ADHD Misdiagnosis

ADHD Misdiagnosis: Can ADHD Diagnosis be Wrong?

When it comes to ADHD, it can be easy for a doctor to make mistakes and misdiagnose you. This can lead to incorrect treatment and cause unnecessary stress for both you and your family. Here’s what you need to know about ADHD Misdiagnosis. 

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ADHD Misdiagnosis: Sorry, It's Not ADHD.

One of the many reasons you are here may be that you are seeking confirmation of your feelings. Do I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? Maybe I just need one or a couple more signs that mimic ADHD symptoms, and then I’ll be seeking professional help👩‍⚕️. Well, you are not alone. Many people feel the same way as you. They want to be sure about their diagnosis before any medications or other treatments are recommended or started.

more and more people are wondering if they could have ADHD

You found our website 💻, read everything I have written, and somehow, you relate to almost all of the experiences I shared and thought that we might have the same condition running in our brains. Of course, you went and saw a mental health professional confirm your ADHD diagnosis. Things went south, though, and he told you, "Sorry, you don't have ADHD."

What now?

I know it might be challenging to accept as you spent countless days researching and learning about ADHD. Maybe you tick off ☑️ some of the ADHD behavior when it comes to social interactions and feel the effects of ADHD under multiple settings - school, work, and home 🏡. Sometimes, though, what we have expected won't arrive as we wanted. The good news is not all hope is lost.

but when they finally find the courage to talk to their doctor

It’s possible that there was a misdiagnosis. After all, misdiagnosis is common in ADHD, considering how its symptoms often overlap with other neurodivergent conditions. Let me tell you one thing. A misdiagnosis for ADHD is not entirely harmful😉.

You Do Not Fit the ADHD Stereotype

According to the Diagnostic Guidelines 📚 in determining if a person has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, you have to meet certain diagnostic criteria such as problems with sustaining attention, being easily distracted, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Of course, these are just the most common ADHD symptoms. There are a total of 9 possible symptoms in hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive types, after all.  

Despite all the advanced research related to this topic, professionals still need to rely on the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (published in 2013) to diagnose this condition. The thing is, the criteria for ADHD in DSM-5 are the same from DSM-4, and DSM-4 was published in 1994, which was almost 3 decades ago😨! 

they are sometimes overlooked as they don't fit the ADHD stereotype

Currently, there is plenty of information about the history of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. However, some may still know ADHD as Attention Deficit Disorder and others may look for symptoms of difficulty paying attention in children only🧒 and make their inappropriate judgment based on that. As more articles have emerged, mental health professionals are gearing towards updating their arsenal of knowledge 👩‍⚕️ to prevent significant consequences of this condition if not diagnosed properly.

Even if you hear someone say, "But you are doing good in class" or "You are already 29 years old; there's no need for you to get your ADHD diagnosis now," take heart. The American Psychiatric Association says it’s never too late to get diagnosed. 

of course, a negative ADHD diagnosis can also be valid
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Possibilities of an ADHD Misdiagnosis

The first step towards an ADHD diagnosis may involve searching for ADHD symptoms and relating our experiences with them🔍. Our research will also be helpful in confirming the everyday struggles that we go through. Our self-diagnosis, where we start to wonder if we have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), can be tricky. We tend to always relate ourselves to the visual problems caused by this neurodivergent disorder. Still, when we really think of it, way more requirements are needed for a correct diagnosis.

So before you genuinely accept that maybe it is not Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, consider trying to understand the different factors that might lead to negative diagnosis first😉. Here are some of the possibilities:

Mental Health Professionals

Finding a suitable mental health professional for your mental health needs can be quite challenging. In a report by the Mental Health First Aid USA, only 41 percent of people with mental health conditions received professional help in the U.S. alone. 

So, if you suspect ADHD, the mental health professional you approach may have no specialization to treat ADHD well 😔or some are not fully aware of all the ins and outs of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The truth is, sometimes, the doctor you have in mind may not be equipped with enough information to recognize symptoms of ADHD. Also, some doctors may have a slightly different approach and outlook regarding ADHD. These incidents may delay a proper diagnosis or result in an entirely different diagnosis ❌ from the condition you are leaning towards.

That's why it is essential to have someone who you can trust🥰 . A mental health professional who knows you inside and out may or may not give you the diagnosis of ADHD. But still, you must have that mutual trust to address your struggles and take the correct course of medication or ADHD treatment (in case it is ADHD). They may provide a different approach to reduce symptoms and prevent you from having more severe consequences in the future.

