Why Are ADHD Rates Rising?

Have a conversation with other parents, and you’ll find that many of them will speak about their children and teens, and even themselves, having been diagnosed with ADHD. It can feel like there are increasing ADHD diagnoses being seen across ages and genders, leading to several questions.

Are more people being diagnosed with ADHD?

Are ADHD rates rising?

What could be causing this rise in rates?

You may even wonder about 1 in how many have ADHD.

A definition of ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a fairly common mental health condition that can include several concerns that impact the individual’s day-to-day life. In many cases, ADHD is diagnosed in childhood. But for some, the symptoms may not be as persistent in childhood, so they don’t get a diagnosis until they are adults.

The symptoms of ADHD can vary greatly, with children often showing more than adults do.

Some common signs of ADHD include:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Restlessness
  • Disorganization
  • Difficulty prioritizing tasks
  • Lacking time management skills
  • Trouble focusing on tasks, along with trouble multitasking
  • Restlessness
  • Mood swings
  • Lacking follow-through skills

ADHD in children and teens

According to data compiled by the CDC, millions of children ranging from 2 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. There has been a steady increase in cases, with numbers climbing every year.

Another interesting fact is that studies have shown a connection between ADHD and other behavioral, emotional, and mental disorders. With around half of children diagnosed with ADHD having a behavior or conduct concern, it’s more important than ever that parents understand how to provide the right type of support for their children.

It’s also worth noting that awareness also plays a role in seeing an increase in ADHD diagnosis. The more aware parents are, the more options they will have to pursue the resources that can benefit their children.

A culture of instant gratification

The world we live in now offers a culture of instant gratification for many things, from the ability to skip commercials during our favorite shows to buy anything or read and learn anything at the push of a button at any hour of the day. While technology is an excellent part of our lives, in several ways, it has also resulted in a mindset of instant gratification and frequent boredom if we’re not entertained at all times.

For teens with developing and pliable minds to see how this can be appealing. For a teen with ADHD, a lack of focus can be further enhanced by the bite-sized culture that social media and sites like YouTube and TikTok offer.

Social media offers teens the ability to scroll mindlessly, absorbing data in those bite sizes without the need to focus on anything substantial. YouTube offers a similar experience, with short videos that are often mindless or contain content that makes sense only in the world of a teenager.

Teens can find themselves spending hours upon hours scrolling through posts from their peers, stories that interest them about a band they love, watching videos of said band, and so much more. With their smartphone or tablet in their hand, teens have access to a world of information that may not necessarily teach them anything substantial.

Chatting or texting with friends online also allows your teen to participate in those conversations without needing to spend quality time with peers. They can distractedly flit between a conversation with their best friend and Instagram, with a good meander onto YouTube, then back to texting and streaming a favorite TV show.

It’s hard for a teen, particularly one with ADHD, to see the benefits of sitting down with a good book for an hour of reading. Not when there is the internet and the ability to jump from site to site, video to video, social media platform to social media platform.

In most teens, it can be hard to pinpoint whether the ADHD is brought on or enhanced by the instant gratification and culture of distraction that the internet offers.

Helping teens with ADHD

If your teen has been diagnosed with ADHD, you may wonder if there is anything that you can do to help them better cope. You could be considering removing their smart devices and their ability to access the internet, social media, and other platforms they’re spending extensive time using.

While all of these sources of information and entertainment could be contributing to your teen’s ADHD, it’s not necessarily the best idea to remove it all from them. Keep in mind that much of how your teen will communicate with his peers, keep up with pop culture references, and express himself will happen through his phone or tablet.

Taking this away from him could result in a few consequences that you weren’t necessarily expecting as he loses access to many of his friends and social circles.

Encourage your teen to take part in one or more outdoor sports or activities. Time spent outdoors, whether playing football or hiking, is time spent having new experiences and learning new things. This can help your teen refocus and find new interests that can help him control his ADHD better.

Introduce gadget-free zones and family time at least once a week. You could play a board game as a family during these times, go for a walk, or perhaps spend time in the backyard together. You may encounter a fair bit of resistance and eye-rolling from a teen convinced he can’t be without his phone for longer than a minute. Still, in time he will come to appreciate this respite from the noise that technology and social media can bring into his life.

Parenting a teen can be challenging enough on its own. Parenting a teen with ADHD and perhaps one or more other mental health concerns can feel downright impossible. Getting help from professionals who are well-versed in working with ADHD teens and teens struggling in other areas of their lives can prove beneficial for the whole family.

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