It is well known that Google, Reddit, TikTok and many other social media platforms and search engines have become the go-to places for people looking for mental health information. It's never been easier to search for symptoms, and sometimes this information can be sent to us via pop-up notifications. So, what are the trends, are there any pros and cons? Some researchers suggested the trend of doing repeated online searches may create a phenomenon called "cyberchondria" - an escalation of concerns in suffering with a certain condition after repeated internet searches. However, the majority would argue the internet and social media provide awareness which empowers people to seek help.
What are the Google trends for mental health conditions in the UK?
For the year of 2023, we have the following diagnoses:
ADHD (green) is one of the most searched mental health conditions in the U.K.
Why ADHD is one of the most googled mental health conditions?
Nobody knows exactly why ADHD gained popularity over the past few years; however, this may be multifactorial. Some of the possible reasons why the condition gathered attention:
- Prevalence (Frequency), some researchers suggest that ADHD is present in up to 4.4% of the adult population. However, more recent studies indicate that the prevalence of attention deficit hyperactive disorder in children is in up to 5%, with studies conducted on the U.S population suggesting a rate between 8-10%.
- Good treatment outcomes. People suffering from ADHD and considering medication, experience a responsive rate of up to 80%. On the other hand, the treatment for depression depending on the study may be effective in up to 40-60% of the cases. Like any other conditions, ADHD, anxiety, and depression have a higher probability of improvement when diagnosed accurately. If you are in doubt, it is always recommended to check with your healthcare professional.
- Celebrity status, in the past year we found out more in the news about famous people diagnosed with ADHD. Like any other content available to the public when this is attached to a celebrity name, has a higher probability of becoming popular. This comes with a set of positives, but also limitations since the average person may not have access to a similar level of support.
- Diagnostic changes, it used to be much more difficult to get diagnosed with ADHD. This has become available from various service providers and professionals. For a long time, it was thought that ADHD could be present only if there were hyperactive symptoms, and in young naughty boys. Clinicians are now more aware of the inattentive adhd symptoms.
- News coverage, ADHD has been one of the most covered mental health diagnoses in 2023:
ADHD search trends U.K vs U.S
Most would believe that ADHD is more popular in the U.S, and some may argue the condition to be over diagnosed. Whilst nobody has the data yet to measure against this intriguing question, the google trend interest over time suggest:
A higher interest in the U.K. may be a factor related to the years of ADHD being underrecognized in public services. Shortening waiting lists in the NHS can be vital for those suffering from ADHD or not being in the position to access private healthcare.
What is Interest over time: "Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. A score of 0 means that there was not enough data for this term."
Understanding the landscape of ADHD in the U.S
Although the assumption would be that ADHD poses the most interest in mental-health related searches. The Google Trends data, tells us something different, and compared with the U.K. the public interest seems to be more linear over time. The searches for anxiety and depression overtakes ADHD consistently. It is also known that the level of awareness and services for this condition has been present in the U.S for a longer period. This also correlates with a higher presence of private healthcare compared with the U.K.
ADHD (blue colour) has never been the most searched mental health diagnosis in the U.S., according to the data available from 2004 - 2024.
Celebrity effect in ADHD online searches
One of the most driving search factors in ADHD, at least in the U.K. is celebrities. Like any piece of information, this comes with pros and cons. Some people may relate with the person to a high extent, and this makes them to seek help to live and hopefully experience a better quality of life. On the other hand, some people may not align entirely with the values of the particular star and decide to avoid the diagnosis path. Some other pitfalls are the oversimplification of ADHD symptoms or unrealistic expectations. Mental health is different from one person to another, including psychological and social factors, jobs, professions etc.
Celebrities have their struggles and can raise awareness; however, your chapter may be different to someone else's journey. Everyone is different!
Think of it like a painting, not colouring; we need a blend of hues!
