ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a mental health disorder that is associated with a higher frequency of hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.
Those people who are diagnosed with ADHD may experience difficulty focusing on tasks, struggle to manage routines, struggle to sit in one position for long periods, and more.
While many people commonly think of ADHD as a disorder that only impacts children, many adults experience symptoms of ADHD. Children with ADHD may face more obstacles than adults, though, in part because they naturally have more energy, a shorter attention span, and a harder time communicating complex emotions.
This is not to discount the experience of adults with ADHD, who often grow frustrated or angry as a result of their symptoms. In many cases, it falls into the hands of individual adults to recognize their symptoms for what they are and seek out appropriate medical care.
Why is ADHD hard to diagnose?
While ADHD is a quite common disorder – in the U.S., 4.4% of adults are affected by ADHD in some fashion – it often goes undiagnosed for many years.
However, many times adults will experience the symptoms of ADHD without realizing that it is indeed ADHD that causes their concerns and challenges. This inability to identify ADHD as the cause of struggles can leave adults feeling inadequate, as they will attribute their shortcomings to character flaws and a general lack of intelligence.
Diagnosing ADHD in adults can be an extremely important step in helping people understand why they struggle with everyday tasks.
Instead of believing that they are simply incapable of completing tasks because they are lazy or not intelligent, these adults can begin to realize that a mental illness is impacting their daily functioning.
There is a stigma associated with ADHD, which can often inhibit the diagnostic process. This stigma is especially strong for adults with ADHD, as this disorder is often viewed as one that afflicts juveniles. Adults who experience symptoms may not even consider ADHD as an option.
ADHD symptoms may also become more manageable as an individual age; adults are often so used to their symptoms that they may fail to recognize that they’re potentially a part of something larger.
Screening for Adult ADHD
ADHD testing in adults should be pursued by anyone who believes that their symptoms are having a serious, measurable impact on daily functioning. Getting a formal test for ADHD can provide a definitive answer as to whether you are impacted by ADHD.
Some people fear that being diagnosed with ADHD places a label on them, which will leave them feeling abnormal. As a result of this fear, adults often attempt to push through their symptoms by working harder; this mentality can contribute to other mental health disorders (like depression) and overall feelings of hopelessness.
Online Tests and Quizzes
There are many ADHD tests and quizzes that are available online, and they’re often a tempting and easily accessible option.
These online tests can serve as a great first step in recognizing the symptoms of ADHD. But, it is important to remember that online ADHD tests can never serve as the sole method of diagnosing ADHD.
Instead, online tests should be viewed as ways to help you get a general idea of where you stand. They can help you understand what living with ADHD might look like and pinpoint which symptoms tend to trouble you the most, all of which can be useful information when pursuing professional care later on.
If you choose to take an online ADHD test and the results indicate that you may have ADHD, it is then necessary to schedule an appointment with a physician so that a thorough ADHD assessment can be conducted.
Professional Diagnostic Tests
Typically, psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, and other mental health professionals can conduct ADHD evaluations.
Following some health insurance companies, you are required to visit a psychiatrist before receiving any stimulant medication.
Not all physicians are well-versed in adult ADHD, so you may need to “shop around” for a health care professional who can properly address your situation.
Each physician or other health care professional may have their way of evaluating patients for ADHD. However, there are a few components to the evaluation process that you can expect:
- The physician will interview the patient. This interview is intended as a method of gaining information about symptoms and patient medical history. The patient will be asked to explain how their symptoms impact their daily functioning and how work-life, friendships and relationships have been affected. Make sure that you are completely honest if you are interviewed by a physician to help diagnose your possible ADHD. The doctor must have complete, accurate information.
- The doctor may check blood pressure and heart rate. Additionally, they may order blood tests.
- In some cases, the doctor may ask the patient to come back to the office for a second appointment that will serve as a follow-up. This follow-up appointment can help make sure that all-important information has been gathered. The doctor must have all the information necessary to make an informed diagnosis.
- If you are diagnosed with ADHD and will be undergoing treatment for your condition, it will be necessary to make regular office visits. These office visits will be used to monitor medication dosages and assess the management of symptoms.
The Importance of Seeking Care
It may be difficult to pull the trigger and opt for an ADHD test. For many reasons, humans do not like being labeled, and being diagnosed with ADHD is no exception.
If you find that your symptoms are minor and you are still able to function at a reasonable level, then you may not need to undergo evaluation and subsequent treatment for ADHD. However, in most cases, it’s indeed necessary to seek out at least some degree of care to appropriately manage symptoms.
Even if things seem under control, those with ADHD can still benefit significantly from visiting a mental health professional. Adults with ADHD have been found to develop co-occurring mental illnesses that can lead to worsening symptoms, so it’s important to have resources to help you keep an eye on things.
Living with ADHD is no easy task, but thanks to health care professionals who are ready to help, no one needs to suffer alone. Take care of yourself and tackle your symptoms head-on – you’ll likely be happy you did.
About the Author:
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.