How Is ADHD Diagnosed?

You know the saying, ‘There is light at the end of the tunnel?’ Well it is a good motto to remember as you are going through the steps of getting

an ADHD evaluation.   It can feel like a lot of leg work and emotionally overwhelming at times. However, at the end you will be rewarded with huge clarity.

You will know the following:

*What type of ADHD you have

*Recommendations for the best treatment

*If you have any co-existing conditions with ADHD  (this is very important)

*Or if you don’t have ADHD, you will learn what condition(s)  are causing the ADHD like symptoms.

Since  putting the wheels in motion to get an official diagnosis can seem daunting, you might be tempted to try and self-diagnose with an online quiz. However, there are downsides to this. ADHD can look like many other conditions, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders, learning disabilities and much more. It would be easy to misdiagnose yourself with ADHD and not get help for the condition you do have.

In addition, if you self-diagnose, you would not be eligible for accommodations at work or school and neither would you be able to get a prescription for ADHD medication – all of which can be very helpful in managing ADHD symptoms.

Online quizzes can be helpful as a screening process though! Sometimes,  taking an online quiz can give you the confidence you need to speak to your doctor about getting an ADHD evaluation.

A well-recognized tool is the Jasper/Goldberg Adult ADD Questionnaire. If you google it, it is available on many websites.

How is ADHD Diagnosed?

“The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” published in May 2013 (DSM-5) provides the criteria that all clinicians use when assessing a patient for ADHD.

The criteria differs from previous DSMs as it takes into account that ADHD presents itself differently in adulthood compared to childhood.

The DSM lists 9 inattentive ADHD symptoms  and 9 hyperactive/impulsive symptoms. If, a person who is 17 years or older  experiences 5 or more symptoms from one of the lists, and they meet the following points below, they can be diagnosed with ADHD.

  • The characteristics have been present for 6 months or more
  • The symptoms were present before you were 12 years old
  • The traits affect your life in 2 or more settings (e.g. home and work)
  • The symptoms impact performance so that you are not able to perform to your full potential
  • The symptoms aren’t due to another condition, such as bipolar disorder, sleep disorder or anxiety.

If you meet all of these requirements, you will be diagnosed with one of the 3 presentations of ADHD.

  •  ADHD Predominantly Inattentive presentation
  • ADHD Predominantly Hyperactive Impulsive presentation
  • ADHD Combined presentation

Also, the severity level of your ADHD will have been identified.

  1.  Mild (while still meeting the diagnosis criteria)
  2. Moderate
  3. Severe

How Does the Clinician Reach Their Diagnosis?

They become a detective!  With your help, they gather information about you and your life. This information primarily comes from speaking with you. However, with your permission they might speak with your spouse or a family member or ask them to fill out a questionnaire.

The clinician also  needs to discover how you perform in different areas of life, for example, at work and school, both now and in the past. School report cards from childhood and work evaluations are helpful.

Your medical history including information about your birth or problems that your mom experienced during pregnancy are all relevant. Your family’s medical history is also of interest because the biggest ‘cause’ of ADHD is genetic.

Sometimes a physical condition needs to be ruled out, so you might be asked to have tests to check your thyroid, liver or kidney functions or have a test for epilepsy. Eyesight and hearing tests could be requested too.

The clinician might perform tests in their office to measure your memory, attention and disability levels too.

The diagnosis is often done over a couple of visits so that you are fresh and alert for the appointments and to give you time to get questionnaires completed. In total it approximately 3 hours.

Who Can Evaluate you for ADHD?

Psychiatrists, psychologists and some family doctors can all carry out evaluations.  Finding a professional who has experience testing for adult ADHD  is properly the hardest step in the evaluation process. Once you have found someone that you trust, they will be able to guide you through the rest of the process.

 

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