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Why is ADHD on the Rise?

Last week on my Instagram, although it was close, people voted to learn about why ADHD is on the rise.

In this blog post, you’ll learn about ADHD, the different types of ADHD, the rise in ADHD in the US and UK why I think it’s happening. I want to make it clear I’m not a medical professional, this is all my personal opinion and interpretation based on online evidence which I have linked. Please do your own investigating into this interesting, impactful and controversial topic.

Starting next month I'll be doing additional mini blogs for people on my email lift for two of the questions on the polls that came second place.

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What is ADHD?

Most of you reading this would have heard about ADHD, but so you and I have a common understanding of ADHD throughout this blog post, ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder which basically means you have trouble concentrating or sitting still. Common symptoms of ADHD include difficulty paying attention, being easily distracted, fidgeting or moving around a lot, and having trouble finishing tasks or following directions. People with ADHD may also be impulsive, impulsive, and have low frustration tolerance.

There are three main types of ADHD:

1. Predominantly Inattentive ADHD: This type of ADHD is characterized by daydreaming and difficulty paying attention in a variety of situations. Symptoms may include not listening when spoken to directly, having difficulty sustaining attention, and appearing to be forgetful.

2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD: This type of ADHD is characterized by exhibiting an inability to remain still and an inability to control behaviour. Symptoms may include excessive talking, difficulty waiting their turn, and an inability to remain quiet.

3. Combined Hyperactive-Impulsive and Inattentive ADHD: This type of ADHD is characterized by exhibiting symptoms from both Predominantly Inattentive ADHD and Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD. Symptoms may include difficulty focusing, impulsiveness, and difficulty controlling emotions.

Why is ADHD on the rise?

In America, 10% of children vs. 1% of children in Europe are diagnosed with ADHD. In the UK, the Guardian quoted Dr. Tony Lloyd, the chief executive of the ADHD Foundation, who said: “its own figures suggested a 400% increase in the number of adults seeking a diagnosis since 2020, adding that prescription volumes did not take account of those who do not use medication.”

That’s a big gap, and leads me to think ADHD is being overdiagnosed in the USA and UK, but why?

The American and UK Health care systems incentivise pills even if it’s unintentional (we’ll give the benefit of the doubt because for this article it doesn’t matter). I wrote a blog post on it a few weeks ago, if you’d like to read it it’s here. In the American Health care system, there’s a strong incentive for calming children down and making them more cooperative, especially when there are pills involved. There also isn’t a disincentive around ADHD diagnosis because, rightly so, mental health has become widely destigmatised in the USA, however, there’s a dark side to overprescription of medication for children who may not need it.

There is no brain scan or concrete measure for ADHD diagnosis. It’s my educated guess ADHD isn’t actually on the rise, it’s just overdiagnosed.

Why is overdiagnosis a problem?

Overdiagnosis is a problem for two reasons: it can take away your self-control and ADHD medications are overprescribed

How does a misdiagnosis affect identity?

It’s human nature to put things and people into categories so we are able to make faster decisions. Studies on the origins of social categorisation indicate that social labelling begins in infancy and is part of our survival instincts. The category of ADHD can include a wide variety of behaviours listed in the symptoms at the beginning of this blog post, however, even people with ADHD can often overcome hardships using talking therapies.

The problem with receiving a misdiagnosis is people tend to live the identity of the diagnosis they are given. Living the label of ADHD or any disorder, can be damaging to one’s own perception of willpower. An article from Harvard Business Review explains how ‘ego depletion’ or diminishing willpower only happens to people who believe willpower is finite.

To put it plainly, if you give yourself the excuse of a diagnosis to behave in certain ways you are more likely to behave those ways more often and become mentally exhausted when using self-restraint. At first, it may feel like a relief, and while you are never to blame for any condition or hardship you face, and certainly no one should be judging you, you always have the power to do the best you can. I personally think a diagnosis can feel like it takes that power away from you.

Do ADHD medications affect people poorly long-term?

ADHD medications are generally safe long-term at appropriate doses, but does that mean everyone should be taking them?

Even if ADHD medication isn’t harmful, using common sense, does taking a drug as a first port of call when there are alternative methods sound like it’s healthy? For some people, ADHD medication is absolutely the right step, but the problem is overdiagnosis is leading to over-prescription.

ADHD medication has side effects like loss of appetite, dizziness and insomnia. Finding the right medication is a battle in itself, and during a child’s formative years, lack of sleep or appetite is best avoided as much as possible, although I’ll admit again, I’m not a medical professional and I’m sure there’s someone in the world who thinks sleep and food deprivation is optimal for a child’s development.

Do you have ADHD?

Ok, now I’m guessing a lot of you reading the symptoms and said “That’s me.” This is especially true if you opened this article thinking you might have ADHD.

Confirmation bias is the “tendency to search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs”. So if you were looking for signs you had ADHD, you probably found them

The truth is, just like psychopathy, which we talked about last week. ADHD only affects a small number of the population, so you probably don’t have it, but I’m not a medical professional, so if you’re not sure get one of their opinions, although after reading this I hope you realise even their opinions may be inaccurate because of a lack of consistent diagnosis practices. If what you’re hoping for in a diagnosis are answers and strategies it could be great for you, but if you’re going into an appointment looking for pills, I hope this article helped show you there are other methods you could try first.

Enjoyed this post?

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week where we'll explore another question keeping us up at night. If you have any ideas let me know in the contact form on my page!

Questions that keep me up at night - the blog for curious people every Wednesday at 9:00am.

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