October marks ADHD Awareness Month, a dedicated time when people and organizations across the globe work to enhance understanding, reduce stigma and offer education and resources about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). ADHD is often viewed as a neurodevelopmental disorder which is characterized by a pattern of challenges with inattention, impulse control, hyperactivity and concentration. This set of difficulties are known to impact many or all life domains such as school, work, relationships, home-life and self-care.
With the rise of social media, mental health related content is now commonplace and ADHD is a hot topic. There are nearly four million #ADHD posts on Instagram. Tik Tok videos with that tag have collected 20 billion views. Many people say that normalizing ADHD — making it less stigmatized and more discussed — has helped to decrease shame, foster awareness and build community.
It may also contribute to an increase in people seeking diagnosis and treatment — a trend that was already on the rise. Are people being incorrectly diagnosed (at times by themselves)? Are historically marginalized, underdiagnosed groups finally being acknowledged and given proper care? It may be both. Regardless, there are downsides to this influx of attention (pun intended).
Stimulant prescriptions are at record-high rates, contributing to a year-long medication shortage. Though access to some medications is beginning to improve, many children, teens and adults across the country continue to be impacted by the shortage.
It can lead to spreading false information. In fact, a research study found that about half of the 100 most popular ADHD videos on Tik Tok were misleading. Not all content on social media is factual and it certainly does not replace talking to a professional.
On the positive side people are sharing their stories and painting a more complex, less pathologizing picture of ADHD brains. It is increasingly being understood through the lens of neurodiversity, a spectrum of natural and valuable variation. I understand how hard it can be to live with these differences. But I have also seen superpowers in myself and in my ADHD clients. Think about it… our attention is not even a deficit – have you ever seen us hyper focused on something we love? With this in mind, golden tidbits of information have been spreading, too. Here are just a few:
ADHD is not a sign of laziness or lack of ambition. It is characterized by challenges in executive functions like organization, time management and prioritization. People with ADHD often put in extra effort to accomplish tasks, exhibiting unseen determination.
People with ADHD might experience Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria (RSD), an intense emotional response that can impact self-esteem, relationships and overall well being. This makes sense. Judgment and misunderstanding is not uncommon in response to ADHD behaviors. Some try to mask their ADHD traits and present as neurotypical. This has ramifications too, as masking is shown to correlate with anxiety and depression.
Many successful individuals including entrepreneurs, artists and scientists have ADHD. Their ability to think outside the box, adapt to change and take risks can lead to groundbreaking achievements. The attributes pathologized in the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders are a catalyst for innovative thinking when viewed in a different light.
This month, I invite you to pay attention to what you see and hear, check the facts and educate yourself and others about neurodiversity. If you think you have ADHD, don’t wonder in isolation. While formal evaluations are time consuming and often cost prohibitive, you can always discuss questions with a therapist or doctor. If you are an ADHDer like me, don’t hesitate to advocate for your needs. Remember ADHD isn't a deficit; it's a distinctive way of processing information and interacting with the world. And in my humble opinion, the world needs you exactly as you are.
Have you received an ADHD diagnosis as an adult? Are you in the process of pursuing a diagnosis after having explored ADHD with a therapist? Or maybe you feel that you are in some way rediscovering your ADHD in adulthood? Looking Glass Counseling offers a support group that can help you navigate this topic. The current group is full but we have a waiting list and are working to offer this group in the Winter/Spring. Go to our website for more information and the link to the waiting list.
Lauren Chase, is a clinical social work student in her final year of graduate school at Boston College. As an intern therapist, she is grateful to offer financially accessible care for those seeking therapy without insurance benefits. With an integrative and intuitive approach, Lauren draws from person-centered therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, emotionally focused therapy, somatic practices and mindfulness. She prioritizes building genuine, empathetic therapeutic relationships with clients from a diversity of backgrounds. Lauren is interested in working with clients struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, eating disorders, ADHD and identity issues.
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