How ADHD is Diagnosed

How ADHD is Diagnosed: What's your diagnosis story 😊 ?

ADHD is a complex disorder that affects children and adults. Because of this, it’s important to have an ADHD diagnosis before beginning treatment. How is ADHD diagnosed? What doctor should you approach? The answers and more in this article.

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All you Need to Know Before Having an ADHD Diagnosis

Plenty of people lack access to appropriate mental health care, which can often result in them not getting diagnosed and subsequently not receiving the treatment they need. There are also times when our mental condition gets disregarded because we think that our thoughts and struggles are just a figment of our brain 🧠 and will eventually pass. The thing is, we MUST prioritize our mental health because just like our physical health, having a good mental state is significant for us to lead a fulfilling life.

Being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder can bring a lot of challenges and difficulties. Specific ADHD symptoms might get in the way of productivity or achieving goals 🏆 we have set for ourselves. Having this neurodevelopmental disorder may also affect us on how we handle our life on a day-to-day basis, mostly making us feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and even lost.And these things may only be the case for ADHD. What if someone suffers from other conditions, such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders, or depression on top of ADHD? 

There are many things to consider before going to your doctor and having an official diagnosis. Usually, you have to prepare yourself 🙋‍♀️ (luckily, if your country is too generous, you'll not have to worry about your finances) before talking to a healthcare professional.

No Single ADHD Diagnosis Test Available

Currently, studies on ADHD are still ongoing; after all, this neurodivergent disorder only got its attention from the public a few years back. It had gone a long way since its discovery in 1902, when a British physicist first noticed several symptoms of ADHD in younger children 🧒. More than a century later, we now have research about the symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention even in adults. It was only in 2013 that the American Psychiatric Association officially recognized ADHD as a part of neurodevelopmental disorders that can be diagnosed in adulthood.

No single test to diagnose ADHD

And since ADHD is just getting the spotlight 💡 that it should have a few decades back, there can be limited resources on how to diagnose Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. As of writing, there is no single ADHD test that can give an accurate diagnosis to an individual. 

A mental health care professional 🧑‍⚕️ utilizes standardized behavior rating scales or ADHD symptom checklists that ask about possible symptoms present, your family medical history, and a bunch of other things they may deem related to diagnosing ADHD.

It can be a hard pill to swallow. How some professionals diagnose ADHD can be based solely on their judgment of whether they see Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder in you. What if someone is too good to mask their ADHD symptoms 🎭? What if there's no record of a family history's mental health conditions? It can be pretty tricky, and that is why it is still essential to do your research on this matter.

The ADHD Interview with a Family Doctor

Someone dear to me once asked for my advice regarding her ADHD diagnosis. She told her parents and other family members about her possibly having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) because of the persistent symptoms she tends to experience. At first, her parents were hesitant because they thought ADHD is only typically diagnosed in children with hyperactive behavior.

ADHD diagnosis is based on symptoms experienced by the patient

She insisted that grown-ups can also experience the core symptoms of ADHD, and her symptoms interfere with how she works and causes problems in her day-to-day life. Eventually, her parents agreed to let her see their family doctor for a consultation 👩‍⚕️. Still, she was outright turned down for progress in diagnosis because her doctor, knowing her the entire time, thought she was too smart to have ADHD.

Sometimes, a denial of an ADHD diagnosis doesn't mean that the struggles that affect your everyday life are not valid. What if it isn't ADHD? Well, it might be an anxiety disorder or a mood disorder (because their symptoms can overlap, too), or maybe you need a second opinion to find the right approach required for your ADHD diagnosis. Diagnosing ADHD can sometimes be a struggle for professionals because it can rely heavily on their judgment, but it shouldn't be a reason to give up.

ADHD's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders

To have an accurate diagnosis for ADHD (and other mental health conditions), the American Psychiatric Association published the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders 📙, commonly known as DSM. This document is used by doctors or primary care providers to assess a person to the diagnostic criteria of a certain mental disorder. The most recent version of DSM is the DSM-5, which was published in the year 2013. It differentiates three types of ADHD: predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type, predominantly inattentive type, and a mix of both subtypes.

DSM-5 is a tool that is used to diagnose ADHD

Health professionals use the DSM-V as a guide to give an accurate ADHD diagnosis by asking a series of questions ❓ to someone suspecting their mental health. Often, queries related to symptoms of ADHD are being discussed, like being easily distracted, making careless mistakes, or if you prefer doing leisure activities quietly instead of being engaged in social gatherings. It is best to answer these questions as accurately and honestly as possible because this will give your healthcare provider an understanding of how your symptoms affect your daily life.

