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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. 

Self Compassion leads to emotional resilience

Self Compassion leads to emotional resilience

Self compassion is the deliberate practice of being kind, gentle and understanding with yourself. It entails being aware of your own suffering, challenges and shortcomings without judgment. It is often said that self compassion means affording yourself the same kindness that you would offer to a friend in a similar situation.

Research into the practice of self compassion has shown considerable benefits for overall wellbeing. People who are more self compassionate tend to have better physical and mental health, and are less prone to anxiety and depression. Interestingly enough, the “tough love” approach tends to break us down over time. On the other hand, being gentler with yourself actually helps you develop emotional strength and resilience.

How you can practice self compassion

Self compassion begins with the knowledge that you are a human being who is trying their best. Everyone makes mistakes and will experience failures and regrets. Remind yourself that you are not the only one who is feeling afraid or uncertain. This is all a part of the human experience and you are doing the best that you can under very challenging circumstances. Self compassion involves recognizing that your mistakes, perceived inadequacies and suffering do not negate your value and worth as a person.

One of the easiest ways to show yourself compassion is to pretend that you are a beloved friend who is going through a rough time. Even if your friend was somewhat at fault or genuinely messed up, wouldn’t you assure them that it’s okay? Wouldn’t you let them know that everyone makes mistakes sometimes and that this too will pass?

You certainly wouldn’t berate your friend by telling them that they deserve to suffer because of the mistake they made. You would never tell a friend that their life is forever ruined because of one wrong decision. So why do we do this to ourselves?

Being a good friend to yourself

Ashley just found out that she didn’t get a job that she was really banking on. She feels hurt and rejected and her mind spirals with all kinds of thoughts. She tells herself that she will never get hired because she just isn’t impressive enough. The hiring manager probably saw her application and laughed. She should just give up the job hunt now because she will never find a good job.

Now, imagine that Ashley calls her boyfriend and tells him that she didn’t get the job. He responds by saying that he isn’t surprised because she simply isn’t impressive. He tells her that the hiring manager probably took one look at her email and deleted it. He tells her she should just give up on job hunting because she’s never going to find a job.

Ashley should dump that boyfriend, right? How could he be so mean during a moment of vulnerability?

It’s so easy for us to treat ourselves in ways that we would never tolerate from the people in our lives. It’s so easy to say unkind things to ourselves that we would never dream of saying to the people we love. The next time you’re feeling low, ask yourself what you would want to hear from a close friend in that moment. Then say those things to yourself. It may feel strange at first, but soon it will become natural for you to treat yourself with gentleness and compassion.

Self criticism versus self compassion

Self criticism usually has good intentions. When we criticize ourselves, it’s often because we hold ourselves to very high standards. It’s easy to believe that self criticism helps to hold yourself accountable or keeps you in check when you mess up. But in the long run, self criticism can turn into a constant loop of self-loathing, leading to poor self esteem, depression and anxiety. You begin to fear your own brain’s mean comments, so you are constantly on guard and afraid to make mistakes or take risks.

Self compassion, on the other hand, provides a safe space where you feel empowered to try new things. You know that you can rely on yourself to be supportive during inevitable moments of failure and regret. This helps you to build emotional resilience over time. Self compassion is a source of inner strength that helps people to cope with the difficulties that life throws their way.

Self criticism cuts you down over time and can even make you cynical. Self compassion builds you up.

What self compassion is NOT

Self compassion is not the same as self pity. Self compassion comes from a place of empowerment, not victimhood. Self compassion does not mean that you do not accept responsibility for your actions or that you make excuses for bad behavior. Rather, self compassion gives you a safe space to be honest with yourself about your shortcomings without feeling ashamed of them. Self compassion reminds you that you messed up because you’re a flawed person who is doing their best. Self compassion gives you the strength to try again – and to do better next time.

Activities to promote self compassion

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective ways to challenge critical self-talk and embrace a more compassionate state of mind. This form of therapy helps you to identify and challenge negative thoughts, emotions and behaviors, so you can deal with them in a healthy way. You will explore and identify where there is a block in your life. You will also look at the beliefs you hold about yourself and how they affect your well being. The clinicians at Flourish Psychology are trained in this kind of therapy. Schedule a free consult to get matched with a therapist who best meets your needs.

Journaling is an especially useful tool for encouraging self compassion. Take the time to write about a situation that is causing you distress, guilt or shame. Then write a response from the perspective of a loving friend who can see the situation more objectively.

