As the number of mental health professionals skeptical about the validity of ADHD increases by the day, big pharmaceutical companies have resorted to a new trick designed to help more adults self-diagnose their ADHD symptoms: Hire People magazine’s sexiest man (Adam Levine) to convince you that you might also have ADHD (and will subsequently benefit by also telling your primary physician that you need him to prescribe you dangerous drugs to treat it). This is an especially scary time in mental health where we are seeing “mental illnesses” like ADHD being glamorized by using high profile, sexy celebrities to get your attention — and why wouldn’t you want to have the same quirks as the uber-famous Adam Levine??
The criteria used for adult ADHD is about as fluffy as it gets, and it becomes even more comical when you take a high-profile celebrity looking good and playing his music while at the same time encouraging you to see if you are like him and have adult ADHD. The message basically says ADHD is all over the place, even affecting celebrities like Levine – but if you want to overcome the disorder you must check with your doctor. This, of course, means going into your primary care physician’s office and simply asking to be put on one of the drugs currently available (trust me, few physicians will try and diagnose you, and the vast majority aren’t trained to do so anyway). A few minutes later you’ll likely walk off with a prescription in hand!
Admittedly, marrying Adam Levine to being the cool poster boy for ADHD is a pretty slick marketing move — after all, who wouldn’t want to have the same mental health disorder as the world’s sexiest man? No shame in that at all — in fact, it actually seems pretty cool! The problem, however, has to do with quickly being prescribed potentially dangerous psychostimulant drugs for a “condition” that really isn’t a mental illness but instead a collection of traits most people share and learn to deal with in life (similar to how some people deal with traits of being super lazy). If you have no trouble tuning in to your favorite movie but a lot of trouble focusing during a boring math class, you don’t have an “attention disorder” but instead have a problem focusing on things that don’t grab your interest — there’s nothing mentally ill about that!
The problem with all of this is that millions of kids see the star of Maroon Five & The Voice singing and banging on a guitar encouraging people to go get help. If you didn’t perceive a problem before the ad, and you are a kid, might your young impressionable mind tell you it’s time to find a convenient label as to why you don’t like to sit through calculus class? ADHD sure helps in that pursuit, right?
Become a critical consumer and do your homework when it comes to controversial diagnoses like ADHD. Not only is the criteria to be labeled ADHD very loose and designed to seemingly capture everyone, but the pharmaceutical treatments are controversial and potentially dangerous.