DSM Disorders Before ADHD

The first edition of the DSM makes no mention of any behaviors or disorders resembling ADHD; it was not until 1968 that disorders featuring inattention and hyperactivity were recognized in the DSM-II (Conrad & Potter, 2000). The disorders in this subsection are the final predecessors of ADHD, occupying a place in time between the recognition of inattention/hyperactivity in the DSM and the more recent concepts of ADD and ADHD.

The DSM-II (1968)

Disorders similar to ADHD were not recognized until the publication of the DSM-II. / Image from aglp.org

The publication of the DSM-II saw the recognition of two conditions similar to ADHD: “Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood” and “Minimal Brain Damage” (Conrad & Potter, 2000). The concept of Minimal Brain Damage and its symptoms were discussed in the previous section. Lange et al. (2010) and Palmer and Finger (2001) note that even as the DSM-II recognized Minimal Brain Damage, there were criticisms that the term was not specific enough and that the concept as a whole was flawed. Even so, Minimal Brain Damage continued to be used up until as recently as the 1980s (Lange et al., 2010).

The other ADHD-like disorder included in the DSM-II, Hyperkinetic Reaction of Childhood, was described as being “characterized by overactivity, restlessness, distractibility, and short attention span, especially in young children; the behavior usually diminishes in adolescence” (APA, 1968, p. 50, cited by Conrad & Potter, 2000, p. 562). The connection between inattentive behavior and hyperactive behavior was solidified with the DSM-II’s legitimization of a disorder characterized by both, setting the stage for ADD and ADHD (Conrad & Potter).

The DSM-III (1980)

When the DSM-III came out in 1980, it included “ADD with or without hyperactivity,” the final precursor to ADHD (Conrad & Potter, 2000; Lange et al., 2010; Palmer & Finger, 2001). In the following section of the website, “Changes in the Diagnosis,” we will explore the change from ADD to ADHD in more detail, and describe changes in the disorder that have occurred since its recognition as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

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