suffer the most.   · 10 minutes ago

    There’s data :) 

    Don’t have time to pull things up right now.  But there’s overall achievement data and college enrollment data.  A disproportionate number of special ed students are boys (though in part that’s because boys are genuinely at higher risk for many genetic disorders).

    Still, before deciding that the primary problem is because the schools are skewed towards girls and that the expectations are unrealistic for boys, I think you have to compare those expectations to those boys faced when they were the only ones being educated.  I haven’t seen a good study on that.

  18. DrewInWisconsin

    One pressing problem is that more schools are beginning to cut recess, and recess is exactly what kids need to release that pent-up energy.

  19. DocJay

    I had a long post a year ago in support of using adderall in selective situations.  I had my son medicated for a few years 3rd to 8th grade, then stopped at his request.  I tried everything possible before giving in to the drug but reality was reality.  

    He went from rocking back and forth, chewing on his shirt, and getting C’s,D’s to being a B student.  He is off to a military college this fall.  I have no regrets.  

    My 10 year old likely has the wild gene.  He knows better than to tell me he’s bored though.  ”Really, 50 situps, now”.   “Still bored,  I want 50 push-ups, now, and get your sneakers on because it’s a mile as fast as we can”.

  20. DocJay
    DrewInWisconsin: One pressing problem is that more schools are beginning to cut recess, and recess is exactly what kids need to release that pent-up energy. · 2 minutes ago

    Biggest Mistake Ever