If you lose your keys, struggle to get organized or find it difficult to stay focused at work, these symptoms could be signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADHD can be hard to diagnose because it’s often mistaken for other medical conditions and psychiatric disorders, including anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. But getting an accurate diagnosis and treatment is key to managing these troubling symptoms and improving your life.
There is no one test to determine whether you have ADHD, though some professionals use a combination of psychiatric evaluation and behavioral therapy. This may include interviewing family members, teachers and coworkers about your behavior and gathering information about your medical history. Your healthcare provider will also likely use rating scales and checklists to assess your symptoms, according to CHADD. They will also perform a physical exam and get your family medical history. Additional psychological, neuropsychological and learning disabilities testing may also be used.
A comprehensive evaluation is necessary to rule out other causes of your symptoms, which is why it can take a few hours or more to meet with an evaluator. You’ll need to talk about your symptoms, how they affect your life and what coping strategies you’ve tried. The evaluator will listen to what you say carefully and will ask questions for more information. They’ll look for other possible reasons for your symptoms, like coexisting conditions, and they’ll want to understand how your ADHD symptoms impact your life.
Women with ADHD often go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed because they can be better at hiding their symptoms, and their symptoms show up differently than men’s. For example, women with ADHD tend to present more with inattentive symptoms than hyperactivity and impulsivity.
The most important consideration in diagnosing adults with ADHD is whether the symptoms cause significant impairment in multiple settings, such as at home, school and work. Impairment includes problems with relationships, finances and self-esteem. It can also mean losing a job due to a lack of organizational skills or not being able to complete tasks at work.
If the evaluator decides that you have ADHD, they’ll recommend appropriate treatment, including medication. This may be a stimulant medication or nonstimulant medications that are considered safe for adults. You may need to try a few different medications and doses before finding the right ones for you.
There is no cure for ADHD, but with the help of a mental health professional and healthy coping strategies, you can learn to manage your symptoms and improve your daily functioning. Whether you’re struggling to focus in class or at work, have trouble maintaining friendships or relationships, or are constantly feeling overwhelmed and stressed, these strategies can help. You can also try these best online therapy apps and get an expert opinion on your symptoms and treatment options.