I Found Out I Have ADHD From TikTok. And My Experience is Valid

Sam Spadafore | September 9, 2021

"After scouring the internet and TikTok for my own self-diagnosis, so much of my life just clicked."

Have you ever seen a meme or a video on the internet and sent it to a friend with the caption, “Omg this is so me! LOL!”

Well, that’s exactly what I did with a TikTok about ADHD. But the response I got was, “Um yeah, that's actually just like you.” *gulp*

Like so many people, I discovered that I might have ADHD through hearing other people’s experiences on TikTok.

Now, I was a casual user. But when I stitched a video about disordered eating habits being tied to the need for stimulation, it got over 108 thousand views, 17 thousand likes, and hundreds of comments of people relating to my story.

In the video, I explained how I never knew that the constant snacking — the random urge to just eat anything and everything — was something related to my need for dopamine. People with ADHD are in this constant state of looking for stimulation.

For me, that stimulation came from crunchy, salty, sweet, cold, hot, and easy to munch on foods. It was comforting and satisfying, but it caused some late night binges and a huge miscommunication between my brain and my body. I often lost sight of when I was feeling full. Then came a huge wave of guilt and regret.

I chalked it up to growing up in an Italian American household where we love to eat and eat a lot. But being Italian doesn’t give you an eating disorder!

Even with all of these comments on my video pouring in, validating my experiences, I still questioned myself. In the past, I'd never had enough concern from the countless therapists I brought this up to. Why should I be concerned?

So, at first, I too brushed off the idea. If it wasn’t a problem to the professionals, it must not be a problem at all.

But this doubting, too, is not a unique part of my story. Many marginalized people are misdiagnosed and not believed by doctors.

For most of my life, I had mixed diagnoses of depression, anxiety, bipolar type two, and sometimes even borderline personality disorder. To be perfectly honest, I think the only one they got right was anxiety.

Unfortunately, this is the truth for so many people, especially cisgender girls and women.

In fact, boys are diagnosed with ADHD at a higher rate than girls because boys tend to have an outward expression of the hyperactive type, while girls have an internalized inattentive type. This internalization leads to an increase in depression, self-harm, and self-destructive behaviors.

Though there is no “one size fits all” socialization of a single gender, being raised to believe I was a woman for most of my life absolutely impacted my mental health, and how my ADHD presents.

And I'm not alone in this. Interestingly enough, transgender and gender non-conforming youth — especially transmasculine youth — are more likely to be diagnosed with ADD and other mental health disorders than their cisgender counterparts. There’s actually a huge overlap between neurodiversity and gender diversity.

For me, the stress of coming to terms with my identity — and, no doubt, the struggles of living as a Nonbinary Trans man in a transphobic world — caused an increase in the severity of ADHD symptoms, as it limited my ability to cope with my life.

While my symptoms escalated, my ADHD remained mostly invisible. That is, until I stitched that video.

When I had that “ah-ha!” moment after scouring the internet and TikTok for my own self-diagnosis, so much of my life just clicked.

In many ways, my story became our story — because I wasn't alone anymore.

I and so many other ADHDers have been trying to navigate a neurotypical world as neurodivergent people without even knowing it: Constantly feeling like we are behind, like we are struggling, like everyone around us knows what’s happening while we are left in the dark. It can be debilitating.

I saw the rejection sensitivity I experienced as a child was ADHD related. I realized the “mental breakdowns” I had were from ADHD related burnout.

Plus, all of the smaller things, like always losing my phone, keys or glasses, or the need for peace and quiet while I’m working, or the overstimulation from loud noises and overlapping voices.

I was silently suffering with all of these things and never knew that other people weren’t struggling with it.

In fact, it wasn't until recently that my mother told me that she has ADHD herself.

As I learned more about ADHD, so many emotions ran through me. It was exhilarating. I wanted to info-dump onto everyone I talked to about my discovery. My hyperfocus on my ADHD probably looked a lot like the bipolar manic episodes my therapists believed I was going through. It’s like a high.

Though, that high eventually comes down. This time, it came down hard. I became depressed very quickly.

I felt a lot of resentment towards my parents for never getting me tested. I was angry that my father, a teacher, didn’t notice the signs in me. I was grieving the help I never got when I was younger as I scrolled through all of the signs that were missed, that not a single person in my life picked up on.

Though I am still trying to heal from that pain, I’m feeling more optimistic.

Social media at large seems to be bringing communities of neurodiverse people together where we can share knowledge, tips, and support.

I’ve had the honor of learning from some incredible educators on TikTok, like Chamaya Moody, a Black Autistic woman, actor, educator, and disabled advocate, Alex Hogg, LCSW who specializes in ADHD, and Catie Osborn, Actor, ADHD educator and advocate, kinkster and Shakespeare nerd.

I could not be more thankful for these creators pushing their followers to empower themselves with knowledge. I feel so much more self-aware. I’m excited to learn more about myself and neurodiversity.

My best advice? Never underestimate the power of social media, self-diagnosis, and your own ability to take control of your mental health. It might just change your life.

Looking for support? Inflow, an ADHD management app, is here to help. Learn more about how Inflow can help you thrive with ADHD by downloading our app on the App Store or on Google Play!

Sam Spadafore (He/Him They/Them) is a white, queer, nonbinary trans man currently living on settled Wabanaki tribal land known as Portland, Maine. Sam writes poetry and articles focusing on mental health, Queer and Trans issues, sex and sexuality. They are also a consent educator, actor, activist, and steering committee member at MaineTransNet. Check out what Sam’s been up to at samspadaforeofficial.com.