Why not come up with a self compassion mantra that you can repeat to yourself whenever you need to? Examples include “I am going through a hard time and I will be kind to myself.” Try to use your mantra to counter any intrusive or unkind thoughts. Be mindful of when you are being harsh or critical towards yourself. Sometimes these thoughts are so frequent and common that we don’t even notice. Stop and ask yourself whether you’re really being fair and whether you would be speaking to a friend in this critical manner.

Self compassion is a deliberate practice that becomes easier over time. It may be difficult at first, but it’s sure to have long-lasting effects for your mental health and wellbeing.

How To Use CBT to Manage Fear

How To Use CBT to Manage Fear

During the Halloween season, many of us are watching scary movies, reading spooky books and enjoying the festive decorations. During this time of year, we put the spotlight on the emotion of fear and being scared. But most of us don’t fear monsters, goblins or vampires.  We more often face the fear of failure, fear of rejection and fear of missing out (FOMO) in our daily lives. Fear can prevent you from reaching your true potential and living your best possible life. Some of us may fear specific situations, objects or people. In trying to avoid these triggers, we may face difficulties in our daily lives and in the pursuit of our goals.

Fear is a powerful emotion that is instigated by perceived danger or threat. This emotion causes distinct physiological and behavioural changes. This can then trigger other emotions such as anger, sadness and shame. In responding to this emotion, we may react by avoiding the perceived threat or confronting it. This is called the fight-or-flight response. This response can also trigger involuntary physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, sweaty and trembling hands, feeling lightheaded and frequent urination. These symptoms can then worsen your feelings of anxiety as you may feel like you are sick or in physical danger.

The Purpose of Fear

Fear is a very useful emotion. It’s the body’s way of telling us that there may be an impending threat to our safety or wellbeing. While fear can be a healthy and safe response in many situations, there are other times when a fear response is less helpful. In these situations, fear can prevent us from having valuable life experiences. For example, the fear of rejection may prevent you from applying for that job you want. Fears associated with social anxiety may prevent you from meeting new people and forming relationships. A fear of confrontation may be a hindrance to standing up for yourself in unjust situations.

A phobia, which is a type of anxiety disorder, is a persistent and excessive fear of a specific object or situation. People with phobias will do everything possible to avoid the object of their fear. They will experience significant distress if they cannot avoid the trigger. Agoraphobia, for example, causes people to avoid daily activities such as going to the bank or grocery store. Hydrophobia prevents many people from going to the beach.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Managing Fear

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, commonly known as CBT, is a fairly modern psychotherapeutic modality. It focuses on challenging (and ultimately, changing) unhelpful thought patterns, beliefs and cognitive distortions. CBT encourages you to literally face your fears via exposure treatment. This has shown to be effective in patients across the board, from people with extreme phobias to social anxiety. Exposure therapy encourages patients to “climb the fear ladder” by exposure to the object of fear in gradual increments.

For example, a patient with a fear of spiders may first look at pictures of spiders, then watch a video. When they are ready, they can observe a spider in an enclosed space from far away. Over time, they will get closer and closer. One day, they may get as far as handling a spider with their bare hands. This, of course, takes place over an extended period of time and at a pace that the patient can reasonably tolerate. If your exposures are overwhelming, this can have a counterproductive effect.

Similarly, those with social anxiety may climb the fear ladder by first smiling at a stranger on their daily commute and build their way up to initiating a conversation with someone at work. One day, they may feel confident enough to pursue a romantic interest. Decades of research has shown that if we deliberately and systematically confront our fears, the symptoms of anxiety drastically decrease over time.

Challenging Negative Thoughts

CBT also tackles fear by encouraging you to challenge your thoughts and cognitive distortions. Let’s suppose you are afraid of going outside to exercise because you think that everyone will laugh at you. CBT asks you to stop and challenge that thought. Why would they laugh at you? Wouldn’t they be too caught up in their own busy schedules to even give you a second glance? Do you laugh at people when you see them exercising? If someone does laugh at you, what does that say about them?

After asking yourself these questions over time, you may begin to notice that most of the things that you fear do not ever come to pass. You may also begin to notice that some fears are illogical and not rooted in fact. It also becomes evident that most of the time, the feelings of anxiety are far more intense than the actual experience of facing fear. With this knowledge, you become less fearful over time and more inclined to take action even when you are feeling fearful.

CBT Offers Faster Results

Fear is an emotion experienced by everyone, but is far more common in people with mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an effective and relatively quick type of therapy that is particularly effective in treating these conditions and in managing fears. Many patients see results within 5-20 weeks and patients are able to use the CBT techniques on themselves for the rest of their lives. In this way, CBT teaches you to be your own therapist.

The clinicians at Flourish Psychology provide a wide array of treatment modalities, including CBT. We would be happy to have a free consult with you to discuss your therapy needs.

Written by Francine Derby