Bryan Caplan has a very interesting and very provocative post at Econlog challenging the standard, typical medical classifications relating to mental illnesses in general and to ADHD in particular. I have come to respect Caplan's work, and so I never dismiss anything he writes without giving it careful consideration. His material in this post seems generally right to me. Two telling paragraphs about ADHD:
Overall, the most natural way to formalize ADHD in economic terms is as a high disutility of work combined with a strong taste for variety. Undoubtedly, a person who dislikes working will be more likely to fail to 'finish school work, chores or duties in the workplace' and be 'reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort'. [see chart below] Similarly, a person with a strong taste for variety will be 'easily distracted by extraneous stimuli' and fail to 'listen when spoken to directly', especially since the ignored voices demand attention out of proportion to their entertainment value. ...
As the DSM uses the term, a person who 'has difficulty' 'sustaining attention in tasks or play activities' could just as easily be described as 'disliking' sustaining attention. Similarly, while 'is often forgetful in daily activities' could be interpreted literally as impaired memory, in context it refers primarily to conveniently forgetting to do things you would rather avoid. No one accuses a boy diagnosed with ADHD of forgetting to play videogames.
Caplan re-presents a checklist to help professionals diagnose someone with ADHD. Here it is:
If this stuff had been around when I was young, I'd have been a drugged-out zombie. All nine of these applied to me.
When I was in Grade 2, the teacher wrote that I did good work when I did it, but that I rarely finished it. Also on behavioural items, I think I was given 13 minuses and only 3 pluses over one report-card period.
Also about that time, a woman who was visiting our home for dinner told my parents I should be put on drugs because I jiggled my legs so much.
So much of what is termed ADHD behaviour is better dealt with via behaviour training. Thank goodness my parents didn't put me on drugs. Instead, I had to learn to cope and adjust in some settings.
As one of my FB friends posted yesterday on a completely different (yet identical?) topic,
"You think too much because there's work that you don't want to do." - Andy Warhol's advice to Lou Reed.