Does Social Media Cause ADHD in Children and Adults?
The Impact of Social Media on ADHD: Separating Fact from Fiction
Social media is ubiquitous, and while it’s a great way to stay connected to important others, to get news and to learn about what’s going on in the world, overusing or over relying on social media has become a problem for many people. As a psychologist, I am often asked about the impact of social media overuse and whether or not it can cause ADHD. With the rise of social media and technology, it’s important to separate fact from fiction when it comes to ADHD and its relationship with these platforms.
Self-Diagnosing ADHD on Social Media
One of the biggest issues with social media is the ease at which people can self-diagnose themselves with conditions like ADHD. While this might seem like a harmless act, it can actually be quite dangerous. Not only are self-diagnosis attempts often inaccurate, but they can also lead to people seeking out unnecessary treatment or medication. Of course, problems with sustained attention and concentration, task persistence, distractibility, impulsivity and/or hyperactivity can be due to ADHD, but keep in mind that those sorts of symptoms are also consistent with other conditions (e.g., learning disorders, anxiety, etc.).
Another issue with self-diagnosing ADHD on social media is the misinformation that is spread on these platforms. From Tik Tok videos to Facebook posts, there are countless sources of information on ADHD (and ADHD treatments) that can be misleading or simply untrue. This can result in people being misinformed about the condition and its symptoms, leading to even more inaccurate self-diagnoses.
Given the large amount of on-line information available to people these days, it’s important to rely on credible sources when doing research. Children’s Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, or even WebMD, are going to give you more reliable and helpful information on ADHD than TikTok or other social media platforms. It’s essential to have accurate information in order to make informed decisions about one’s health and well-being.
While there is no clear answer to this question, some studies have shown a link between excessive screen time and the development of ADHD-like symptoms. This is especially true for children who are more susceptible to the negative effects of too much screen time (i.e. increased impulsivity and distractibility). So why are ADHD diagnoses on the rise? There has been much debate over the years about whether or not the increase in ADHD diagnoses is due to technology and social media. While some experts believe that technology and social media have contributed to an increase in ADHD diagnoses, others argue that the increase is simply due to better awareness and improved diagnostic tools — it’s important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between social media and technology use and ADHD.
That being said, as a psychologist, I always advise my clients to limit their screen time and to be mindful of the impact it may have on their mental health. For parents, the American Academy of Pediatrics provides research based tips on screen time management for children and teens, which can be found at: https://www.aap.org/en/patient-care/media-and-children/
In conclusion, the current research suggests that social media use is not a direct cause of ADHD. However, frequent use of social media may be associated with increased ADHD symptoms. Additionally, it’s important to remember that self-diagnosis is never a substitute for a professional diagnosis. If you are concerned about ADHD for yourself or your child or teen, it’s important to consult a qualified healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
Michael Oberschneider, Psy.D. “Dr. Mike” is a clinical psychologist in private practice.
He can be reached at 703-723-2999, and is located at 44095 Pipeline Plaza, Suite 240, Ashburn.