My name is Dr. Sasha Hamdani and I am a board-certified psychiatrist and ADHD specialist. I'm also a lil TikTok-famous for my videos about ADHD, which, by the way, stands for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
I was first introduced to TikTok when my patients started showing me videos from the app about other people's experiences with ADHD. I marveled at the app's ability to engage a mass audience, transmit information, and shed light on mental health, so I caved and made an account for myself.
Then I explored "ADHD TikTok," an ADHD information center created by folks with ADHD (and who study ADHD), and it was a LOT to process. There was some good information, some bad information, and some absolute garbage. Given my background and expertise in the subject, I saved you some trouble and separated the golden truth nuggets you might see on TikTok from the fake news on your For You page.
Fact: ADHD is more than just a focus problem.
People assume that if you have ADHD, you have a hard time focusing. That may be true, but what's also true is that nearly 100 percent of ADHD cases have difficulty with emotional regulation, which at its worst can look just like a major mood disorder.
Garbage: ADHD is a superpower.
People on TikTok try to tell me that my differently functioning brain is a sought-after good thing; that because I can, say, hyperfocus on a task for hours, I am an elite human. I hate this statement. It is so invalidating. Sure, there are some things about ADHD that you can make into a positive, like being creative and adaptable or performing well in a crisis, but if I had the choice of whether or not to have ADHD, I would opt OUT. The risks far outweigh the benefits and it's frankly exhausting for your brain to constantly be in motion.
Fact: ADHD is not just a condition diagnosed in kids.
There are three things that can happen if you are diagnosed with or present with ADHD in childhood: You can grow out of symptoms, you can cover up your symptoms (aka, "masking"), or your symptoms can continue and potentially worsen. You may not have been diagnosed as a child if your symptoms only affected you, that you weren't a "problem" to anyone else, or that your symptoms worsened with puberty. Also, ADHD hasn't been widely diagnosed in women and adults until somewhat recently.
Garbage: You'll get addicted to ADHD medication.
Clinical data shows that people who have not been treated for ADHD are much more likely than medicated folks with ADHD to get addicted to substances because they are dealing with impulsivity, poor judgment, and might feel pushed to self-medicate. If taken as prescribed and used therapeutically, ADHD meds are not addictive.
Fact: ADHD symptoms can fluctuate with hormones
This may be why we can see big changes in quality of focus and emotional regulation in women who have ADHD after puberty, after giving birth, and with menopause. The theory behind that: Low estrogen is correlated with a drop in dopamine, which is a chemical the ADHD brain is already deficient in and doesn't utilize properly. SURPRISE! These changes also correlate with the effectiveness of medications.
Garbage: Psychiatrists are "drug pushers."
Psychiatrists (hi, me) have been stigmatized in this way for eons. I can't speak for other doctors, but when it comes to my practice, I can see that there may be a place, time, and clinical need for medications even though I don't *like* them. I've experienced a long journey of ADHD meds myself, so I can empathize with the struggle. If there is a way to help a patient modify their behavior and avoid medications, I will 100 percent try to go down that road first.
Fact: ADHD can be frequently misdiagnosed.
I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "I was diagnosed with anxiety or depression or bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder and it turned out to be ADHD." There are many potential reasons that this might happen. For example, females are less likely to be diagnosed because they may not present as hyperactive or disruptive, and some people may be misdiagnosed with a mood or personality disorder due to the emotional dysregulation that comes with ADHD.
Garbage: ADHD is a fancy term for laziness.
I wish these people could jump into my brain for even an hour. If they could see how hard it is to process, categorize, and prioritize all the information zooming on through, I'm sure they would see that "lazy" is an unreasonably insensitive adjective to use on someone with ADHD.
Fact: High achievers can have ADHD too.
SCREAM THIS. You can be "book smart" and have the rest of your world burning down due to your ADHD. That rhetoric of "you're too smart to have ADHD" has to go.
Garbage: If you take medications you'll lose your personality.
If this happens, you're on the wrong medication, you might not be metabolizing the medication properly, you might be on the wrong dose, or you're taking it at the wrong time. Alternatively, something else might be going on, like underlying depression or anxiety. The right medication should give you the ability to focus and regulate your attention better without sacrificing your personality.
Being a content generator on TikTok is not something I predicted, but I've found that the ADHD and mental health community is so vocal, supportive, and empowering. For someone who has struggled with ADHD, creating these videos, interacting with followers, and absorbing other people’s experiences has been so validating. If you found this helpful, come say hi at @thepsychdoctormd.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.
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