These days, TikTok has become my source for all things at all times. Our short attention spans, need for instant gratification, and handheld super computers called, and TikTok answered with just the right dose of information overload.
In 2020, while pregnant and quarantining, Netflix and TikTok became my socialization, my only connection to the outside world. It’s so sad, honestly.
I went to TikTok to learn what was going on out there from through the people living it, and I turned to Netflix to escape the reality of it (shoutout to the Tiger King). Of course, 2020 eventually breached Netflix and now there’s hardly any escape (except old episodes of Real Housewives, a guilty pleasure).
I got a hard dose of reality when I watched Bo Burnham’s special, Inside, on Netflix.
Thanks Bo Burnham…
If you haven’t watched Inside yet, go do it, or, well, maybe don’t do it. Actually, evaluate your mental stability at the moment, and if you feel like you’re in a good, strong place, go watch it. If you are feeling particularly pessimistic about the future and angry about 2020, it’s probably not the right time for you.
No one knows how to use poignant lyrics added to a catchy melody to punch you right in the feels quite like Bo. “Look Who’s Inside Again,” “That Funny Feeling,” and “All Eyes on Me” really hit home. When the special ended, I found myself in tears, and thinking…”did 2020 break me? Am I depressed now? Do I need help?”
Then TikTok stepped in and said, “eh, maybe it’s just a little pandemic stress mixed with some ADHD.”
TikTok, How Did I Get Here?
For those who know nothing about TikTok, I’ll give you a quick overview of how you end up down the rabbit hole. Your FYP (For You Page) is a stream of videos curated just for you by an algorithm that monitors your likes, comments, and shares. The more you like videos of similar content, the more you will see them on your FYP.
Simply watching a video to the end or sharing it with a friend will trigger the algorithm. Beware: you can accidentally end up on some dark sides of Tiktok…paranormal-tok, for example, which can get a little dicey if you run into it late at night while scrolling in the dark, or worse, underwhelming dance trend-tok. It’s hard to get out once it’s gotten you.
Anyway, this is how I ended up on ADHD-tok. What I found actually surprised me. I’m a 35 year old woman. I grew up in an age when young boys were the only ones getting an ADD or ADHD diagnosis. My brother had ADD; my cousin had ADHD. Both were physically hyperactive.
I was a relatively quiet, self-reflective kid with a hypersensitivity to everything around me. As an adult, I’m still self-reflective and hypersensitive…not very quiet anymore. I started coming across videos with prompts like…”Feel mentally paralyzed when you have too much to do?”, “Wait until the last minute to do everything?”, “Get angry for no reason?”
Of course I answered yes to them all…hit the like button, but this isn’t something special. I’m an older millennial…over-educated, drowning in student debt, and underpaid. We’re all like this, a little depressed, moody, anxious.
Then the TikTok doctors and therapists weighed in. They said, “wait a minute…you might have ADHD.”
The Age of Self-Diagnosis
At this point, you might be asking yourself, “do I have ADHD? How do I know?” First of all, a lot of women have gone undiagnosed for a long time because ADHD manifests differently in us. We tend to internalize much more, making the hyperactivity more mental as opposed to external.
Here are just a few of the potential missed symptoms that I learned while surfing the waves of ADHD TikTok:
- driving quickly and impatiently,
- frequent thoughts about changing jobs,
- lying to avoid shame or conflict,
- impulsive spending,
- extreme mood swings,
- hypersensitivity to loud noises,
- drifting in thought during conversation,
- forgetting things you said,
- interrupting others while they speak (I’m really bad about this one),
- procrastination/struggling with time management,
- frequent daydreaming,
- trouble maintaining friendships,
- feeling anxious/sad (very common in women), and
Have you ever heard of Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)? I hadn’t…but I have symptoms. People with DSPS have trouble falling asleep early, even when they try, and have a hard time waking up early. Apparently, it is a sign of ADHD.
So, What Now?
I will freely admit that I have ever sign of ADHD listed above, and I’ve had them for as long as I can remember. Doctors and therapists are catching this stuff daily now, and social media has actually been a great tool for helping people.
So, what’s the moral of this story? The lesson I learned is that awareness is everything! Providers with specialities who are on social media are creating amazing content and awareness. ADHD, for example, can be a superpower if you know what to do and how to operate in the world around you as a neurodivergent.
Dr. Kojo Sarfo (@dr.kojosarfo on TikTok) is a mental health expert with over 1.4 million followers. He posts everyday about topics like ADHD, OCD, body dysmorphia, and depression. He’s helping people, many of whom can’t afford healthcare, let alone mental healthcare.
Lindsay Fleming, LPC (@lindsay.fleminglpc on Tiktok) is a licensed therapist with expertise in ADHD, specifically in women. She has nearly 500,000 followers. Women are overwhelmingly misdiagnosed with depression and anxiety when ADHD is overlooked, and the information she provides can help us speak up for ourselves.
Shoutout to the thousands of doctors and healthcare professionals that are taking their knowledge to the internet and sharing it, free of charge! The awareness they bring is saving lives and getting us through this pandemic.
In All Seriousness…
We often joke and minimize mental health struggles in order to power through. White-knuckling our way through life is autopilot for some. For many of us, mental health is very much a daily struggle. We all need a little help sometimes; the last 18 months have thrown curveball after curveball at us. Hang in there, friends; you’re not alone.