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ADHD, TikTok and the Risk of Self-Diagnosis

ADHD, TikTok and the Risk of Self-Diagnosis

If you’ve been scrolling through TikTok within the last few weeks, you may have noticed the sudden increase in content creators talking about ADHD. The conversation around neurodiversity has spilled over onto other social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, too. Many people with ADHD are speaking up about their experiences, in an effort to spread information and normalize the disorder. 

Public awareness of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder has seen a huge increase in recent years. These days, it’s common knowledge that ADHD doesn’t only affect children. There’s plenty of research into adult ADHD and how it affects everything from finances to relationships. It’s no surprise that the millennial and Gen Z populations are speaking up about it on social media.

Videos with the #adhd hashtag on TikTok have received over 2 billion views, with others like #adhdsquad and #adhdcheck receiving hundreds of millions of views. Popular themes for videos include “things I didn’t know were ADHD related” “a day in my life with ADHD” and “tips for managing ADHD.” A scroll through the comments will reveal thousands of people saying “this is so relatable!” and “omg do I have ADHD too?” 

Maybe you’ve heard your friends talking about ADHD recently. Maybe you’ve wondered if you may have it, too. Why has there been such an increase in these conversations?  How can you get help if you suspect you may have ADHD?

Why the Sudden Increase?

You may be wondering why everyone is talking about ADHD all of a sudden. A good guess is that the pandemic has something to do with it. Over the past year, we have all experienced significant shifts in our daily routines and structures.  This lack of structure raises especially difficult challenges for neurodivergent people. While it may have been easier to manage the disorder pre-pandemic, many people with ADHD are finding it difficult or impossible to meet their obligations right now. 

The pandemic represents a moment of reckoning for many people. These unprecedented challenges may cause you to realize things about yourself  that were not so obvious before. 

It’s not just ADHD. Content creators are speaking up about everything from borderline personality disorder to bipolar disorder. It can be tempting to self-diagnose when you identify with a blog post or video about mental illness. You may be wondering what to do if you suspect that you may have ADHD, bipolar disorder or another mental illness. 

The Danger of Self-Diagnosis 

Self-diagnosis can sometimes be an important step in getting the help you need. For many people, self-diagnosis prompts a visit to a professional who can make an official diagnosis. It’s very common to visit a mental health professional because you already have a suspicion about a particular disorder. You can then visit a psychologist to discuss your suspicions so you can get a professional opinion. 

In all of this, it’s important to remember that a “self-diagnosis” is merely a suspicion. A true diagnosis can only be made by a trained and qualified professional. 

Self-diagnosis is dangerous when you do not confirm your suspicions with a professional.  If you believe that you have a particular diagnosis, you may be tempted to self-treat with over-the-counter medication, a change in diet or some other behavior. Doing this without a doctor’s recommendation can have serious consequences. Self-diagnosis can also wreak havoc on your mental health by increasing your anxiety. It’s easy to get lost in the Internet rabbit hole, leading to information overload or a feeling of doom. 

There is also the risk of confirmation bias. You may already be so convinced that you have a particular disorder, so you start to identify with every symptom you see. A professional is able to be much more objective and nuanced when making an assessment. 

Getting an official diagnosis is the only way to access an effective, proven treatment plan for ADHD or any other disorder. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD 

The most common treatment plan for ADHD is a combination of medication and talk therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is especially effective in adults with ADHD. Many people with the disorder face frustrating setbacks at work, with their finances and life in general. Unmanaged ADHD can manifest in missed deadlines, chronic procrastination, late payments and an untidy home. Over time, people with ADHD can start to see themselves as lazy, unproductive or slow. This could not be further from the truth. People with ADHD have unique challenges not faced by neurotypical people. When equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools, they can thrive in any environment. 

Because of these setbacks and frustrations, adults with ADHD are often self-critical and pessimistic. Negative thought patterns, cognitive distortions and low self-esteem are extremely common. People with ADHD often experience feelings of failure or like they “never get anything right.” These demoralizing thoughts can prevent you from being happy and reaching your true potential. In this way, ADHD and depression are often comorbid, meaning you experience both at the same time. 

Medication will treat the neurological aspects of ADHD. Talk therapy helps you to manage the difficult thoughts and emotions that come along with ADHD. You will learn how to challenge these negative thought patterns, many of which may have been with you since childhood. 

CBT also provides practical skills and strategies for managing ADHD. You may notice improvement in daily challenges like time management and procrastination. During a session of CBT, you may be asked to consider the thoughts and emotions you have around a certain task. Maybe you will realize that you are procrastinating because of a cognitive distortion. For example, with “all or nothing thinking” it’s easy to believe that you can either be perfect or a failure and there is no in-between. You delay starting a task because you fear you will not be able to do it perfectly. Getting to the root of your procrastination is a crucial step in overcoming it. 

If you suspect you may have ADHD or any other mental disorder, contact us for a free consultation. Our client services assistant will schedule your first therapy appointment. You’ll be well on your way to an official diagnosis and a treatment plan that best meets your needs.