History of ADHD

In this day and age, you would think that ADHD has been around forever. The disorder itself has been around for quite some time, but it was only recently that it was given the name Attention Deficit Disorder. Before that, the disorder had various names that changed over the years.

In 1902, there is the first documented disorder relating to impulsiveness. This was in Britain, and the doctor who diagnosed the impulsive disorder was named Dr. Still. He called this disorder “Defect of Moral Control” and he believed that the diagnosed individual had a medical disorder beyond their control.

After this event, the next documentation of similar symptoms was in 1922. Here, the symptoms we associate with ADHD were given the name “Post-Encephalitic Behavior Disorder.” What this title means I am not quite sure, but that was the name during this time period.

The next event in the history of ADHD was in 1937, where Dr. Charles Bradley introduced the use of stimulants in children who were hyperactive. I still find it interesting that stimulants were thought of to treat hyperactive children when they were already bouncing off the walls. While it is true that stimulants calm hyperactive kids down, how did someone hypothesize that this would occur? After this, in 1956, Ritalin was introduced as the drug of choice to treat hyperactivity.

In the 1960s, stimulants were used by a wider population. The only symptom that was really documented at this point was hyperactivity. In the early 1960s, the disorder was called “Minimal Brain Dysfunction”. At the end of the decade, though, the name of the disorder was changed to “Hyperkinetic Disorder of Childhood.”

The next event that occurred in relation of ADHD was that new symptoms were added to the realm of the disorder. Along with hyperactivity, added symptoms were lack of focus and spaceyness associated with impulsiveness. Impulsiveness now included verbal, cognitive and motor impulsiveness.

In 1980, the disorder was given its current name of Attention Deficit Disorder, with or without hyperactivity. This was documented in the DSM-III put out by the American Psychiatric Association. ADD and ADHD were two different diagnoses.

Next, in 1987, ADD was changed to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The American Psychiatric Associated noted that this was a medical diagnosis, and not purely psychological. They also noted that ADHD could cause behavioral issues.

In 1996, a new medication called Adderall was approved by the FDA for the treatment of ADHD. After a period of time, it was deemed to be better at treating the disorder since it lasted longer and was easier to come down off of. In 1999, other medications were added to treat ADHD such as Concerta and Focalin. In 2003, Strattera was introduced as the first ADHD medication that was not a stimulant. This drug acted like an antidepressant, but increased the amount of norepinephrine in the brain.