We are a nation of sick people. Roughly 95 percent of our population has been diagnosed with some kind of injury or disease. Many of these are children. Every year, more children are being diagnosed with illnesses that slap labels on them for the rest of their lives. They are forced to live under the umbrella of illness before they ever even really figure out who they are without that label. We must call into question just how much those labels shape who they become.
We must also stand strong in questioning why the rates of so many diagnoses are rising, and why some are struggling to get any recognition at all. What makes Autism so much more powerful and domineering among doctors and newspaper headlines than candida albicans? Is more awareness really all it takes to see these numbers skyrocket the way they have been?
What leads to over-diagnosis, or misdiagnosis, and what impact does that have on the child? Why aren’t doctors aware of the vast array of diagnoses that fit many of today’s children better than the labels that have been adhered to them? Are our medical schools failing us? Is research failing us?
For the time being, let’s review some of the most over-diagnosed disorders among children and discuss how they ended up getting to the level of fame they’ve reached today. In contrast, pay attention to the long list of illnesses out there that many children are suffering from while they go undiagnosed. Can we say with confidence that our healthcare system is really trying to help heal these children? Are they creating cures, or is the money found in creating customers just too tempting to turn down?
16 Over-Diagnosed: Autism Spectrum Disorders
While we often hear that a child has Autism, the diagnosis itself represents an umbrella that houses many smaller diagnoses, like Asperger’s and other Pervasive Developmental Disorders. These disorders, collectively, make up the Autism spectrum. This spectrum is often thought of as linear, but in truth, it’s more circular. Children may be advanced in some department and not at all in another. A peer with the same diagnosis may present with skills that are the polar opposite to another child’s.
There is no clearly defined way to have Autism. It’s not an illness with a blood test. It’s not an illness that causes rigid symptoms that no other illness causes. Heck, some say it’s not even an illness, but an alternative way of life and thinking.
What we do know is that around 1985, Autism rates were roughly 1 in 10,000. Today, they are 1 in 45. The ever-increasing number of children being diagnosed with Autism cannot possibly be due to better awareness alone. Autism is caused by damage to the brain; how this occurs isn’t always known, but several avenues are suspect — from vaccines and pesticides to maternal antibiotic use and nutritional deficiencies.
What we must call into question is whether or not every child being diagnosed with Autism truly warrants such a label. Are we calling kids Autistic simply because they have anxiety and stim to calm it? Have we become so afraid of Autism that we are now actively looking for signs of it when there may not be any? Are we so hyper-vigilant about toe-walking and speech delays that we are now jumping to conclusions and diagnosing before a child’s full course of development can take place?
15 Missed: Prader-Willi Syndrome
This diagnosis is not common, and we hope that never changes. Prader-Willi Syndrome is very difficult to live with and can prove to be fatal in many circumstances. It affects 1 in every 15,000 children, and onsets at birth. Thus, it is not common.
As the most common hereditary catalyst for childhood obesity, this disorder doesn’t discriminate and impacts all races and genders equally. Babies born with PWS tend to present with hypotonia, meaning they have low to no muscular strength. From the beginning of their lives, these babies are hungry all the time. Intellectual disability is apparent from a young age with PWS, and childhood obesity creeps up quickly — even as early as the toddler years.
Most children with PWS struggle to breastfeed and need to be fed through tubes at birth. Despite their insatiable hunger, the majority are diagnosed with failure to thrive early in life. Cognitive and motor delays are common among PWS kids. Genetic testing now serves as confirmation of this diagnosis.
14 Over-Diagnosed: ADHD
When people start talking about over-diagnosed disorders — among either adults or children — ADHD is often one that springs to mind right away. Around 11 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. Much controversy has ensued over this diagnosis in the last twenty years. Parents often refuse to believe the label doctors give them for their children, and many establishments look down on the diagnosis as an excuse for poor parenting.
Even many doctors believe ADHD is an over-used label that puts children into a category where they don’t really belong. Case in point, are these kids truly at a disadvantage? Or are we punishing them for refusing to conform to the societal norm? Do they need medication to keep calm, or are we simply trying too hard to quiet a creative child? Are they really over-stimulated, or are they acting out because they’re not stimulated enough?
13 Missed: Candida Overgrowth Of The Intestines
Let’s be clear. Candida is very common; it’s the diagnosis of it that’s missing in action. We all have candida, which is just a fancy term for yeast. It’s in everyone’s body. In a perfect world — or at least a world before processed food and drug domination — candida would remain at a controlled level in our bodies. Instead, it’s taking over our intestines and making us sick in large numbers.
The true number of people who suffer from candida overgrowth is unknown. The sad part is that most people who struggle with this condition don’t know it. Essentially, the diagnosis isn’t being handed out often enough. That’s because testing for it isn’t mainstream. An MD won’t learn about this in medical school. Naturopaths and integrative or holistic doctors are far more inclined to test patients for candida, because they’re the only ones who know how to treat it.
