In this occasional feature, members of the Psych Congress Steering Committee answer questions asked by audience members at Psych Congress meetings.
QUESTION: Have cell phones and easy access to technology increased the rates of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?
ANSWER: I often get asked this question at both family get-togethers and at professional meetings! It's clearly an issue that’s on everyone’s mind. The dramatic rise in utilization of cell phones and other technologies is both an opportunity and a risk for mental health disorders. But the question is "has this easy access to cell phones increased the rates of ADHD?". The short answer is "no."
Recent national surveys do not reveal an increase in incidence of ADHD. While recognition of ADHD has improved significantly in all populations, there does not appear to be any evidence that technology in and of itself causes the precipitation of ADHD.
Having said that, there's no doubt that patients who are already afflicted with ADHD can have a worsening of their symptoms if they are excessive utilizers of their smartphones. It is well-known that with ADHD there is a higher propensity to be attracted to activities that give quick rewards and are highly interactive. Similarly, in individuals with ADHD, the desire to engage in monotonous but necessary activities is diminished. It is therefore important to educate patients and their family members of the potential worsening of symptoms of ADHD if smartphone utilization is not monitored or controlled.
— Psych Congress cochair Rakesh Jain, MD, MPH, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Texas Tech Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, Midland
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