Does this sound familiar? You're scrolling on Instagram or TikTok when all of a sudden, a video about ADHD symptoms pops up on your screen. Or maybe you're out with a friend who wonders aloud whether their disorganization or lack of focus at work could be a symptom of ADHD. Even just a few years ago, these kinds of casual encounters involving ADHD felt rare. But today, it seems like more people are paying attention to ADHD than ever before. If you have ADHD, you might be a bit mystified by this recent development. After all, it wasn't that long ago that talking about ADHD — particularly adult ADHD — seemed almost taboo. But now, people are sharing their experiences openly, and some are even expressing pride in their diagnosis.
So, what's behind this sudden increase in ADHD awareness? Learn more about social media's role in the recent uptick in interest and some possible pitfalls that can come with this newfound embrace of all things ADHD.
Do More People Have ADHD?
With all the interest in ADHD in recent years, it certainly seems like more people have the condition. But is that really the case? The answer is a little more complicated than a simple "yes" or "no."
It's definitely true that the number of ADHD diagnoses has been shooting up. In the 1990s, about 6% of children were diagnosed with ADHD. That number climbed to 10% by 2010. The rate of adult ADHD diagnosis appears to be rising even faster. In fact, a study found a 123% increase in ADHD prevalence in adults between 2007 and 2016.
A number of things may be contributing to these increases. Growing awareness and reduced stigma surrounding ADHD are certainly major factors. But some clinicians suggest that there could also be environmental factors at play, such as sleep deprivation, blue light-emitting devices, poor nutrition, and prenatal exposure to certain medications or chemicals.
While we do know that the number of people being diagnosed is going up, it's unclear whether that means more people actually have ADHD now compared to years past. Are more people developing ADHD, or are more people recognizing the symptoms because it's being talked about more openly?
Sharing About ADHD: The Positives
Social media is playing a huge role in the increased awareness of ADHD. There's no doubt that this has had a positive effect on many people's lives. As an increasing number of people post videos on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, more people are learning about the symptoms of the condition. For example, they're discovering some of the signs of ADHD — like anxiety, poor sleep, sensory issues, and emotional reactivity — that aren't as widely known as inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
It's not just the information that's making an impact. It's also seeing people discuss ADHD openly and honestly. That helps to break down ADHD stigma, which is so important for making people feel comfortable enough to seek out a diagnosis and get treatment for the condition. This is especially important since the costs of untreated ADHD can be so high.
Lately, TikTok has arguably been the biggest player in this ADHD awareness boost. The hashtag #ADHD has over 16 billion views on the platform. It has given a voice to people who often don't fit the stereotype of ADHD (which is generally white and male), including women and people of color. Those kinds of positive outcomes have had a massive effect on how ADHD is viewed today, including who gets to participate in the conversation.
Sharing About ADHD: The Negatives
Unfortunately, giving anyone a platform to share about ADHD does have some drawbacks. The vast majority of the people posting on social media about their symptoms or chatting with friends about a possible diagnosis aren't health experts. Though there's every reason to believe that these folks have good intentions, it's important to remember that there's a lot of misinformation about ADHD out there.
According to a study published in 2022, 52% of the top 100 most popular ADHD videos on TikTok contained misleading information. Each of those videos also had an average of 2.8 million views and over 31,000 shares, which means that a lot of people were exposed to that misinformation.
Finding and Sharing Accurate Info about ADHD
At Done, we support the growing conversation about ADHD. Online videos can be a great way to get that conversation started, but it's important to make sure you're consuming and sharing information that's factual and useful. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Follow social media accounts run by actual healthcare professionals.
- Fact check with trusted sources, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Mental Health, and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Talk to a board-certified ADHD clinician through a service like Done.