These diagnostic criteria can determine if your symptoms, and the struggle that comes with it, qualify for an ADHD diagnosis. It is essential to know that just because you don't have all the symptoms of ADHD, it doesn't mean that you can't be diagnosed with this neurodivergent disorder. And just because symptoms of ADHD are present in you and your family history, it doesn't guarantee an automatic diagnosis of ADHD👌.

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I Have ADHD Symptoms, What Else Would it Be?

Even if there's extreme restlessness or someone always makes careless mistakes, that does not mean that the person has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). When talking about the diagnosis of ADHD, there are other criteria to be met aside from the ADHD symptoms we tend to experience all the time.

There are other factors that are evaluated for an ADHD Diagnosis

The Number of Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Doctors need to see six or more symptoms 6️⃣ in a child for them to diagnose ADHD. That means six hyperactivity-Impulsivity behaviors or six inattentive ADHD traits should be exhibited by a child. If both categories garnered at least six symptoms, you could be diagnosed with a Combined type of ADHD. Adult ADHD, on the other hand, only needs five symptoms ✋ that can affect your life in a negative way for a diagnosis.

The Duration of the Struggles Brought by ADHD

Even if you have checked off enough symptoms for the diagnosis of ADHD, there needs to be a significant impairment brought by these symptoms for it to be considered ADHD. If they are not disruptive, it’s possible that what you’re going through is just a phase. The symptoms of ADHD should have been apparent for more than six months, whatever age you are. However, adolescent or adult ADHD struggles must have happened before twelve.

The Intensity of the Difficulties of ADHD

The symptoms should affect how you function in different aspects of your life. In other words, these symptoms must disrupt your chance of working well. For example, you have developed learning disabilities. Sometimes, adults with ADHD can suffer from sleep disorders because of their racing thoughts. To be diagnosed with ADHD, these struggles need to substantially impact two or more settings, like home 🏡, school 🏫, work, or even the community.

Significance of Supporting Documents and ADHD Tools

Since a healthcare professional can sometimes overlook ADHD for many reasons, it is equally essential to do our part to improve ADHD symptoms by addressing them head-on. An ADHD self-diagnosis is one way of doing this; it can give you insights into how to manage your symptoms better.

Other supplementary documents may be needed for your assessment

Self-reports is a questionnaire 📜 you need to answer as accurately and truthfully as possible. These forms often supplement your doctor with the correct information you tend to forget during diagnosis. For example, our ADHD Self-Assessment Guide talks about a person's experience regarding their symptoms. 

Using some ADHD tools can ease the process of addressing and treating ADHD. Moreover, it can give the much-needed information to your doctor for your possible ADHD diagnosis. To learn more information about ADHD tools, you may visit this article.

Which Mental Healthcare Professional Should I Go to?

Like in other conditions, seeking professional help 🧑‍⚕️ is the best way to diagnose and address Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. And since we're talking about having a proper ADHD diagnosis from a certified professional, many are getting confused as to where they should go to get diagnosed and manage symptoms of ADHD.

Mental Health Professionals that can give ADHD diagnosis

Depending on your country, many adults approach a General Practitioner first for an initial assessment. Afterward, the GP 🩺 will then refer you to an ADHD specialist if you need to have further evaluation and management. In the U.S., many insurance companies will require a referral for you to see an ADHD specialist.

There are also countries wherein people can directly approach an ADHD specialist. These doctors may specialize in other areas, but they have the expertise needed to carry out an ADHD diagnosis. They are often part of a multidisciplinary team that will help address ADHD in different aspects. Depending on your needs and your country's approach to dealing with mental health conditions, you can approach a psychologist, psychiatrist, psychometrician, or general practitioner. 

How is ADHD Diagnosed FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Why is having an ADHD diagnosis important?

It helps you get the right support and treatment. A diagnosis means that your doctor can prescribe medicines and refer you to local support services such as group therapy or one-to-one coaching sessions where you can work on specific techniques to help manage your condition and hopefully improve your symptoms over time.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

ADHD is diagnosed by a doctor. The process of diagnosing ADHD can take a while and involves different steps based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (5th Edition). You will meet with the doctor in an office setting, where they will ask you questions about your symptoms and how they affect your life. They may also ask if there is anyone else in your family who has been diagnosed with ADHD or has struggled with attention issues. The doctor might also ask you to complete some short assignments or tests so they can get a better idea of how well you're functioning at school or work, as well as other areas of life.

What type of doctor can diagnose ADHD?

Doctors who can diagnose ADHD include psychiatrists and psychologists, neurologists and pediatrics. Family doctors may also diagnose ADHD.

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