Candida can cause chronic constipation or diarrhea and is the underlying reason many people have what they believe is Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Crohn’s Disease. Other diagnoses that are often just candida in disguise include: fibromyalgia, Multiple sclerosis, Lupus, Autism, Psoriasis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in adults, and Depression, Autism, Depression, Anxiety, ADHD and more in children. Often, when people who have been diagnosed with these conditions treat their bodies for candida, their symptoms vanish.
12 Over-Diagnosed: Oppositional Defiant Disorder
Kids with ODD are argumentative. They don’t inherently respect authority. They are often hostile and defiant. Roughly 10.2 percent of kids are diagnosed with ODD. Interestingly, research shows that diagnoses are more common among males until children reach puberty. Then, more females are diagnosed. Are we really seeing a development of a disorder among pubescent girls? Or are we choosing to diagnose something organic and natural — like a woman coming into her own and having her own damn opinion and internal guide — as a disorder?
The problem with ODD is not that there is a diagnosis at all. This isn’t ADHD. No one is arguing that ODD doesn’t exist. We are arguing that it has become over-used. Doctors are slapping this label onto kids who are often just rambunctious little ones that need a little more guidance at home. No, it’s not always the parents’ faults, but damnit, sometimes it is.
In other cases, it may be that a child needs more structure. Sometimes, they are struggling to adhere to rules in school that seem arbitrary to them. Too often, we treat children as though they aren’t people. They deserve explanations, too.
A child doesn’t obey like a dog any more than an adult does. Not every difficult child that challenges what they are told has ODD, and it’s time we stop treating our youth as though something is wrong with them if they don’t fall in line and conform. Likewise, labeling kids who buck the system with ODD really does a disservice to the children that actually have the disorder.
11 Missed: Sensory Processing Disorder
Currently, SPD is not at a level that anyone is claiming over-diagnosis, but it sure could reach that potential in the future if diagnosis keeps occurring as quickly as it is. That said, where it stands today, we cannot be sure that the actual influx of diagnoses is over-diagnosis. Rather, SPD may just be on the rise, and the reasons why remain a mystery.
Still, many parents are struggling with coming to terms with the idea that their child has been diagnosed with a disorder all because they don’t like the way certain textures feel or foods taste. Truthfully, SPD goes a lot deeper than that. No one is going to diagnose your child with SPD because they don’t like the texture of okra.
Generally occurring on its own, SPD causes children to have trouble with knowing where their body is in space. They don’t know how much pressure is necessary to exert when opening a jar of food or wrestling with their baby brother. They aren’t aware when they’re pushing too hard, and often have low muscle tone working against them, too.
Estimates range between 5 and 16 percent of children in the United States struggle with SPD. The causes aren’t fully understood, but there is some steady belief that dysfunction in the brain can occur that causes these issues. It can take shape while in utero or afterward during early developmental years.
When too much stimulation occurs for a child with SPD, they shut down. This can be too much noise, for instance, but it’s not like a loud clanging would interfere with anyone’s thought process. It’s more so they cannot even handle a calm conversation or explaining why they’re upset when they are. Life must be put on hold until their meltdown is over and they can soothe themselves back to reality.
10 Over-Diagnosed: Bipolar Disorder
Let this sink in. Bipolar disorder has been diagnosed among some 5.7 million American adults. It is thought that the disorder is possibly even more common among children. Yes, that’s what the medical industry says. How can a disorder be more common in kids than adults? It would have to either be more common in today’s generation of youth than the last or becoming less apparent with age? But that would mean children grow out of bipolar disorder — a disorder with no cure. Come on!
This is a touchy subject. Many people believe they suffer from this disorder — all because a doctor told them so. Surely, they have “symptoms." But what are those symptoms? Plenty of these people are blue from time to time while experiencing mania at other points in time. Is it not possible that they just have a wild personality? Why are we so quick to squash their individuality? Or perhaps, like most people, they have periods of time when they're sad and other periods when they are happy - both at normal levels.
We are seeing diagnoses of bipolar more and more amongst children. Once upon a time, it was rarely diagnosed until a person was in their twenties. That is when it was said to really manifest. Truthfully, we never examined any other explanation. Is it not possible that these people were the way they were always, and that society just didn’t care until they wanted the individual to fall in line in adulthood? Food for thought. Some children are depressive types. Some are broody. Some don’t sleep well. When did this become an automatic illness?
9 Missed: Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities are not the same as food allergies, which affect nearly six million children. Allergies will show up as positive on scratch tests. They’re the reason cat hair causes itchy eyes and eggs cause a person’s throat to swell up. We’ve grown accustomed to the belief that an allergy isn’t real if life is still manageable in the presence of the allergen. But what exactly is manageable?
