Does Social Media Cause ADHD?

By Dr. Michael Oberschneider, Ashburn Psychological & Psychiatric Services

Social media is ubiquitous, and while it’s a great way to stay connected to important others, get news, and learn about what’s going on in the world, overusing or over-relying on social media has become a problem for many people. As a psychologist, I am often asked about the impact of social media overuse and whether or not it can cause ADHD. However, with the rise of social media and technology, it’s essential to separate fact from fiction regarding ADHD and its relationship with these platforms.

One of the most significant issues with social media is the ease at which people can self-diagnose themselves with conditions like ADHD. While this might seem harmless, it can be pretty dangerous. Not only are self-diagnosis attempts often inaccurate, but they can also lead to people seeking unnecessary treatment or medication. Of course, problems with sustained attention and concentration, task persistence, distractibility, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity can be due to ADHD, but remember that those symptoms are also consistent with other conditions (e.g., learning disorders, anxiety, etc.).

Another issue with self-diagnosing ADHD on social media is the misinformation spread on these platforms. From TikTok videos to Facebook posts, there are countless sources of information on ADHD (and ADHD treatments) that can be misleading or simply untrue. This can result in misinformation about the condition and its symptoms, leading to even more inaccurate self-diagnosis.

Given the large amount of online information available to people these days, it’s important to rely on credible sources when doing research. For example, Children’s Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, or even WebMD will give you more reliable and helpful information on ADHD than TikTok or other social media platforms. It’s essential to have accurate information to make informed decisions about one’s health and well-being.

While there is no clear answer to this question, some studies have shown a link between excessive screen time and the development of ADHD-like symptoms. This is especially true for children who are more susceptible to the negative effects of too much screen time (i.e., increased impulsivity and distractibility).

So why are ADHD diagnoses on the rise? Over the years, there has been much debate about whether or not the increase in ADHD diagnoses is due to technology and social media. While some experts believe that technology and social media have contributed to the rise in ADHD diagnoses, others argue that the increase is simply due to better awareness and improved diagnostic tools — it’s important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between social media and technology use and ADHD.

That being said, as a psychologist, I always advise my clients to limit their screen time and be mindful of its impact on their mental health. For parents, the American Academy of Pediatrics provides research-based tips on screen time management for children and teens, which can be found here.

In conclusion, the current research suggests that social media use is not a direct cause of ADHD. However, frequent use of social media may be associated with increased ADHD symptoms. Additionally, it’s important to remember that self-diagnosis is never a substitute for a professional diagnosis. If you are concerned about ADHD for yourself or your child or teen, it’s important to consult a qualified healthcare provider for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.