Study: Sleep-Related Surgeries Don’t ‘Cure’ Behavioral Problems

A growing number of parents are concerned about the behavior, social aptitude, and scholastic performance of their children, but often this concern can lead to quick diagnoses of attention-deficit hyperactivity and other behavioral issues. With a multitude of children receiving regular medication for ADHD and similar behavioral concerns, there is some dissent within the psychological and psychiatric communities over whether medication is justified in many cases, or whether it is a symptom of an industry focused on profiting through pharmaceuticals. A recently developed approach to some behavioral issues in children with sleeping difficulties has been suggested as a further alternative, but a study performed at the University of Kansas School of Medicine has suggested that such efforts may be misled as well.

The research was focused on taking a second look at children who had undergone surgical removal of adenoids and tonsils in an effort to clear breathing passages and foster healthier sleep, and included instances of children reported to exhibit symptoms of ADHD and other behavioral issues. The study found that while results were positive in terms of behavioral effects after six months, many of the participants did not show significant improvement over a two-and-a-half-year period. The results suggest that such treatment is poorly suited to providing a surgical “cure” for behavioral problems, and along with the many problems presented by over-medication of youth, provides support for the wider adoption of therapy and psychological care.

Though some behavioral issues may clearly benefit from alternative therapies based purely on prescription medications, the need for a first response with positive, empowering psychotherapy is becoming more prevalent with the published results of each study of this kind.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • jimmy


    August 5th, 2009 at 8:24 AM

    Surgery to correct a behavioral problem!…Isn’t this an example of the proverbial “to a hammer everything looks like a nail!” Seriously folks…the medical establishment needs to make better strides at treating people holistically and realizing that many “behavioral problems” have a multiple causes and influences. If only psychiatrists and md’s consulted with psychotherapists as readily as psychotherapists are willing to take the MD’s view into account!

  • Hannah


    August 5th, 2009 at 8:55 AM

    Sorry but I can’t jump on the surgery bandwagon either. What morons in the medical community came up with this one? More surgeons just wanting to line their pockets even more than they already do? Come on people! We all know that there is way more to behavioral issues than just lack of sleep. It may play a factor but there just has to be other stuff going on there as well.

  • Emmy


    August 6th, 2009 at 2:29 PM

    Gosh, why does there always have to be something that promises to be a quick fix but we know that in the end this is just going to be a bandaid to mask the real problems?

  • Paula


    August 7th, 2009 at 2:15 AM

    Has even therapy fallen out of favor to help kids with behavior problems now? Seems like all i hear about these days are medications to make things better or surgeries that will be a cure all. But sometimes maybe what these kids need is just someone to talk to to and really hear wht they have to say. What a novel concept huh?

  • Betsy Davenport, PhD

    Betsy Davenport, PhD

    August 7th, 2009 at 12:42 PM

    It should be noted that AD/HD is not a behavior disorder. Any behavior (code for “bad behavior”) that is troublesome is many mileposts down the road from where the problem is engendered. We dishonor the complexity of a human being to limit our understanding of it to its outermost layer — that which we can directly observe but which, in and of itself, provides no clues about its origins.

    Many people with AD/HD have sleep problems, and other problems understood to relate to a general dysregulation of the brain’s processes, all of which impair a person in the realm of civilized living. There is no surgery for that.

    My motto when it comes to doctoring: Do not remove body parts.

  • Francis W.

    Francis W.

    August 12th, 2009 at 9:50 AM

    I’ve read this three times and don’t understand why the surgery would be related to improving AD/HD in general. What a pile of mumbo jumbo. Betsy, I like your motto!

  • D.D.


    October 24th, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    Great entry. Anticipating the next one.

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