Many people have food sensitivities that cause chronic constipation and diarrhea. In other cases, a sensitivity to nightshades may cause the never-ending acid reflux a person suffers with that leads them to develop GERD. Food sensitivities are also behind a large number of childhood disorders, like Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder.
When a child is sensitive to a food, their body doesn’t know how to properly break that food down. Instead, it responds with inflammation, and it is that inflammation that causes many of the symptoms that lead to incorrect diagnoses. Frequently, when a child with a diagnosis such as ADHD is tested for food sensitivities, and those that they are positive for are removed from their diet, recovery from the alleged ADHD is seen.
Unfortunately, this is another topic on which most doctors were never trained. Even allergists rarely understand these tests, which require an IgG test rather than the standard IgE that would be used for allergies that show immediate reactions, like anaphylaxis. An IgG RAST test should ideally be performed on every child with any non-genetic diagnosis, but doctors aren’t doing it. Ask yourself why, and see a doctor who will.
8 Over-Diagnosed: Asthma
In the United States alone, 8.4 percent of children have been diagnosed with asthma. This condition is most certainly not over-diagnosed in the sense that children who don’t have it are being labeled with it. Rather, it is being diagnosed at alarmingly high rates, and the numbers are showing no signs of decreasing.
It is time that we question why the rate of asthma is growing so large. This chronic inflammation of the airways affected 3.6 percent of children in 1980. Today, 6.2 million kids have been diagnosed with asthma; that’s 8.4 percent of them in America alone.
We must call into question just why this disorder is increasing in prevalence. We know that the risk factors for asthma include hereditary ties and maternal exposure to smoke. However, we often don’t shine much light on other risk factors, like obesity and allergies — two issues that are also growing at a steadfast rate among children.
Asthma rarely occurs on its own without risk factors. Thus, reducing said risk factors is where we need to begin in order to see an eventual decrease in asthma diagnoses. Asthma remains the third most common cause of hospitalization among school-aged children. More than 4,000 people die from asthma every year.
7 Missed: Sugar Addiction
All processed food breaks down into sugar. It doesn’t have to be fruit snacks. If you’re feeding your kid bread every day, dairy, cereal, and pretty much anything that isn’t protein or produce, you’re likely feeding them sugar. It is recommended we eat no more than 4 teaspoons of it a day, but most kids are consuming around 15 teaspoons!
Sugar addiction happens slowly over time. It’s occurring not only in children, but adults, too. Just like any cycle of addiction to a substance, these children are often being fed the same diet their addicted parents consume. Thus, the cycle continues.
In a world where sugar has more than sixty names among food ingredient labels, it’s not a wonder parents struggle to filter it all out. Short of eating a clean diet that is free of all processed food, there’s no real way to limit sugar without driving oneself insane. Still, the downside is big. Childhood diabetes and obesity continue to surge, and with the likeness of sugar addiction to dependency on drugs and alcohol, parents should be concerned.
6 Over-Diagnosed: Anxiety Disorders
This is the perfect place for anxiety disorders — sandwiched right between sugar addiction and binge eating disorders. More and more children are being diagnosed with some form of anxiety. These diagnoses are coming as early as the toddler years! Are we really supposed to believe children are suddenly suffering from anxiety this early in life when it’s never happened before?
So, if it’s not real anxiety presenting, what is it? Could it possibly be that we’ve come to interpret anxious symptoms a little too acutely? Are we actively looking for mental disorders too heavily in our children? Are we writing off normal childhood experiences — like being shy or introverted — as anxiety?
Are preschoolers even capable of truly explaining how their nervous or worried feelings make them want to behave? Because anxiety is normal to a certain degree; it’s only problematic when it’s impacting a person’s life detrimentally. How can we be sure it's anxiety in children who can barely communicate when they have to go potty all the time?
On the flipside, it’s quite possible we’ve created a lot of the anxiety we’re seeing in kids today. We’ve taught them that this world is a terrifying place to live and they’re only safe if Mommy and Daddy are hovering over them with hand sanitizer.
5 Missed: Binge Eating Disorders
This goes hand-in-hand with that sugar addiction we discussed for many kids. There are so many additives in our food supply these days. Most of our food is processed. This means essentially all nutrients are stripped from whatever it was to begin with in order to come up with a shelf-stable food product in the end. Sometimes, synthetic nutrients are added back in, but they are not readily absorbed by the body in the same way.
For this reason, many children feel incessant bouts of hunger that just don’t wane, even when they are fed. Why not? Because the purpose of eating is to eat for nutrition, but we are feeding kids with the purpose of filling them. Filling them with food products that are not nutritious will not stave off hunger. Thus, they become hungry even after they’ve eaten. This is just one component that may predispose a child to binge eating disorders.
