The procedure for diagnosing ADHD in adults is very similar to that in children. Indeed, it very often happens that the parent is diagnosed after his child.
The assessment and potential diagnosis of ADHD does not happen with a simple fifteen-minute visit to the doctor. The process should be thorough and take more than one visit.
The assessment can be done by a psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologist or family physician trained in ADHD. Since a thorough assessment requires a full physical and psychiatric history, as well as some screening tests to rule out other possible disorders, it is recommended that you be assessed by a doctor during the process.
During the in-depth screening process, it is also necessary to check whether other conditions (such as anxiety and depression) that often coexist with ADHD are present. Only one in five people have uncomplicated ADHD, or ADHD without other comorbid conditions. All assessments should include a lengthy interview with the patient, parents and other significant people, and the administration of various symptom rating scales. Usually more than one scale is used to confirm the results.
A thorough assessment should include:
• A complete medical history, paying attention to conditions that may mimic symptoms of ADHD - blood tests may be done to rule out any thyroid or kidney problems;
• A history of personal and family history, paying attention to disorders that may mimic the symptoms of ADHD - anxiety disorders, mood disorders, substance abuse disorders and personality disorders;
• A history of personal and family history of heart problems;
• A history of symptoms in childhood - to make a diagnosis, symptoms must have been present by age 12. If necessary, consult old school reports or discuss with parents;
• Symptom rating scales completed by the patient and a parent or other significant person - those with ADHD are not always best for recognize their symptoms and the difficulties they experience on a daily basis.
Some adults with ADHD who see their doctor complain of symptoms that are different from those usually associated with ADHD in children. They may feel anxious or depressed, have difficulty sleeping, and waking up in the morning. Some adults with ADHD report feeling angry and irritable most of the time. They may have difficulty with productivity, motivation, organization, and procrastination. If impulsiveness is an issue, they can experience significant financial, social or legal consequences. Mood changes are also a symptom experienced by many adults with ADHD. Adults with ADHD have also had many years to develop coping strategies, some helpful and some not so, that can mask the underlying symptoms of ADHD, making it more difficult to diagnose.
Sometimes it is their spouse who demands that they go to a doctor because many adults are unaware of their difficulties and the impact on others. If a person has lived this way their entire life, recognizing the symptoms of such a disorder can be a challenge. After all, this is the way it has always worked.
Finding a doctor for an evaluation can be a challenge. Since the ADHD diagnostic process is often performed by physicians who specialize in childhood disorders such as pediatricians or child psychiatrists, some psychiatrists and family physicians may not be familiar with ADHD in adults. Others may even still be skeptical about the existence of this disorder. If you are an adult who wishes to be assessed for ADHD, it is important to ensure the clinician's knowledge of ADHD prior to the consultation. Is this an area he specializes in and how many ADHD patients does he see? If your doctor tells you that ADHD in adults does not exist, find another doctor.