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Is Media Coverage of ADHD Changing for the Better?

I don’t want to jinx it, but I feel like we’ve had a pretty good couple weeks in terms of PR for ADHDers.

Very recently, journalist Yashar Ali posted a brilliant Twitter thread about ADHD that went viral. In the thread, Ali revealed his ADHD diagnosis and talked about how ADHD affects his life.

This week, Scientific American published an article written by Holly White about the link between ADHD and creativity. I interviewed Dr. White on this topic a few months ago, she has an interesting take because she both acknowledges the real challenges that come with ADHD and suggests that people with ADHD can thrive in certain settings. Best of all, her views are based on years of scientific studies that she has done.

Of course, these two ADHD news items aren’t by themselves proof that ADHD media coverage is becoming more informed. But I feel like I’m seeing fewer and fewer articles than I did a few years ago about how ADHD is fake, how we’re drugging kids, etc. etc.

That’s totally subjective of course. Maybe I’ve just become desensitized to ignorant media coverage of ADHD. Then again, maybe this brand of anti-ADHD sensationalism has gotten tired. Or maybe we’ve actually made some progress in ADHD awareness, and it’s harder for journalists to get away with lazy stories that cast doubt on an entire mental health condition without engaging with any of the real scientific research being done on the condition.

I’d like to believe that it’s the latter, that there is some shred of increased ADHD awareness that has put a damper on the sport of denigrating ADHDers for clicks.

If that’s the case, I think the rise of social media is largely to thank. With more and more ADHDers taking to the Twitter-YouTube-blogosphere to share their experiences, it might be harder than it used to be to rush out an “exposé” on “the truth behind ADHD” and then wash your hands of the matter.

It’s telling that the two examples of substantive ADHD media coverage I gave at the beginning of this post were from Twitter and Scientific American. If there are two places that would be ADHDers’ home turf in the campaign to raise awareness about ADHD, these would be them – a platform where people with ADHD can share their real experiences, and a magazine that concerns itself with scientific findings.

But I’m also taking the articles that haven’t been written as a sort of modest victory – specifically, the recent lack of articles in major outlets featuring pseudoscientific investigations of how we’re “medicalizing bad parenting” with ADHD.

Granted, we’ve still got plenty of work to do. Who knows, though, at this rate maybe someday we’ll live in a world where the most widely consumed media sources regularly feature informative, scientifically curious, and empathetic reporting on ADHD.

By Neil Petersen