We’re two days into the new season of I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! and already viewers are forming firm opinions about this year’s crop of campmates. From obsessing of Fred Sirieix’s immediate takedown of Nigel Farage (he was seemingly the only one who wanted to ask him about Brexit, much to the publics surprise) to loving Nella Rose’s hilarious one-liners, it’s no surprise people are already making bets on who will win.
The most likely option so far? If we’re going by viewer adoration, reality star Sam Thompson. The former Made in Chelsea castmate, who has since turned podcast host with friend Pete Wickes, appears to have won the public over with his ‘golden retriever energy’.
What is golden retriever energy?
In case you’ve been uninduced into the world of animal-themed comparisons, ‘golden retriever energy’ refers to someone who is – much like an actual golden retriever - easily excitable, extroverted and overall super happy about life. Yep, sounds like Sam!
For evidence of said golden retriever energy, viewers point to Sam’s extremely enthusiastic greetings when meeting his fellow campmates for the first time, and after last night’s episode, his genuine fanboying over JLS’s Marvin Humes – even having the singer teach him the bands most memorable dance moves. Always keen to lend a helping hand, and desperately hoping to cheer up anyone who seems down living jungle life, Sam has already been described as a ‘top, top bloke’ by his new in-camp friends.
Other celebrity examples of golden retriever energy include the likes of Bobby Brazier, Tom Holland, Andy Samberg and Paul Rudd - see also female TV equivalents like Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay or Drew Barrymore as herself.
But there is, unfortunately, a dark side to the debate around Sam’s enthusiasm too. Already, the 31-year-old has been trolled by some viewers, his excitement dubbed ‘annoying’ with some implying he’s trying too hard to be liked by everyone. ‘Is it just me or is Sam Thompson just annoying like showing off trying to make people laugh and it's not working #ImACeleb,’ one person tweeted. ‘Sam Thompson is as annoying as I’d thought he be. We’ve got potentially three weeks of this. God help us,’ another added.
And while everyone is of course entitled to their own opinions, we must be careful with commentary around Sam’s personality or behaviour, namely because he’s been open about his recent diagnosis of both ADHD and autism.
How does ADHD present in adults?
ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a behavioural condition defined by the NHS as making those who have it seem restless, hyperactive, and impulsive. ‘They may have trouble concentrating and may act on impulse,’ the NHS website reads. Other symptoms range from extreme impatience to blurting out responses, difficulty keeping quiet and poor organisational skills.
Autism also impacts the way a person’s brain works, and symptoms present differently in everyone depending on where you sit on the autism spectrum. Common signs of autism include finding it difficult to understand what others are thinking are feeling, getting anxious in social situations, and taking things very literally.
Does Sam Thompson have ADHD or autism?
Earlier this year, Sam opened up about his diagnosis of ADHD and autism (as well as tic syndrome, a nervous system condition which causes sudden twitches, movements or sounds) in a documentary for Channel 4 called Is this ADHD? Now, as more people seek to understand Sam's experience of ADHD and autism, there's been a peak in Google searches for him. Currently, 'Sam Thompson ADHD' is a breakout search term on Google, as well as 'Has Sam Thompson got autism?' and 'Has Sam Thompson got ADHD?' - 'Sam Thompson disability' is also a breakout search term (ADHD is listed as a mental health disability in the 1990 Mental Health Act).
‘I really struggle to concentrate, can’t stay still for very long,’ Sam explained when opening up about his ADHD. ‘I struggle with emotional control. It’s nice to know that there is something happening in my brain that might be different to other people because a lot of the time I just thought I was a dick.’
It’s important then that public debate around Sam’s character or likeability is not influenced by ignorant attitudes towards ADHD and autism. Research shows that ADHD diagnosis have seen a steep increase since the turn of the millennium, with 3-4 percent of the population estimated to have it. Autism diagnosis has similarly seen an exponential increase (787 per cent from 1998 to 2018) with around 700,000 autistic adults and children estimated in the UK.
So, while Sam may not be able to see comments about his behaviour that show a stark ignorance about ADHD and autism symptoms, countless others who live with the conditions likely will. Rather than condemning his enthusiasm, we should surely all be enjoying the golden retriever energy he brings to the screen – it’s certainly when we also have to suffer watching Nigel Farage on our screens…