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?

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Members have made 80 comments.

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  1. Profile photo of Casey Member
    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.

    • #1
    • April 3, 2013 at 8:45 am
  2. Profile photo of RyanM Coolidge

    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.

    • #2
    • April 3, 2013 at 8:48 am
  3. Profile photo of Nick Stuart Thatcher

    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.

    • #3
    • April 3, 2013 at 8:49 am
  4. Profile photo of Byron Horatio Member

    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.

    • #4
    • April 3, 2013 at 8:57 am
  5. Profile photo of DocJay Member

    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.

    • #5
    • April 3, 2013 at 9:15 am
  6. Profile photo of Britanicus Member

    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.

    • #6
    • April 3, 2013 at 9:22 am
  7. Profile photo of SEnkey Member

    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. 

    • #7
    • April 3, 2013 at 9:31 am
  8. Profile photo of Guruforhire Member

    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.

    • #8
    • April 3, 2013 at 9:35 am
  9. Profile photo of DocJay Member

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

    • #9
    • April 3, 2013 at 9:42 am
  10. Profile photo of Paul Erickson Member

    Yes, we are overmedicating young boys. 

    And girls, and teens, and seniors…

    • #10
    • April 3, 2013 at 9:46 am
  11. Profile photo of Sandy Member
    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.

    • #11
    • April 3, 2013 at 9:50 am
  12. Profile photo of Sandy Member
    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.

    • #12
    • April 3, 2013 at 9:51 am
  13. Profile photo of DocJay Member

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

    • #13
    • April 3, 2013 at 9:53 am
  14. Profile photo of Leigh Member

    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.

    • #14
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:01 am
  15. Profile photo of DrewInWisconsin Member
    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.

    • #15
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:10 am
  16. Profile photo of Mantis9 Member
    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.

    • #16
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:11 am
  17. Profile photo of Leigh Member
    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.

    • #17
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:12 am
  18. Profile photo of DrewInWisconsin Member

    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.

    • #18
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:14 am
  19. Profile photo of DocJay Member

    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”.

    • #19
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:17 am
  20. Profile photo of DocJay Member
    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

    • #20
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:18 am
  21. Profile photo of Duane Oyen Member

    In my case, most in-the-know would suspect that being male is, indeed, a psychiatric disorder.

    They need to blame this on something.

    • #21
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:20 am
  22. Profile photo of Matthew Gilley Member

    My kids are in a charter school that has single-gender classes and frequent breaks for recess and other physical activity. It’s working. The school uniform policy also gives me a welcome diversion from the back-to-school shopping nonsense.

    • #22
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:26 am
  23. Profile photo of Leigh Member
    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. · 14 minutes ago

    The good trend is that there’s a push-back against using recess as punishment — usually the ones that lose it are the ones that most need it.

    • #23
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:30 am
  24. Profile photo of Mark Member

    Wanna play cricket on the green

    Ride my bike across the street

    Cut myself and see my blood

    Wanna come home all covered in mud

    I’m a boy, I’m a boy

    But my ma won’t admit it

    I’m a boy, I’m a boy

    But when I say I am I get it

    I’m A Boy by The Who, written by Pete Townsend, 1966

    • #24
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:35 am
  25. Profile photo of Casey Member

    See what happens… If you cut out recess kids will just get their drugs someplace else.

    • #25
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:37 am
  26. Profile photo of Ramblin' Lex Member

    Drugging young boys is deplorable. Tasers and pepper spray are far more efficacious.

    I’m sure my dad wishes he had these tools when I and my brothers were growing up.

    • #26
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:44 am
  27. Profile photo of Fastflyer Member

    I saw an interesting graphic lately that showed the vast majority of these prescriptions take place east of the Mississippi. Strange how boys west of the Mississippi are more immune to this “disease”.

    • #27
    • April 3, 2013 at 10:49 am
  28. Profile photo of Old Buckeye Inactive

    One of the reasons we chose to homeschool our son was that he was “all boy,” preferring to be outside, learning hands-on whenever he could. I suspected his curious temperament would be labeled something that needed to be repressed with drugs. Never mind that he was reading before age 3 and has read voraciously ever since–just not while sitting inside at a desk on a sunny day. He will graduate from his college’s honors program on the 3-year plan.

    (Edited to include: although it’s parental bragging, it’s by way of saying there was nothing wrong with him that needed fixing with a drug.)

    • #28
    • April 3, 2013 at 11:00 am
  29. Profile photo of Pilli Member
    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 · 49 minutes ago

    This from the same people who demand that school lunches contain only “healthy” foods because our kids are too fat.

    • #29
    • April 3, 2013 at 11:09 am
  30. Profile photo of M Tabor Inactive

    I’d love to see Mr. Harden describe an 1880’s schoolday from start to finish.

    • #30
    • April 3, 2013 at 11:12 am
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