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Mental Health in the News: April 20, 2023

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Mental Health in the News

What’s Behind The Surge In Adult ADHD Diagnoses?

The conversation around attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – and the market for ADHD medications – appears to be shifting. The condition is traditionally associated with “problem kids”, but the number of adult ADHD diagnoses has more than doubled in the US since 2016. The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have boosted these numbers, with a reported 16% rise in prescriptions for Adderall between 2021-22.

A recent report in The New Statesman, a UK publication, takes a deep dive into the factors that could be contributing to this phenomenon.

Online Influencers

ADHD content is gaining traction on social media platforms such as TikTok. Influencers include psychiatrist Ned Hallowell, who helped de-stigmatize ADHD in the 1990s amidst a movement that called for relaxing its criteria. These efforts were successful; by 2013, 20% of American boys were diagnosed with ADHD, and most of them received prescription medication. 

Most ADHD “influencers” are not physicians — just everyday people living with the condition. These clinically diagnosed patients are concerned that the proliferation of relatable but inaccurate memes simplifying forgetfulness and disorganization has turned ADHD into a humorous trend. Other experts point to a growing tendency toward overdiagnosis driven by the interests of pharmaceutical companies.

A Historical Correction?

The increased rate of adults diagnosed with ADHD could simply be a shift to correctly diagnosing patients who suffered years of misdiagnosis or underdiagnosis, providing them with life-changing relief. Ongoing research has found various overlapping physical, social, and genetic risk factors. It’s important to note that ADHD treatment does not have to be drug-based. In fact, non-pharmaceutical options such as talk therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) can also be effective. 

The Definition of Normal

While the idea of more accurate diagnoses is encouraging, people suffering from ADHD symptoms must contend with social mores that influence how we as a society view stress and define illness.

The cultural context of illness (e.g., what defines a ‘normal’ attention span or risk aversion?) can determine what gets pathologized or not. It is tempting to reach for a label, but how many of us struggling with organization and concentration may simply be experiencing burnout in an extremely demanding work culture and overstimulating digital environment? It’s clear that ADHD, as an individual and social phenomenon, should be considered from many angles.

To read the original article, click here

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Disney Star Connor DeWolfe’s TikTok Relates Life With ADHD

Over the last two years, 22-year-old actor Connor DeWolfe has become a beloved presence on TikTok, sharing videos of his daily life with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

DeWolfe, who is currently starring in the Disney+ show The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, received his ADHD diagnosis at the age of 14, but he wasn’t alone. His entire family lives with the condition, and his parents were supportive of him growing up, teaching him that ADHD was a powerful force for creativity. Unfortunately, not everyone with ADHD gets to grow up in such a nurturing environment, which may explain the popularity of the young star’s social media content.

Connor started making TikTok videos about his life managing ADHD during the COVID-19 pandemic as an outlet for his creativity during the lockdown. DeWolfe’s breakout hit was his March 2021 “ADHD Superpowers” video, in which he shows some of the positive things he can do while hyper-focused, like designing sneakers and solving puzzles. The video gained more than 11 million views overnight and raised Connor’s follower count from 500 to 54,000.

Connor then decided to dedicate his entire TikTok channel to videos about ADHD, with a mission to educate others about the condition and normalize open conversations about mental health. Thanks to his engaging presentation style, he is now one of the most famous ADHD influencers on the platform, with over 5.5 million followers. Connor is grateful for all the positive comments from viewers who find his content relatable, telling him it saved their relationships or simply made them feel less alone.

The young actor described how his doctors didn’t give him much guidance about living with ADHD beyond prescribing medication. While prescription drugs are an effective treatment option for many, others include talk therapy and drug-free transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). It’s important to find out what works for you, and connecting with a supportive community like Connor’s Tiktok following can help you cope.

Connor intends to continue his mental health advocacy alongside his career in show business and hopes to be able to combine the two in the future.

To read the original article, click here

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The Spectrum of Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorders are common in our society and are classified into distinct categories on the basis of their particular characteristics. These include:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is found in survivors of violence, abuse, and trauma.
  • Phobias are intense fears of specific things like heights, water, spiders, thunder, etc.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder, aka Social Phobia, manifests as a fear of being watched or judged by other people. 
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder involves persistent and debilitating worry about a whole range of activities in life, even ordinary, daily events.

The family of anxiety disorders includes many more categories beyond these. All of us feel anxiety at some point in our lives, which is often sparked by a temporary situation. If your anxious episodes occur regularly enough to disrupt your daily life, it’s likely you are suffering from a clinical anxiety disorder.

When feelings of anxiety get in the way of relationships, work, and enjoyment, it’s important to seek help and find a treatment option that works for you. Anxiety disorders can be treated with methods such as talk therapy, medications, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS in particular has proven to be especially effective in treating anxious depression, a condition combining anxiety and depression. One or more of these treatments may be the optimal approach for you, and your healthcare provider can help you find relief. 

The widespread nature of anxiety in today’s world, along with the blurry distinction between “normal” everyday anxiety and more serious anxiety disorders, makes it challenging for people to decide whether they need professional help. Home mental health screenings, which are easy to find online, can be helpful in this decision. No matter what, help starts with an honest conversation about anxiety in your life.

To read the original article, click here

Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

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