In the current environment, we are used to making quick decisions either like or dislike, swiping left or right, black or white, be it news, celebrities, people, social media or anything else out there. This pattern only accentuates when someone suffers from ADHD and may not necessarily have the patience to contemplate. As humans, we can think in the grey abstract area, of curiosity, and sometimes uncertainty which leads us to the greatest discoveries in humankind. Remember, ADHD is a serious mental health condition which can impact significantly people's lives. Labelling a topic is similar to choosing between like or dislike, and this can minimise the experience of those suffering from ADHD. People suffering from this condition are also at a higher risk of developing or suffering with associated conditions such as anxiety, depression, autism, sleep disorders and other diagnoses. Similar to general mental health, ADHD is like a palette with infinite potential.
ADHD is not a one size fits all condition, as we weave tapestries of life, each thread is unique.
The present is only foundation for the future
According to the NHS Confederation, supported by Google Health the attitude of public towards using health technology is quite encouraging. According to a survey conducted in June 2023 on more than 1000 participants, more than 7 in 10 people are welcoming the use of technology. More so, the article suggests they would also be open in sharing the information with their doctors and healthcare professionals. Besides this the U.K government has a target for 90% of practices to provide records and practice messages, book appointments and order repeat prescriptions using the NHS App by March 2024. Google Health recently made available for certain countries clinically validated self-assessments for some mental health conditions Health Self Assessment Tools - Google Health. If before, people were reluctant in seeking an online adhd assessment, currently this is the primarily delivery tool, including in our practice.
Beyond the ADHD symptoms swipe and search bar:
Your healthcare professional is your guiding light. No matter how much thorough online exploration takes place, your psychiatrist, medical professional, psychologist or other specialists in ADHD are the go-to place. Open communication with your healthcare provider is paramount, asking questions even though they may come as "common sense". Embrace your communication with curiosity, although this takes time and investment but ultimately it helps the individual making the best decision. Second opinions can be helpful in particular in complex situations or when you feel something is missing.
What will ADHD reserve for 2024?
Predicting what the future has to offer in 2024, is almost close to impossible. Never before we witnessed such a level of attention towards ADHD. From viral TikTok videos to celebrity disclosures, documentaries, the condition quickly gathered attention. This led to complex questions about diagnosis reliability, treatment, and potential disparities across services and professionals. Crystal balls are just relics in the age of ADHD cyber awareness. With hope, this year will be less pressuring for patients, loved ones and healthcare professionals.
Using search engines or social media to seek general information, may be the starting point in deciding what help you need. Suffering from ADHD may take the individual from one browsing tab to another until the screen gets full and the device shuts down. The search for an answer, comparing the information, symptoms, diagnosis, reviews, articles is beyond fascinating for the ADHD brain. The internet is great, but it's not a substitute for professional evaluation. It's worth being aware that, self-diagnosis can be a double-edged sword; always search for qualified expertise.
Like any other tool available to the humankind, technology is beneficial as long this is used in a positive way. Some of the longer-term effects we may still not know, however the technology certainly changed our lives similar with the introduction of electricity or air transportation. For further reading, and some up to date information about Adult ADHD symptoms or what is causing ADHD visit the Royal College of Psychiatrists website: ADHD in adults | Royal College of Psychiatrists (rcpsych.ac.uk).
If you are seeking a private ADHD assessment in London or in the UK:
- Remember, the ADHD diagnosis can be the first step towards a better mental health. If you're ready to start your journey, seek a comprehensive assessment from a qualified psychiatrist. Like us, many services offer thorough evaluations to help you gain clarity and access the support you need.
- Living in London or in the U.K. we may be able to accommodate your assessment enquiry. In our practice we provide comprehensive 2.5 hr assessments for accurate diagnosis and holistic treatment.
Disclaimer: The information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, and information, contained in this article is for general information purposes only and does not replace a consultation with your own doctor/health professional. Information about mental health topics and treatments can change rapidly and we cannot guarantee the content's currentness. For the most up-to-date information, please consult your doctor or qualified healthcare professional. For more information, you can check the Royal College of Psychiatrists (rcpsych.ac.uk)