As is common for people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Maylee Bossier of Chatham, Ont., said she put off — for about a year — making an appointment to get a diagnosis as was recommended by her therapist.
“Where I really struggled was in terms of executive function, issues with making appointments, phone calls, keeping up on mail and bills,” said Bossier, 27.
Then the pandemic hit.
She was working at home and discovered the routines that helped her mask her symptoms weren’t there anymore.
“I had to confront the issues I was facing,” Bossier said.
She finally decided to see a doctor, and after a series of screening tests, she was told she had ADHD.
Natalia Peña also got an ADHD diagnosis during the pandemic, but for different reasons.
The 37-year old Montrealer found the pandemic was a bit of a “blessing in disguise” because it allowed her to slow down and spend more time with her three children.
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She had had some struggles with her mental health before COVID-19 hit early in 2020, but even though the signs were there, she hadn’t considered she might have ADHD.
Then, she discovered TikTok.
“By March 2021, my algorithm was just neurodivergent Tik Toks. ADHD hacks, ADHD funny videos,” she said.
So Peña went to her therapist, who referred her to a specialist. After she was diagnosed with ADHD, so many things fell into place for her.
“It was as if I was born that day,” she said.
Pandemic a catalyst to get a diagnosis
According to the Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada, ADHD is a “neurodevelopmental disorder” that affects approximately five to nine per cent of children and three to five per cent of adults.
“When people get correctly diagnosed, they just feel so much better,” said Dr. Ainslie Gray, co-founder of the Springboard Clinic in Toronto, which specializes in ADHD.
About five per cent of the population has the genetic predisposition for ADHD, she said. Gray said having ADHD doesn’t reflect a person’s intelligence or limit their career choice, and they can cope for a long time before it presents itself, she said.
“Transition stages tend to herald the potential diagnosis, so it could be entry to school, entry to high school, leaving home for the first time, the twins arrive, or you suddenly find out in your adult life that relationships are very difficult to maintain,” Gray said.
Or the stressful and isolating conditions during COVID-19.
“With [the pandemic] also has come the opportunity for a little more self-reflection and maybe the opportunity to learn a little bit more about all mental health diagnoses, and I think ADHD is one of them,” she said.
It’s something Pete Quily has noticed as well.
He is an ADHD coach and blogger in Vancouver who also has ADHD.
Quily said demand for his services has tripled during the pandemic because “stress is gasoline.”
Unfortunately, support for the disorder is inadequate, he said, and it’s still often misunderstood even by the medical community.
“If I wrote down all the horror stories about doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists on ADHD stigmatizing us … shaming us for seeking a diagnosis, I’d have a book, maybe two.”
Quily said that is why many people with ADHD seek out resources on the internet and connect with other people with ADHD online — to get information that’s lacking elsewhere and meet other people like themselves.
A thriving online community
After her diagnosis, Peña embraced her new identity and discovered a thriving and welcoming ADHD community online. She even started making videos on TikTok and opened a Twitter-specific ADHD account to connect to hundreds of other adults with stories similar to hers.
Many of them feel as if a weight has been lifted off their shoulders once they find out they have ADHD and can bond over the realization they aren’t “bad or wrong” — they just “literally have a different brain that is wired in a different way,” she said.
For Bossier, the online ADHD community has also been a place where she’s found acceptance and understanding.
“People without ADHD when you tell them you have ADHD will say, ‘I’m so sorry,’ whereas if you tell someone with ADHD that you have ADHD, they’re excited to connect with you. And if you’ve just been diagnosed, they congratulate you and say welcome to the club.”