Personal Experiences and Environmental Conditions

When we think of the times we struggled with a particular issue, we may always relate it to this neurodivergent disorder because we are familiar with all the symptoms of ADHD. Still, when we make careless mistakes, we don't automatically qualify to have ADHD. Similarly, when other people find themselves having difficulty concentrating on tasks, this can not readily relate to ADHD.

but if you feel lost and confused after your assessment with a professional

However, whatever we say about our struggles, they are always valid and can not be ignored🙌. Just remember: we may deviate from the expected behavior of other people, but we cannot be sure if this is because of ADHD or just a trait we have. Sometimes, we also have to consider our social settings and our environment, the maturity levels we are currently in, or how we are raised and our parent training as children🧒.

Two people may have the same condition, but we might never experience it in the same way. Some things might happen to me, but they are not entirely true for you. That's why, having several ADHD traits does not mean you have enough symptoms to meet the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis ⚕️. It is crucial to think and consider that everyone has a different perspective on what they are experiencing and how they see things.

Overlapping Symptoms

An ADHD diagnosis is based entirely on the medical professional's opinion, experiences, and observation. You may have symptoms similar to ADHD, but it does not automatically mean that you have it. Sometimes, these symptoms are for another condition. For example, ADHD and Anxiety are two different neurodevelopmental disorders that share some common symptoms and are sometimes misdiagnosed with one another.

Did you know that ADHD can be considered one of the most common comorbid mental disorders? According to peer-reviewed studies, symptoms of ADHD may co-occur with different neurodivergent conditions, such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, learning disabilities, or even substance use and abuse. The prevalence rates for these occurrences can be quite high 📈, which may cause the misdiagnosis of ADHD.

These are other conditions that have common symptoms with ADHD:

  • Depression
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Conduct disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Tic disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Sleep problems like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

Hence, there are times when underlying medical conditions hide within these symptoms, making it more challenging to have an accurate diagnosis.

Masking and Compensating Symptoms of ADHD

It is important to remember that ADHD diagnoses are based on a doctor's observations. You might not meet the diagnostic criteria if you hide or mask your struggles 🎭. For example, some people may actively reduce symptoms of ADHD by using compensation strategies. That's one of the reasons why some individuals are still not getting the proper diagnosis.

Another example of masking ADHD traits like difficulty concentrating is using safe and familiar coping mechanisms. Many people with ADHD have a natural tendency to multitask or do several things at once. We may strive to be organized with our workspace 🧑‍💼 to prevent ourselves from being distracted. Compensating because of our ADHD symptoms can hide our real identities from other people, making it more challenging to get an accurate ADHD diagnosis.

Many school-age children with ADHD can also mask ADHD symptoms by limiting themselves from interacting with other children or even grown-ups. Their social skills might not be as developed, and they might have difficulty making friends. This can result in feeling isolated, anxious, and lonely. They may get too afraid and worried when they show their ADHD symptoms, such as hyperactivity, and they'll be taken negatively by people surrounding them😔.

It Really Isn't ADHD

If, after going through all these possibilities and you still can't find any reason for your misdiagnosis, maybe it is time to accept that you might not have ADHD. However, we don't want to invalidate what you've been feeling all your life. The next best step you could take is to have a second opinion from another mental health expert👩‍⚕️. While the first may have given you a misdiagnosis, there is always hope that the other will consider you for an accurate ADHD diagnosis.

remember that it's ok to ask for a second opinion

In any case, it's never wrong to have a different opinion from another medical professional just to be sure of what you are dealing with. There are numerous online ADHD tools that you can utilize to not be misdiagnosed with ADHD. You could also have supporting documents such as The Mini ADHD Coach Self-Assessment Workbook to ensure that everything you experience is well accounted for. These things will help you, and your doctor be on the same page about your symptoms and give you a better chance for an accurate diagnosis.

ADHD & Misdiagnosis

ADHD Misdiagnosis: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is there a specific test for ADHD?

Unfortunately, there is no specific ADHD test to confirm a diagnosis. It's not a physical illness or disease that can be identified through a laboratory exam or imaging test. It's a behavioral disorder that can be identified through history-taking and symptoms and signs.

Why is it difficult to diagnose ADHD?

If you’re struggling with ADHD, it can be difficult to receive a diagnosis because there are many conditions that mimic or overlap with symptoms of ADHD (such as anxiety disorders). Like mentioned, there's also no single test (laboratory or imaging) that can pinpoint ADHD. To be diagnosed a person MUST satisfy certain criteria. ‍

What conditions have similar symptoms as ADHD?

There are other conditions that have symptoms that are similar to those of ADHD. It's important to be familiar with these conditions so you can get an accurate diagnosis. Some of the most common include depression, anxiety, learning difficulties, and substance abuse. 

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