March 11, 2024

Combating Misinformation about ADHD on Social Media and The Internet

In our digital age, the internet serves as a powerful platform for accessing health information. Yet, with this great power comes great responsibility. Misinformation, particularly concerning ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), is rife online, leading to confusion, the perpetuation of stigma, and potentially harmful consequences for those affected by the disorder and their loved ones. This blog will delve into some of these misconceptions, their impacts, and how to ensure the ADHD information you come across online is reliable, with a special emphasis on a recent study examining ADHD content on TikTok.

The Misinformation Problem

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults. It's characterized by patterns of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity that are persistent. Despite its recognition as a well-documented medical condition, it is often misunderstood, partly due to widespread misinformation.

Common ADHD misconceptions include:

ADHD is not a real disorder: This belief is found scattered across online forums, and even some ill-informed news articles.

ADHD is a result of bad parenting: Numerous online discussions blame parents for their child's ADHD. However, research has shown that ADHD has biological origins and is not a result of parenting styles.

ADHD only affects children: Many websites and social media posts promote this myth, but ADHD can continue into adulthood.

ADHD medication leads to substance abuse: Certain posts on social media may wrongly claim that ADHD medication leads to substance abuse.

A recent study explored the quality of ADHD content on TikTok, a popular video-sharing social media platform. Researchers investigated the top 100 most popular ADHD-related videos on the platform. Shockingly, they found that 52% of these videos were classified as misleading, while only 21% were categorized as useful. The majority of these misleading videos were uploaded by non-healthcare providers.

The Impact of Misinformation

Misinformation about ADHD can have harmful impacts on individuals with the disorder and their families:

Delayed diagnosis and treatment: Misinformation can deter individuals and parents from seeking professional help, leading to delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Increased stigma: False information can amplify societal stigma about ADHD, leading to misunderstanding and discrimination.

Harmful treatment approaches: Misinformation can lead individuals to opt for ineffective or even harmful treatments.

The proliferation of misleading ADHD content on platforms like TikTok only amplifies these problems. The TikTok study found that while the videos were generally understandable, they had low actionability — meaning they offered little practical advice for managing ADHD.

Identifying Reliable Information

Given the prevalence of misinformation, it's crucial to be able to distinguish between reliable and unreliable information about ADHD. Here are some pointers:

Use reputable sources: Trustworthy information often comes from recognized health organizations, government health departments, or reputable medical institutions.  Some examples are NIH, Mayo Clinic, CDC and www.ADHDevidence.org

Be wary of fake experts: If you see info from a self-proclaimed expert, you can check to see if they are really an expert by going to www.expertscape.com.  Or go to www.pubmed.gov to see if they’ve ever written anything about ADHD that has been approved by their peers.

Look for citations: Reliable sources often cite scientific research to back their claims.

Beware of sensational headlines: Clickbait headlines often oversimplify complex topics like ADHD.

Consult a professional: If you're unsure about any information, consult a healthcare professional.

The TikTok study's findings underscore the importance of these guidelines, as healthcare providers tended to upload higher quality and more useful videos compared to non-healthcare providers.

In our era of digital information, the challenge of separating ADHD facts from fiction is significant but not insurmountable. By becoming discerning consumers of online information, we can help prevent the spread of misinformation, support those affected by ADHD, and foster a more informed and understanding society. It's also essential for clinicians to be aware of the extent of health misinformation online and its potential impact on patient care. This way, they can guide their patients toward reliable sources and away from misleading content.

Yeung A, Ng E, Abi-Jaoude E. TikTok and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Cross-Sectional Study of Social Media Content Quality. Can J Psychiatry. 2022 Dec;67(12):899-906. doi: 10.1177/07067437221082854. Epub 2022 Feb 23. PMID: 35196157; PMCID: PMC9659797.

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News Tuesday: Fidgeting and ADHD

A recent study delved into the connection between fidgeting and cognitive performance in adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Recognizing that hyperactivity often manifests as fidgeting, the researchers sought to understand its role in attention and performance during cognitively demanding tasks. They designed a framework to quantify meaningful fidgeting variables using actigraphy devices.

(Note: Actigraphy is a non-invasive method of monitoring human rest/activity cycles. It involves the use of a small, wearable device called an actigraph or actimetry sensor, typically worn on the wrist, similar to a watch. The actigraph records movement data over extended periods, often days to weeks, to track sleep patterns, activity levels, and circadian rhythms. In this study, actigraphy devices were used to measure fidgeting by recording the participants' movements continuously during the cognitive task. This data provided objective, quantitative measures of fidgeting, allowing the researchers to analyze its relationship with attention and task performance.)

