They’re just lazy.
They just need to focus.
They just need more self-discipline.
We can just feel those who’ve been living with ADHD shuddering at the memory of battling other people’s opinions about the condition: in the classroom, in the playground, and in the workplace.
Thankfully, awareness campaigns and formal recognition under Australia’s Disability Discrimination Act have increased understanding of ADHD, helping shed negative social stigmas and normalising the seeking of diagnoses for the neurological condition.
But could TikTok’s ADHD influencers be undoing it all by causing more young people to (incorrectly) self-diagnose themselves with ADHD?
Overdiagnosis vs catch-up debate
In case you missed it, Australia is in a ‘massive’ ADHD wave.
Medication prescribed for ADHD has more than doubled in the past five years alone, with psychiatrists flagging an ongoing surge in demand for diagnoses.
And herein lies the question ADHD patient Sasha, ADHD educator Cate Osborn (aka Catiosaurus) and digital anthropologist Crystal Abidin explored on the ABC’s Schmetgeist episode ‘The ADHD diagnosis wave: is TikTok overselling neurodivergence? (Part 1)’… why?
Well, there are two, shall we say, ‘warring narratives’ attempting to explain the spike that has more parents than ever wondering if their child has ADHD.
One side of the debate attributes the wave to an out-of-control TikTok trend, while the other sees it as a natural consequence of increased public awareness and understanding of neurological condition.
A case of ‘overdiagnosis vs catch up’, if you may.
But who is ‘they’, anyway? And shouldn’t we just ask the experts?
Well, the ABC did – and they found psychiatrists said that most of their new patients (who are mostly young women) are seeking an ADHD diagnosis after viewing social media content by ADHD influencers like Cate Osborn, who posts on multiple platforms under the handle Catiosaurus.
Who coincidentally is a defender of the ‘catch up’ theory.
“It’s such an honour to get emails from people saying that my video was the reason why they ultimately went to go get a diagnosis,” says Osborn.
“There were so many voices being left out of the conversation… then all of a sudden social media happens, (and we’ve created) a place where members of this community can come and they can talk about their own experience.”
Which a 16-year-old male from Western Australia responding to our wellbeing survey is all too familiar with.
“My late life diagnosis of ADHD meant for years I didn’t understand myself, why I couldn’t function as everyone else could, why I wasn’t ‘normal’,” he said.
“Executive dysfunction makes day-to-day tasks, that seem so simple for other people, draining and unmotivating and so difficult. That struggle piled onto others and caused me to sink into depression, develop anxiety (generalised and social), and lowered my self-esteem because I thought there was something wrong with me.
“The (ADHD diagnosis) was both relieving because it explained so much but also frustrating, why hadn’t anyone picked up on it before now?”
What to look out for
So a parent, how do you figure out whether your child has ADHD?
Raising Children, the Australian parenting website, flags a set of symptoms to look out for, such as:
- Difficulties paying attention – for example, they find it hard to concentrate on tasks
- Being hyperactive – for example, they find it hard to sit still for long
- Controlling impulses – for example, they might say or do things before thinking them through
But if you have a girl – which research suggests are underdiagnosed compared to boys – Melbourne Child Psychology suggests looking out for the following symptoms:
- Maintaining focus and concentration
But ultimately, the only way you’ll know your child has ADHD is to get a diagnosis. Which starts with a visit to your GP.