According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diagnosis of ADHD has increased at least 42 percent since 2003. Are that many more children affected by the disorder? Or has our understanding of attention disorders allowed us to identify individuals easier? What has changed over the past 10 years to explain this drastic upsurge?
New research presented at the South by Southwest festival suggests Internet usage might play a role in the increased rate for diagnosis of ADHD in girls.
Internet and attention deficits
Dr. Michael Pietrus from the ADHD assessment protocol at the University of Chicago believes the Internet promotes behaviors similar to symptoms of attention deficit disorders. Though Internet use does not actually cause ADHD in girls, Pietrus says it does alter brain function and “can mimic and in some cases exacerbate underlying attention problems.”
Children with ADHD have fewer dopamine receptors in their brain, making them become uninterested in activities after a short amount of time. They move on quickly from one activity to the next, in order to find enjoyment. Internet use reinforces compulsive behavior, providing endless possibilities for stimulation. So, even individuals without the biological deficiencies of individuals with attention deficit disorders can begin to mimic the common behaviors of the disorders.
There is still more research to be done on causality and commonality between Internet use and ADD/ADHD. As Pietrus pointed out, just because the behaviors are the same, does not mean prove causality.
Take an example from your own life
You’ve made it to work, answered six e-mails and finished up that business proposal due after lunch. You are on a productivity roll today! Then you see your phone’s green indicator light flash, checking it real quick to see a new Facebook event invite for your friend’s baby shower … which reminds you, you have to get a present for your aunt’s 80th birthday party next month. You hop on Target.com to find the perfect gift, when you see a sale on outdoor furniture! Summer’s coming and you can just imagine all the cookouts you’re going to have. You switch over to Pinterest to look up some new recipes. An hour passes and you have no more work done, you didn’t respond to the event invite, you didn’t buy a birthday present and you don’t know where that time went.
You know how easily distracted you get when you take a quick peek at your phone or social media site. How much more distracted is your adolescent daughter, whose reasoning skills are still developing and who has not even closely mastered time management? Though ADHD in girls is prevalent, with one in 10 suffering from attention disorders, even girls without the disorder can seem impatient, inattentive and impulsive.
Providing assistance for ADHD in girls
Therapeutic boarding schools can help with ADHD in girls. With a structured environment and focus on holistic health, your daughter will be able to aquire the skills needed to succeed. A focus on daily physical activity increases levels of dopamine and serotonin, which are typically low in girls with ADHD. In our academic classes, we not only teach the subject matter, but also assist the girls in managing their time, building leadership skills and providing individualized attention.