If you’ve noticed a lot of people talking about ADHD lately, you’re not alone.
ADHD diagnosis has been on the rise since at least the 90s.  In the past few years, it’s become an especially hot topic. “ADHD TikTok” has become a huge source of information (and sometimes misinformation) about ADHD. Many people have felt like everyone they know suddenly has ADHD.
So, is ADHD really becoming more common? Or are we just becoming more aware of it? And does everyone who says they have ADHD really have it?
What’s behind the rise in ADHD diagnosis?
Many things can increase a person’s risk of developing ADHD. Most of them haven’t changed much in the past few decades: genetics, environmental toxins, childhood trauma. 
Some people have blamed the rise of stimulating technology like smartphones and video games. After all, the most successful companies in the history of the world are tech giants that constantly demand your attention and sell it to advertisers.
These things most likely don’t cause ADHD. But it does seem like it’s harder to avoid distractions today than it was 40 years ago. Add to that a global pandemic that left everyone bored at home for 2 years or so, and it makes sense why people are so curious about ADHD.
Which brings us to the biggest reason more people are getting diagnosed with ADHD: awareness. People know more about ADHD now than they ever have in the past. They know what it is. They know it’s common in both children and adults. And they know that treatment is available.
For years, researchers have been saying that ADHD is underdiagnosed.  This is especially true for women, people of color, adults, and people with inattentive type ADHD. Many people have been struggling with ADHD for years without realizing it. For them, greater awareness means access to life-changing options like medication, therapy, and support groups.
Is there such a thing as too much awareness?
Mental health professionals are human, and sometimes they make mistakes. As more and more people get evaluated for ADHD, there will be some false positives—people who really shouldn’t be labeled as having ADHD, but are. 
So how big of a problem is this? Is there a downside to increased awareness?
The most common treatment for ADHD is stimulant medications, like Ritalin and Adderall. These medications have proven to be safe and effective for people with ADHD.  But they do have side effects, and they can also be abused. For people with mild ADHD, the side effects can sometimes outweigh the benefits.  Fortunately, people can often tell very quickly whether a medication will be helpful for them.
Many of the other treatments for ADHD are things that can be helpful for almost anyone:
- Physical activity
- Getting enough sleep
- Managing your time wisely
- Limiting your time with electronic devices, especially while trying to work or study
You don’t have to be diagnosed with ADHD to try these things out. They may help you concentrate and feel less anxious, no matter who you are.
Who has a “right” to say they have ADHD?
I did feel a bit suspicious when all my friends seemed to be suddenly getting diagnosed with ADHD. But then I realized that we ADHD folks often find each other. I have lots of random hobbies. I hang out with a lot of artists, musicians, and gamers. And ADHD seems to be a lot more common in those circles.
Mental health conditions like ADHD exist on a spectrum. For some people with ADHD, their symptoms are so severe that they have trouble holding down a job or even staying out of jail. Getting treatment for ADHD can be literally life-saving.
Other people live in a sort of “gray area”. They have a really hard time paying attention or following through on tasks, and it affects their day-to-day life. It could be ADHD, or it could be a side-effect of another condition, like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Medication might help, or it might not. People in this part of the spectrum often feel unsure if they are “allowed” to use the ADHD label.
If you think you have ADHD but aren’t sure, it’s a good idea to get diagnosed. Things like ADHD TikTok or even our own free ADHD Test are good starting points, but only a mental health professional can diagnose ADHD.
In the meantime, it’s perfectly fine to say that you think you might have ADHD, or that you saw some videos about ADHD that really resonated with you. It’s a way to open up a conversation about mental health, and connect with other people who are on their own mental health journeys. Even if you don’t end up being diagnosed with ADHD, you might learn some helpful coping skills along the way.
Strategies that work for you don’t have to make sense to anybody else.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). ADHD Throughout the Years. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/timeline.html
- Faraone et al. (2021). The World Federation of ADHD International Consensus Statement: 208 Evidence-based conclusions about the disorder. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 128, pp. 789-818. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2021.01.022
- Ginsberg et al. (2014). Underdiagnosis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Adult Patients: A Review of the Literature. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 25(1). Retrieved from https://www.psychiatrist.com/pcc/neurodevelopmental/adhd/underdiagnosis-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/
- Kazda et al. (2021). Overdiagnosis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Scoping Review. JAMA Network Open 4(4). Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/article-abstract/2778451
- Clavenna. (2017). Pediatric pharmacoepidemiology – safety and effectiveness of medicines for ADHD. Expert Opinion on Drug Safety 16(12), pp. 1335-1345. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/14740338.2017.1389894