How to Know If You Have ADHD
Have you ever wondered whether you or your child may have ADHD? Perhaps you have even considered asking a doctor.
It can be difficult to know if you have ADHD, especially when symptoms can look like those of other conditions such as depression or anxiety. It’s important to be honest about your symptoms and discuss them with a doctor or mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis.
To be diagnosed with ADHD, you or your child must have at least 5 persistent symptoms of inattention and/or 5 persistent symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity that interfere with social, school, work, or other daily activities. The most common symptoms are difficulty paying attention, forgetting details or making careless mistakes in work, school or other settings.
During the course of an evaluation, the provider will ask questions about your symptoms and how they impact your life. They will also review your psychiatric and medical history from childhood through the present to determine if symptoms meet diagnostic criteria.
If you have ADHD, you may need medication to help manage your symptoms. It’s important to find the right medication, dose or combination of medications for your specific needs. The most effective treatments have been shown to improve both behavior and cognitive functioning in people with ADHD.
The exact cause of ADHD is unknown, but some theories include genetics and environmental factors such as lead exposure as a child. Other factors that increase the risk of ADHD include problems with the central nervous system during key developmental stages.
Many people with ADHD have other disorders, such as oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, anxiety, depression, tic disorder or Tourette syndrome, substance abuse, sleep disorders or learning disabilities. These other disorders can have a more significant impact on the person’s overall quality of life, and they can often co-exist with ADHD.
Diagnosing ADHD requires a comprehensive medical and psychological evaluation by a licensed health care professional. This can involve an interview, a physical exam and sometimes other tests.
In addition to the criteria listed in the DSM-5, health professionals must consider a patient’s age and how severe the symptoms are. They can designate the severity of ADHD as “mild,” “moderate” or “severe.”
The most effective treatment for ADHD is a combination of medication and psychosocial (mental health) interventions that are designed to help people with the condition manage their symptoms and lead more productive lives. Talk to your doctor about which medications are best for you or your child, and check the National Institutes of Health’s NIMH Mental Health Medications webpage for the latest FDA approvals, warnings and patient information guides.
ADHD is a chronic, multi-symptom disorder that can have lasting impacts on the person’s lifestyle and relationships. Some people with ADHD continue to experience symptoms into adulthood, while others outgrow them and go on to live productive and satisfying lives.
You or your child may not have a diagnosis of ADHD if you have had a behavior problem as a child but did not receive a formal diagnosis at that time. This could be because the condition has become out of control or because other conditions such as depression or anxiety have taken over.