Adult ADHD numbers may be misleading, after a study found that almost one in four adults seeking treatment may be exaggerating - or even faking - their symptoms, reports msnbc.com.
The new report was based on the medical records of 268 patients. In it, it was found that twenty-two percent of adults who claimed they suffered from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder tried to distort test results to make their symptoms seem worse.
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The study's lead author is Paul Marshall, a clinical neuropsychologist with Hennepin Faculty Associates, a medical group that provides services at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. He said some of those who exaggerated their symptoms actually had ADHD, but embellished their reports to ensure they got diagnosed, msnbc.com reports.
Others didn't have the disorder at all, but were simply having a tough time managing their workloads and lives.
Marshall said, "A lot of people think they have it because they are struggling, but it's not because of ADHD. Often times, it's simply depression, anxiety or lack of sleep."
Other patients may have been faking symptoms to get access to stimulant medications, Marshall pointed out. In some cases, college and graduate school students want to be diagnosed with ADHD in hopes of gaining access to medications that boost concentration and focus, he added.
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And some just want the meds for an inexpensive high.
Marshall's findings support a recent informal poll of 100 primary care physicians conducted by the group Truth On Call. Responding to the text message survey, 38 percent of doctors said they suspected a patient of exaggerating or faking symptoms to get a prescription for ADHD drugs.
According to health experts, between 2 percent and 4 percent of the adult population in the U.S., or 4 million to 8 million people, are estimated to have ADHD.
Many adults are first diagnosed as children, with up to 60 percent continuing symptoms into later life.
Dr. L. Eugene Arnold is an ADHD expert unaffiliated with the new report and a professor emeritus of psychiatry at Ohio State University. He told msnbc.com that, because there is no real test for ADHD, it can be tricky to diagnose the condition in adults.
The report is published in the journal The Clinical Neuropsychologist.
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