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When was ADHD first diagnosed?

Springboard Clinic recently turned five years old, and this has inevitably led to some introspection on our parts with respect to how far we’ve come as a clinic. Since opening our doors, we’ve expanded and honed our assessment and treatment options, we’ve grown our staff, and even started the process of branching off across the country.

We’ve seen so much growth within our walls, but what about the world of ADHD in and of itself. How far have we come in understanding ADHD? As a starting point, it might be worth looking at when ADHD was first diagnosed.

If you’re looking specifically at ADHD as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), it was not until 1980 that the term “Attention Deficit Disorder” was introduced in the DSM-III. Prior to that, the DSM-II included a similar disorder called “hyperkinetic impulse disorder.” In the original DSM, which was released in 1952? No mention of any disorder that might relate to ADHD. But, this doesn’t mean that it wasn’t in the picture.


According to a very interesting paper we stumbled across called The History of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the first example of a disorder that appears to be similar to ADHD was described by a Scottish physician named Sir Alexander Crichton in 1798. In his work he described “the incapacity of attention with a necessary degree of constancy to any one object…[that] may be born with a person, or it may be the effect of accidental diseases.” Sounds a lot like ADHD!

If you’re interested in learning more, we highly recommend checking out the paper linked above. Interested in a quick timeline of the evolution of ADHD? Check out The History of ADHD: A Timeline

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