The study involved 70 adult participants aged 18-50, all diagnosed with ADHD. Participants underwent a thorough screening process, including clinical interviews and ADHD symptom ratings. The analysis revealed that fidgeting increased during correct trials, particularly in participants with consistent reaction times, suggesting that fidgeting helps sustain attention. Interestingly, fidgeting patterns varied between early and later trials, further highlighting its role in maintaining focus over time.

Additionally, a correlation analysis validated the relevance of the newly defined fidget variables with ADHD symptom severity. This finding suggests that fidgeting may act as a compensatory mechanism for individuals with ADHD, aiding in their ability to maintain attention during tasks requiring cognitive control.

This study provides valuable insights into the role of fidgeting in adults with ADHD, suggesting that it may help sustain attention during challenging cognitive tasks. By introducing and validating new fidget variables, the researchers hope to standardize future quantitative research in this area. Understanding the compensatory role of fidgeting can lead to better management strategies for ADHD, emphasizing the potential benefits of movement for maintaining focus.

July 16, 2024

Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

NEWS TUESDAY: Identifying Autistic-Like Symptoms in Children with ADHD

A recent study investigated the presence of autistic-like symptoms in children diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Given the overlapping social difficulties in both ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), distinguishing between the two disorders can be challenging. This study aims to pinpoint specific patterns of autistic symptoms in children with ADHD, comparing them to those with ASD using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, 2nd edition (ADOS-2).

The research involved 43 school-age children divided into two groups:

  • ADHD Group (25 children): Initially referred for ASD symptoms but later diagnosed with ADHD.
  • ASD Group (18 children): Children diagnosed with ASD.

Researchers used ADOS-2 to evaluate differences in communication deficits, social interaction challenges, and repetitive behaviors between the two groups. The study also compared IQ, age, ADOS-2 domain scores, and externalizing/internalizing problems.

Key Findings:

  • Significant differences were found between the ADHD and ASD groups in ADOS-2 domain scores, including Social Affect, Restricted and Repetitive Behavior, and Total Score.
  • On an individual item level, children with ADHD displayed similar atypical behaviors as those with ASD in social-communication areas such as "Pointing" and "Gestures".
  • Both groups showed comparable frequencies in behaviors like "Stereotyped/idiosyncratic words or phrases", "Mannerisms", and "Repetitive interests and behaviors".

The study highlights the importance of identifying transdiagnostic domains that overlap between ADHD and ASD. The transdiagnostic domain refers to a set of symptoms or behaviors that are common across multiple diagnostic categories rather than being specific to just one. Identifying these domains in mental health practice and in psychological research is crucial to understanding, properly diagnosing, and treating conditions with overlapping features. This understanding could pave the way for tailored treatments addressing the specific needs of children with ADHD, particularly those exhibiting autistic-like symptoms.

July 9, 2024

Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

NEW STUDY: Non-stimulant Medications for Adults with ADHD: An Overview

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in adults is commonly treated with stimulant medications such as methylphenidate and amphetamines. However, not all patients respond well to these stimulants or tolerate them effectively. For such cases, non-stimulant medications provide an alternative treatment approach.

Recent research by Brancati et al. reviews the efficacy and safety of non-stimulant medications for adult ADHD. Atomoxetine, a well-studied non-stimulant, has shown significant effectiveness in treating ADHD symptoms in adults. The review highlights the importance of considering dosage, treatment duration, safety, and the presence of psychiatric comorbidities when prescribing atomoxetine.

Additionally, certain antidepressants, including tricyclic compounds, bupropion, and viloxazine, which possess noradrenergic or dopaminergic properties, have demonstrated efficacy in managing adult ADHD. Antihypertensive medications, especially guanfacine, have also been found effective. Other medications like memantine, metadoxine, and mood stabilizers show promise, whereas treatments like galantamine, antipsychotics, and cannabinoids have not yielded positive results.

The expert opinion section of the review emphasizes that while clinical guidelines primarily recommend atomoxetine as a second-line treatment, several other non-stimulant options can be utilized to tailor treatments based on individual patient needs and comorbid conditions. Despite these advancements, the authors call for further research to develop and refine more personalized treatment strategies for adults with ADHD.

This review underscores the growing landscape of non-stimulant treatment options, offering hope for more personalized and effective management of ADHD in adults.

June 25, 2024