ADHD misdiagnosis: When the diagnosis is wrong
Do you find it difficult to talk about ADHD 👀 ? Before I found a great specialist, talking about ADHD with doctors was often a challenging experience 😟 Even though many health professionals are making efforts to learn and listen 😌 … some are filled with prejudice about ADHD 😔 A doctor even compared my brain to a « damaged house with broken windows » 🤷♀️🏚 If you had these kinds of experiences, do not lose hope. There are awesome health professionals and therapists out there ☺️💕 !
Table of Contents
~ 1. ADHD Misdiagnosis: "Sorry, It's Not ADHD."
~ 2. Possibilities of ADHD Misdiagnosis
~ ADHD diagnosis: When Mental Health Professionals are wrong
~ Personal Experiences of ADHD
~ Masking and compensating ADHD
~ ADHD symptoms overlap with other conditions
~ It Really Isn't attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
ADHD Misdiagnosis: "Sorry, It's Not ADHD."
You found my website, you read everything that I have written, and somehow, you relate to almost all of the experiences that I shared and you think you might have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. You check all the ADHD boxes: difficulty concentrating, struggle to pay attention, memory problems, impulsivity, etc.
Then you dared to go and see a mental health professional to confirm your ADHD diagnosis. Things go south, and he or she told you, "Sorry, you don't have ADHD."
I know it might be challenging to accept, and you spent countless days researching and learning about ADHD. I know how hard it must be for you to agree to the fact that you were misdiagnosed. But let me tell you one thing, not getting diagnosed with ADHD is not entirely bad.
Possibilities of ADHD Misdiagnosis
When you suspect that you have ADHD and are diagnosed that you have not, it might be hard to accept it at first. Not being diagnosed with attention deficit disorder may leave you out in the dark again when you somehow already knew what you were experiencing. You may have a term to describe your condition correctly, but this experience will bring you back to scratch. So first, let's try to understand what can cause the misdiagnosis of ADHD and how health professionals are diagnosing adhd.
ADHD diagnosis: When Mental Health Professionals are wrong
The truth is, sometimes, the doctor you had may not be filled with enough information in recognizing symptoms of ADHD. Some doctors may have a slightly different approach and outlook when it comes to ADHD, in which you might not qualify. These incidents may delay a proper diagnosis or an entirely different diagnosis from the condition you are leaning to.
Personal Experiences of ADHD
We may have the same condition, but we might never experience it in the same way. Some things might happen to me but are not entirely true for you. That's why it's sometimes hard to get the correct diagnosis for ADHD, as you may not have experienced enough of the official symptoms to meet the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis, but some other individual just might.
Masking and compensating ADHD
It is important to remember that ADHD diagnoses are based on a doctor's observations. If you hide or mask your struggles, you might not meet the diagnostic criteria. For example, we know that many women are actively reducing symptoms of ADHD by using compensation strategies. That's one of the reasons why so many girls and women are still not getting the right diagnosis.
ADHD symptoms overlap with other conditions
An ADHD diagnosis is based entirely on the medical professional's opinion, experiences, and observation. You may have symptoms similar to ADHD, but if you have other comorbid conditions, like the majority of people with ADHD, other symptoms can actually hide your ADHD traits. For example, your difficulty paying attention could cause struggle in social interactions, but so does social anxiety.
Or a young children's sleep issues could be caused by a previously diagnosed sleep apnea, leading the doctor to overlook completely the possibility of ADHD.
In the same way, many people with ADHD are first diagnosed with mood disorders because of their impulsive behaviors. Here again, medical practitioners could be missing a diagnosis of ADHD.
Sometimes, these symptoms are also qualified as another symptom for another condition in the diagnostic guidelines. For example, ADHD and Anxiety are two different neurodevelopmental disorders that share the same symptoms and are sometimes misdiagnosed with one another.
It Really Isn't attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Even though ADHD misdiagnosis is very common, especially for women or AFAB people, it is important to accept that maybe you might not have ADHD at all. However, it doesn't mean that your struggles are not real.
The next best step we could take is to have a second opinion from another mental health professional. While the first may have given you a misdiagnosis, there is always hope that the other one will give you a real ADHD diagnosis.
If you are ready to accept that you may not have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it is still important that you keep searching for the right diagnosis. You could be struggling with anxiety disorders, OCD, substance use disorder, or even be autistic.
Then, whatever is your correct diagnosis, you will be able to find the right support for your mental health. That way you will find the right treatment to reduce symptoms and a good therapeutic approach for you, like behavioral therapy.
In any case, it's never bad to have an extra opinion from another medical professional just to be sure of what we are dealing with. If you want to learn more about your possible ADHD symptoms, I invite you to take a look at my Self-Assessment Workbook. It will help you identify ADHD symptoms you might have, and visualize how they could impact your daily life.