Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder shows no signs of slowing down. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 11% of children in the U.S. were diagnosed with ADHD, an all time national high. According to the CDC, these numbers continue to rise. This increase has caused some experts to question doctors, wondering if ADHD is being over-diagnosed, and children are being over-medicated.
These critics may also have something to say about the most recent development in attention-related conditions, sluggish cognitive tempo (SCT). Researchers are saying this attention disorder is characterized by daydreaming, lethargy, and a slower mental processing speed, and according to the New York Times, it affects roughly two million children in the U.S.
SCT is being considered either a distinct disorder, or a form of ADHD, and researchers are hoping to identify it as a legitimate disorder in the near future. Mental disorders printed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders have long since been the standard used to validate the existence of these conditions, all of which are recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. SCT has remained a part of the discussion for the last few decades, but has never made it into the manual.
But in recent months, there has been an increase in interest in SCT, particularly by the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, who dedicated a large portion of a recent publication to findings surrounding this condition. Research, the publication claims, is pointing toward SCT as a valid disorder, and one that could join ADHD as a common diagnosis.
Even with this research, SCT has been met with criticism by experts in the field of ADHD, with many of them expressing that there is not enough evidence to support this condition as a justifiable disorder. These experts argue that if SCT does become a diagnosable disorder, it could lead to more prescriptions and treatments, which are already rampant in ADHD. Consequently, over-diagnosing and over-medicating would be perpetuated by SCT.
The defense for SCT comes from researchers who claim that diagnosis of this condition could be a relief to parents whose children do not quite fit the hyperactive portion of the ADHD description. The inattentive aspect of SCT could be a better match in these cases.
SCT has not been officially recognized as a disorder as of yet, but pharmaceutical companies, such as Eli Lily, continue to fund studies and clinical trials on patients using drugs like Strattera, a common ADHD treatment. Their findings were positive, but the company asserts that more research is needed in the area of treating SCT with ADHD drugs.
For now, SCT remains a possible diagnosis for students with inattentive behavior, and could lead to more breakthroughs in ADHD research.