According to several sources including Michael Pietrus MD and coordinator of the ADHD assessment protocol at the University of Chicago, the internet may encourage behaviour that mimics ADHD, exacerbating conditions in people who have already shown symptoms.
According to Dr. Pietrus, “People engage in compulsion for all sorts of reasons often because of the way their personality extends into the online space. But compulsive behaviour is reinforced and rewarded, and that has an impact on the ability to plan and organise as well as focus on tasks and self regulate our behaviour.”
“People with ADHD are hardwired for novelty seeking, which until recently was an evolutionary advantage,” said Pietrus, at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. “ADHD sufferers have fewer dopamine receptors, which means that a normally interesting activity seems less rewarding or even boring”
As we get older, our brain changes according to our experiences. Memory and attention itself directly involve biochemical and anatomical changes to the brain causing symptoms for a variety of health concerns to show. That being said, when we feel overwhelmed and distracted, we find it much harder to link current experiences to past ones, thus mimicking the symptoms of ADHD.
While these claims and ideas could have serious implications in regards to the internet, Pietrus further clarified at a press release that the internet does not literally cause ADHD.
“We are not saying that Internet technologies and social media are directly causing ADHD,” Pietrus cautions. But the Internet, he says, “can impair functioning in a variety of ways … that can mimic and in some cases exacerbate underlying attention problems.”
“The biggest thing is to increase awareness and understanding of what social media and technology are doing to us,” he said. “Once we acknowledge the potential effects on our brains, we can make better-informed choices about our actions and behavioural patterns.”
When asked what people can do to combat these pseudo-symptoms of ADHD, Pietrus suggested that people can try to focus on their hardest tasks, setting and following strict deadlines with yourself and splitting larger tasks into several smaller ones to prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. Pietrus also suggested making up an “accountability” chart so you can keep track of what you achieved and when you did it, a way to directly show your progress.
In addition to changing your personal habits, Pietrus also stressed the importance of understanding the internet’s role in affecting ourselves.
“The biggest thing is to increase awareness and understanding of what social media and technology are doing to us. Once we acknowledge the potential effects on our brains, we can make better-informed choices about our actions and behavioural patterns,” said Pietrus at the festival.
In other various reports circulating Canadian news sources, ADHD may also be linked to higher mortality rates than compared to those who don’t have ADHD.
“In this nationwide prospective cohort study with up to a 32-year followup, children, adolescents and adults with ADHD had decreased life expectancy and more than double the risk of death compared with people without ADHD,” said Soren Dalsgaard of Aarhus University in Denmark on Wednesday’s online issue of Lancet. “People diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood had a greater risk of death than did those diagnosed in childhood and adolescence. This finding could be caused by persistent ADHD being a more severe form of the disorder.”
It’s important to note that those who take medication to treat ADHD are also more predisposed to drug dependencies later in life according to a June 30 publication in Pediatrics. The article addressed how one can reduce drug addiction after having received treatment for ADHD. The article also suggested safer prescription methods and standards when issuing stimulants to both children and adults.