'There is no pathological test': More on ADHD as rhetoric

Document Type

Journal Article


PCCS Books


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology and Social Science




This article was originally published as: Schubert, S., Hansen, S., & Rapley, M. (2005). There is no Pathological Test': More on ADHD as rhetoric. Journal of Critical Psychology Counselling and Psychotherapy, 5(3), 151-160. Original available here


ADHD was the focus of a 2003-4 Western Australian parliamentary inquiry. We examine the paradoxical nature of ADHD as a nonpathological neurological condition in a paediatrician's evidence. ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed and researched psychiatric label given to children today (Radcliffe and Timimi, 2004). At the same time, while ADHD remains a questionable diagnosis, it is the justification for putting tens of thousands of Australian children on psychostimulant drugs every year (Jacobs, 2003). ADHD has been defined and conceptualised in a variety of ways over the past several decades. In contemporary Western societies the dominant discourse surrounding both illness and behaviour that is not 'normal' is the discourse of scientific medicine. The prevailing cultural belief about ADHD is that it is a medical disorder, and like other mythical entities such as 'schizophrenia', this belief is underpinned by widespread social acceptance of the concept's scientific status and legitimacy (Boyle, 2002; Brown, 2004; Sarbin, 1990).