Another societal impact on binge eating disorders is the effect of the supersized mentality we’ve promoted. In America, bigger is better when it comes to food. We want 16-ounce steaks with a side of ribs, a fully loaded backed potato, and macaroni — and all of that comes after the appetizer and before dessert! We are raising children from the get-go with the idea that more food is better, and that eating when bored, or tired, or moody is normal and acceptable.
Still, these kids are going undiagnosed. Why? Why aren’t we shedding light on this topic? Is it because adults are also eating so poorly that we don’t want to turn the spotlight on our own eating habits? Is it because we are the ones who are feeding our kids this junk and we don’t want to take the blame? Maybe a bit of both. Regardless, we probably don’t need to label all these kids with a binge eating disorder. But many are on their way to it, and we’re encouraging it.
4 Over-Diagnosed: Depressive Disorders
WebMD notes that roughly 2 in every 100 young kids and 8 in every 100 teenagers suffer from some form of depression. Yes, there are different types, and they don’t always present in readily diagnosable ways when dealing with children. When kids are older, parents often write off signs of depression as normal teenaged broodiness.
When they’re younger, kids who aren’t interested in playing with school mates and peers may just seem anxious or shy to their parents. But sometimes they’re isolating themselves out of a desire to be alone and dwell in unhappiness.
Still, more and more parents are questioning whether all these kids are truly depressed. After all, what do kids have to be depressed about, right? In some cases, plenty! But children in healthy households shouldn’t be falling prey to depressive disorders, and we need to start asking why they are.
Is it toxin accumulation? This may be a big factor considering that 60 percent of the population is estimated to have the MTHFR gene mutation. MTHFR makes it far more difficult for those folks to detox from pesticides and heavy metals — just two of thousands of toxins known to cause depressive symptoms. The big picture here? Dig deeper.
3 Missed: Leaky Gut Syndrome
Leaky gut, also known as intestinal permeability, occurs when small holes form in the lining of the intestines. This is where the majority of the immune system lies in the human body. It is also where food is digested, nutrients are absorbed, and most of the nervous system’s neurotransmitters are made. Thus, dysfunction in the gut can cause a host of issues that affect virtually every organ system in the body.
Leaky gut syndrome is the culprit behind many childhood illnesses. When neurotransmitters cannot be produced in the quantity needed, the body may respond with depressive symptoms. In kids, this often looks more like tantrums and sensory meltdowns than a woe is me attitude and lethargy like it does in adults. Parents should be monitoring bowel movements, behavioral symptoms, skin abnormalities and more in their children that point to possible gut problems. When leaky gut occurs, foreign substances can then leach out of the intestines and into the bloodstream where they can predispose children to behavioral disorders, autoimmune illnesses and more.
2 Over-Diagnosed: Eczema
Eczema will likely continue to be diagnosed until the end of time. It’s not so much that diagnosis is occurring non-stop. The problem is that eczema is occurring far too much. What used to be a topical skin condition that was rarely seen has become so common that every manufacturer of baby bath products has made customized products marketed to treat eczema. Why are we treating the symptoms, though, instead of the cause when it’s affecting 13 percent of American children?
In addition, parents are often self-diagnosing this condition. Some assume eczema is mild and doesn’t need serious treatment, therefore it must not be a serious condition to have. Wrong. Eczema starts in the gut. That’s your little one’s immune system. The root cause of eczema almost always boils down to three things: antibiotics, vaccines, or diet. This is why it is so uncommon in children who are not vaccinated and often disappears when parents remove trigger foods from the diet, like grains and dairy.
1 Missed: Heavy Metal Poisoning
Again, it’s not that heavy metal poisoning is uncommon; it’s that it’s going vastly undiagnosed. More and more children are presenting to biomedical and integrative doctors — the only kinds known for taking this kind of condition seriously. They are being bombarded with parents who have found their way to them through their own research. These kids are often diagnosed with many of the disorders listed as commonly diagnosed here, like ADHD and autism.
But the underlying culprit is heavy metal toxicity that is causing brain inflammation and resulting in the neurological and behavior symptoms we use to label these kids with developmental disorders. Often, when the child goes through chelation and other necessary steps to rid their body of the toxins that have built up in it — such as aluminum, lead and mercury — many or all of their symptoms vanish. Yes, this is why people proclaim that children can recover from disorders like ADHD and Autism.
While it’s undeniable that many people do have mental health conditions, it’s equally undeniable that many people labeled with them actually do not. Dig deeper. Investigate the causes of symptoms rather than searching for the cause of the label itself. Question whether the symptoms a child is presenting with should even be called symptoms. Is it possible that this is just their personality showing through and it’s different than what parents or school teachers expected or consider to be ideal?
Sources: National Eczema Association, WebMD, Today, STAR Institute for SPD, CDC, Newsweek, Autism Science Foundation, Washington Post, Foundation for Prader-Willi Research, VBHS, FARE, Asthma MD