American adolescents are facing an unprecedented mental health epidemic, exacerbated by issues like climate change, COVID-19 and a divisive political environment that make the future feel uncertain.
Compared to previous generations’ tendency to sweep everything under the rug and stigmatize mental health issues, today’s teenagers are taking a more open approach by using social media to talk about their experiences. While there are some positive aspects to this heightened awareness, it has also created a new wave of self-diagnoses derived from TikTok and other online platforms.
Why Do More Teens Think They Have ADHD?
People have created thriving online communities for every possible special interest, and these groups can be incredibly attractive for teenagers who are starting to explore their personalities and looking for ways to fit in. Adolescents may try on various identities to discover what feels right to them. Social media platforms have made this experimentation much easier, as they allow anonymity and a sense of freedom for those who may not be comfortable presenting as themselves in public.
The hormonal, physical and emotional changes of puberty may make teens feel isolated and misunderstood, which is why the found family of niche online communities can be so exciting and welcoming. Mental health advocates are especially active on platforms like TikTok, where they share information about common diagnoses like ADHD as well as much rarer conditions like Tourette’s syndrome and borderline personality disorder. However, many of the qualities described in these brief videos are prevalent among teenagers, and don’t necessarily mean someone has ADHD.
TikTok’s Influence on Teen Mental Health
While TikTok has helped improve people’s understanding of mental health challenges, it is also an example of a psychological phenomenon called the Barnum effect, in which people hear a generic description of something and think it applies to them. Palm readers, horoscope writers and other “psychics” take advantage of this aspect of human nature to make their predictions seem more believable.
Though there has been a noticeable uptick in anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders among teenagers in recent years, young people eager to learn more about themselves and find a sense of connection may claim to have symptoms of serious diagnoses they don’t fully understand.
Many of the characteristics of ADHD overlap with the normal developmental changes associated with adolescence, including:
- Trouble paying attention and following through on tasks
- Heightened emotions and sensitivity to rejection
- Making impulsive or reckless decisions
Giving Your Teen the Tools to Succeed
When pinning down a diagnosis of ADHD and other mental health conditions, a professional will want to know whether the symptoms interfere with your child’s daily ability to function. Though many teenagers are easily distracted, forgetful, lose things and procrastinate on challenging tasks, these issues aren’t usually cause for alarm unless they reduce your child’s quality of life and prevent them from doing the things they want to do.
The Forum provides comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations that can accurately diagnose ADHD and allow your family to proceed with an effective treatment plan. We work with adolescents and their families to prevent more severe problems that can arise in adulthood. To learn more about our philosophy, get in touch with us today.