It has been a rollercoaster of emotions using social media coupled with the accelerant known as lockdown. Following the fallout from covid restrictions and the ashes of recovery, there has been a growing behaviour among many who are now claiming to be ‘neurodivergent’, a term coined by sociologist Judy Singer.
We have gone from a civilization discovering the words ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ to now debasing those who live with neurodiverse conditions including Autism, Misophonia, Tourette’s, OCD and ADHD. Such conduct has grown into a formula for influence, one that puts those with the aforesaid conditions at a disadvantage.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is an abbreviation for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Quite simply, it is a psychological condition which can make a person behave and think differently from others. They’re prone to impulsive behaviour and character traits such as hyperactivity, and difficulty concentrating on tasks that may or may not interest them.
It is often picked up during childhood though some discover they have it as adults. Many may misidentify it and believe they have the condition, though there could be other reasons.
People who live with ADHD often have one or more mental illnesses such as depression, and general anxiety disorder (GAD). Another problem they may have to contend with is burnout, brought about by constant stress and fatigue.
Confirmation bias, burnout and false symptoms
ADHD requires a broad spread of testing to be properly diagnosed. One or two symptoms like burnout or a short attention span do not equal disability. What is forgotten is the need for self-study in confirmation bias (the practice of ignoring evidence that conflicts with one’s own personal beliefs), a very real psychological and emotionally driven thought process which is, in a way, being ridiculed by a tremendous amount of people who claim to be on the spectrum of neurodivergence. Whether they are or not is beside the point. In shunning a need to be diagnosed, people who are waiting for one are losing the support and ability to be taken seriously for their disorder, let alone receive an appropriate amount of assistance.
From the end of the lockdown, there have been an enormous amount of mental health businesses attempting to cash in on the sudden revelations of many claiming to have certain conditions, in particular, led by TikTok ‘influencers’ and their army of short clips. There is no doubt that this has contributed to short attention spans, one of the many symptoms of the disability; repeat – one of many, and short attention spans cannot uphold a diagnosis alone. Most likely such a symptom is a consequence of unconscious scrolling prompted by boredom as videos and posts become shorter, encouraging our brains to seek instant gratification; this in turn shortens our attention spans. Other traits such as mishearing speech, ignoring people, forgetting public etiquette (such as manners), and restlessness should not be used as a classification for spectrum disorders, as this is an attribute of many neurotypical people (an off-spectrum personality). Social media has offered both pros (helping to destigmatize the condition) and cons, though it has yielded more negatives than it has benefits.
Neurodiversity and the use of online quizzes
Though usage of the term ‘neurodiverse’ can be useful sometimes, it has now inappropriately become a branch of identity with many using medical terms in a similar way to the representations of ‘introvert/extrovert’. But it is far from such a classification because people who live with it will tell you it is no picnic. This is especially true if you wake every day to constant deliberations on daily choices, unassured motives, sensory profusion, dyscalculia, inabilities to heed cultural norms and cues and textural differences within both a personal and public space. Not to mention the inability to control your emotions resulting in outbursts of a difficult nature for the neurodivergent person, which are all exhaustive and stressful predicaments to be in.
Social media is an invention of our consumer-driven system and its sole purpose is an ultra-high form of it. In a sense, social media is a symptom of that, accelerating niches into trends which in turn remedies them as industries (think of the increase of analogue photography, a now booming industry), for which the same has transpired for ADHD. Social media managed to inflame and morph disorders into a Munchausen-type condition through mass forms of exploitative trends which distress people living with such difficulties, ill-affording help to people who need it. In a sense, social media extrapolated and exploited mental illness without thought for the consequences.
TikTok in particular is a menace. A Trojan horse inflicting a series of psychological weapons tilting the young and old into a bubble of unrecognizable personalities and is another tool for exploitation. These platforms, like the promotion of clothes, technology and other consumer goods have spilt over into the realm of cognitive bias fortified by the unhelpful persuasion of online quizzes that are not medically sufficient enough to endow its users with the proper knowledge to make sound judgements. Think about it, if you believe something is wrong but you have no idea what, and you are informed by an online questionnaire that you most likely have ADHD, do you really feel you are in a position to make a self-diagnosis? No. This is a torn bandaid until you can be evaluated by a professionally and medically qualified psychiatrist.
Final thoughts and why you should get a diagnosis
It is more than likely that you do not fall within the spectrum of the aforementioned disorders. In all probability, your symptoms are a consequence of the attention-zapping platforms you frequent filled with a plethora of messages reaffirming your confirmation bias. This, coupled with mass hysteria and marketed publications make for a dangerous psychologically charged living situation. As such, a medical diagnosis by someone without a personal interest in your case should be sought.
That is not to say that everyone who claims a self-diagnosis doesn’t have it. But the case is that, suspicion should be kept to oneself until you’re able to seek a formal diagnosis. This can take weeks which will see psychiatrists compile and pull data on you from family, friends, work etc. This is done because of the simple fact that personal bias affects the perspective of the person and/or their family. It isn’t as simple as answering a few questions via an online quiz, and such practice belittles people with a diagnosis. Psychiatrists see people with disorders every day, putting them in a position to make sound judgements on the mental health of their patients.
Untreated and undiagnosed ADHD still requires help
Once you have a diagnosis from a medical professional, you will be in a position to access better guidance from your doctor. This ranges from prescription care, counselling, and lifestyle changes. With a diagnosis, you can begin to evaluate potential adjustments that may include body doubling (the aid of someone assisting you with work and/or education). But Tik Tok is not a place to seek advice for a medical condition.
If you have a strong suspicion you may be on the spectrum and are undiagnosed…
…some people introduce supplemental aids such as brown noise which has been shown to stimulate the part of the brain that is hyperaroused. Meditation can be effective, but because ADHD is a spectrum disorder, which means the effect will vary by person, it can sometimes agitate someone further.
Other methods of countering the effects of the condition include working out at the gym, eating regular healthy, balanced meals, getting enough sleep and cultivating and preserving friendships. These are not cures (and no such thing exists), but they are intended to boost both your mood and executive function.
Final thoughts and why you should see a psychiatrist
Not observing your confirmation bias could soon dilute how doctors perceive patients with neurodivergent disabilities and it could even enter the political spectrum causing shortfalls in funding due to the lack of seriousness in which it is taken. Those who say you do not need to prove your diagnosis are wielding a very destructive weapon against those who actually have one. It only seeks to trivialise a very real and debilitating condition that is already widely denigrated by the misinformed. This is not about gatekeeping or debating on the internet, it is a simple matter of human rights for those who live and struggle with disabilities and offers continued progress towards a better living standard for all who do. Don’t rely on someone telling you that you seem [enter disability], a quiz or a social media post. Get a diagnosis, no matter how long that may take.
The term neurodivergent has been employed in this article to allow the reader to amalgamate a series of references. I dislike the term ‘neurodivergent’ because it places many types of disability into one basket when the makeup of each can be very different. Each of the aforementioned disabilities should be discussed individually to be able to offer the attention they so rightly deserve. Many counsellors and psychotherapists may specialise in many; but most tend to specialise in one or the other, simply because education for each is far from a narrow field of research.
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