Julie Burchill Julie Burchill

Why I’m sceptical of the ADHD epidemic

(Photo: iStock)

Just a quick plea to those who know me; if you’re going to burst upon me with a revelation, make it a juicy one, please – preferably sex-related. No gender reveals, no late-onset allergies – and please, most of all, no adult ADHD diagnoses. 

Before you start up berating me as lacking in ‘compassion’ and ‘empathy’ (the twin calling cards of contemporary sad-sacks and milk-sops) let me say that I do believe that both allergies and ADHD exist – for a very small minority of unfortunate people. (I’m writing this in bold as I’ve noted from past experience that when people are keen to get their knickers in a twist, they often suffer a simultaneous temporary loss of reading abilities.) But do I believe that most of the people who claim to have them really do have them? Not in a million years.

You’ve heard of luxury beliefs – meet luxury maladies

Remember when no one had ever heard of aloe vera – and then you couldn’t get away from it? One minute everyone thought that ADHD was either a furniture warehouse or an obscure sub-genre of house music – and the next minute one in 20 adults (including Sue Perkins, Heston Blumenthal and Ant McPartlin) in the UK alone has it, according to the ADHD Foundation who have seen a 400 per cent increase in the number of adults contacting them to arrange an assessment since 2020. But only 120,000 of the alleged sufferers have had a formal diagnosis due to ‘combination of poor understanding of the condition and stigma.’ Stigma? That’s like saying there’s a stigma to having a Mulberry handbag. 

You’ve heard of luxury beliefs – meet luxury maladies. I wonder how many Ukrainians suffer from ADHD? It’s interesting that interest in this condition has rocketed since lockdown – isn’t it natural that people might get a bit weird, shut up in their padded cells with other people bringing them things, like big frustrated babies? Now the tiniest and most temporary glitches in personality must be pathologised, just as new parents fret over an infant’s every little sniffle.

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