09 Nov 2023

The dangers of ADHD misinformation on social media

There has been an increase in the number of ADHD diagnoses in recent years. This is partly due to the increased awareness of ADHD in …

There has been an increase in the number of ADHD diagnoses in recent years. This is partly due to the increased awareness of ADHD in the media and on social media channels like TikTok. However, the information on social media platforms is not always correct.

According to ADHD UK, an estimated two million people in the UK who have ADHD, don’t have a formal diagnosis. Due to the long waiting lists within the NHS for an ADHD assessment, it can be tempting to turn to social media to validate your beliefs. However, it’s important to consider the dangers of misinformation.

This guide will explore the dangers of misinformation and how to overcome it.

Why is there an increase in ADHD diagnosis in the UK?

Patient type and ADHD diagnosis 2017-18 2021-22 Percentage increase over that period
Patients with ADHD who have a learning disability 5.5% 8% +2.5%
Patients with ADHD who don’t have a learning disability 0.5% 0.8% +0.3% 

Data comes from the NHS Health and Care of People with Learning Disabilities, Experimental Statistics 2021 to 2022

It’s been suggested from news reports that social media platforms, such as TikTok have contributed to an increase in people self-diagnosing with ADHD. However, the information that’s been given on the TikTok videos may be unreliable or misleading.

Self-diagnosis is not a reliable form of ADHD diagnosis and the symptoms and behaviours being discussed in the videos may fail to take into account wider factors. For example, someone who has ADHD will find it hard to focus their attention on a task, but people with depression or anxiety can also struggle with this.

While self-diagnosing can be empowering, it is not necessarily accurate and can cause confusion, upset, disappointment and frustration later down the line.

What ADHD content is being published on social media?

Individuals who don’t want to wait to get an ADHD diagnosis may turn to social media for confirmation, reassurance and support.

Often, the topics covered on social media platforms around ADHD focus on online screening tools or listing out common symptoms. As humans, we have a bias to select information that is consistent with our beliefs, which leads to cases of self-diagnosis.

A recent study, led by Anthony Yeung in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that over half (52%) of the 100 most popular TikTok videos had content that could be classified as misleading. While social media can be great for raising awareness of ADHD, it’s important that the content does not spread ADHD misinformation that leads to a misdiagnosis of the condition.

Getting an ADHD diagnosis is a complex process

If you or your child shows visible signs and symptoms of ADHD, it can be tempting to self-diagnose through social media or an online test.

Getting a formal and reputable ADHD diagnosis however requires more than just ticking boxes off a symptom checklist. It involves a detailed developmental history from a skilled and trained healthcare professional who has experience of diagnosing ADHD in children and adults, that considers other possible explanations for a person’s presentation.

Without a diagnosis made by a qualified professional, people may wrongly identify as having ADHD.

Celebrities breaking the stigma around ADHD

Celebrities speaking openly about their ADHD diagnosis has had a positive impact on reducing the stigma around ADHD. However, it can lead the condition to be ‘glamourised’.

Comedian Johnny Vegas, Ant McPartlin and Barbie director Greta Gerwig are just a few famous faces that have been diagnosed with ADHD. Seeing celebrities with the condition and hearing about the positives or ‘superpowers’ ADHD gives, can sometimes mean the challenges are under-represented.

How to overcome ADHD misinformation on social media

With there being plenty of misinformation on ADHD on social media, it’s more important than ever that you follow credible and trusted experts. This includes The British Psychological Society, The ADHD Foundation and ADDISS to name but a few.

These organisations are not only qualified experts but have knowledge of supporting and diagnosing children and adults. Seeking independent opinions from qualified healthcare professionals can also be useful, particularly if you or your child is showing clear signs and symptoms of ADHD.

Get an Accurate, Reliable ADHD Diagnosis with The Autism Service

Wondering if you or your child shows signs of ADHD? We offer reliable, accurate child and adult assessments, providing you with a clear answer for your ADHD diagnosis.

All our ADHD assessments are NICE-guideline compliant, giving you or your child a full diagnostic assessment to find out whether you have ADHD or not. Our clinics are located across the UK, enabling you to book an assessment at a location that’s convenient for you or your child.

Do you have any questions about how we do child and adult ADHD assessments? You can contact one of our friendly staff members. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about the ADHD assessment process, as well as how you can book an assessment today.

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