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ADHD over-diagnosis, self-diagnosis and the influence of TikTok

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is typically characterized by symptoms such as inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity as well as accompanying mood disorder. Although ADHD is a legitimate disorder, there is growing concern that it is being over-diagnosed.


In my experience, I have heard countless expressions of concern from individuals who have seen content about ADHD (OCD is a big one too!) and worry they have the condition. This is especially the case if the individual has been struggling with one or more of these symptoms as a 'diagnosis' (e.i. an explanation) frequently provides a sense of reassurance.

TikTok has become a popular social media platform that allows users to create and share short videos. Recently, there has been an increase in TikTok videos that discuss ADHD and its symptoms. While these videos can provide valuable information about ADHD, they can also contribute to the perception that everyone has ADHD. Symptoms of ADHD can be completely unrelated and happen for a number of reasons. TikTok and other platforms of discussion have attributed to a 'normalizing' of ADHD when it is actually not a common disorder.

The symptoms of ADHD are common and can be easily misunderstood. ADHD symptoms such as forgetfulness, distractibility, and impulsivity can be experienced by anyone at some point in their lives. As more people talk openly about their experiences with ADHD on social media, it can lead to the perception that ADHD is a common and normal condition. This can lead people to self-diagnose or seek (sometimes even shop for) a diagnosis of ADHD when they may not actually have the disorder. When these symptoms are presented in a TikTok video, it can make viewers believe that they also have ADHD, even if they do not meet the diagnostic criteria for the disorder.

It is important to note that ADHD, when truly present, can significantly impact an individual's ability to function. However, it is also important to recognize that not everyone who experiences ADHD-like symptoms has the disorder. Self-diagnosis without proper evaluation and consideration of other conditions can lead to misdiagnosis and delay proper treatment for underlying conditions.



Anyone who is concerned about challenging psychological symptoms should seek

an assessment with a medical doctor or psychologist. ADHD is diagnosed based on a set of symptoms that can be subjective and open to interpretation. The symptoms of ADHD are also common in other conditions such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders. There is no blood test to screen for ADHD and trialing powerful prescription medication along with therapy are the treatment options. This can present an unnecessary risk of side effects to those who don't actually need to be on medication. Diagnosing ADHD requires a comprehensive assessment that involves gathering information from multiple sources, including the individual being assessed, their family members or caregivers, and other relevant sources such as teachers or healthcare providers. Here are the key components of an ADHD assessment: 1. Clinical Interview: The first step in diagnosing ADHD is a clinical interview with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist. The healthcare professional will ask questions about the person's medical history, developmental history, family history, and current symptoms. 2. Rating Scales: Rating scales are questionnaires that assess ADHD symptoms and their impact on daily life. These scales can be filled out by the individual, their family members or caregivers, and teachers or other healthcare providers. 3. Behavior Observations: Observations of the individual's behavior in different settings, such as at school, home, and social situations, can provide valuable information about their symptoms and how they impact daily life. 4. Psychological Testing: Psychological testing may be used to rule out other conditions that can mimic ADHD symptoms, such as anxiety, depression, or learning disabilities. 5. Medical Evaluation: A medical evaluation may be conducted to rule out any medical conditions that can cause ADHD-like symptoms, such as thyroid problems or sleep disorders. 6. Diagnostic Criteria: Finally, the healthcare professional will compare the individual's symptoms to the diagnostic criteria for ADHD as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The rise of individuals self-diagnosing ADHD causes a domino effect of issues. There is increased pressure on healthcare providers to diagnose and treat patients quickly, even if they have not had thorough screening for ADHD and other conditions. Prescription stimulants, which are very dangerous when misused, are more readily available. Lack of screening results in improper treatment. I have found that unfortunately, it is not uncommon for an individual's perception about themselves and their ability to cope or change has a correlating relationship with certain diagnoses or labels they have received. Improper treatment allows for worsened symptoms, untreated underlying illness, poor mood or coping, frustration and overall decrease in one's quality of life. To find out more information about ADHD, visit the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada https://caddac.ca/ or speak to your healthcare provider about a psychological assessment.

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