We should start by clearing something up. Here’s who can diagnose you with ADHD: qualified medical and mental health professionals.
Here’s who can’t diagnose you (or undiagnose you, for that matter!): everyone else.
One of the interesting things about having an ADHD diagnosis is that you might find all sorts of people are ready to have an opinion on your diagnosis, or to have an opinion on ADHD in general which by extension leads to having an opinion on your diagnosis.
But just because someone has an opinion on another person’s mental health diagnosis doesn’t mean they should. So I’d like to go through and mention some of the people who really don’t have any business giving their two cents on your diagnosis.
Let’s start with random acquaintances, friends and family members. Maybe it’s obvious, but it bears mentioning anyway: if any of the above people say “you don’t seem like you have ADHD to me” or “that’s just an excuse for being lazy,” all you’ve learned is that the person in question doesn’t understand the limits of their own knowledge and ignorance.
I do think it’s generally welcome for friends and family to provide feedback that is coming from a supportive place. For example, if someone says “I’m not surprised you have ADHD,” I’m guessing that wouldn’t bother most ADHDers because many ADHD symptoms can be observed by others.
Another example of people who shouldn’t have an opinion on your ADHD diagnosis are supervisors at work and teachers. If your ADHD is coming up in this context, it’s usually because you are looking to implement some kind of accommodations.
Here, the role of your supervisor, professor, etc. is simply to provide reasonable accommodations (which will be mutually beneficial!) or to help put into effect accommodations that have already been decided on. Needless to say, there’s no appropriate place in this process for questioning someone’s diagnosis or having an “opinion” on ADHD generally.
Sadly, just because stigma shouldn’t be a factor, that doesn’t mean it won’t be. Which is why ADHDers, especially in professional settings, have to develop a sense of when it might and might not be beneficial to bring up ADHD given the details of the situation.
Now, here’s a slightly trickier one: is an ADHDer allowed to have an opinion about their own diagnosis? The short answer is of course, but with the caveat that you can’t outright self-diagnose!
What I mean is that it’s perfectly fine to look at a list of ADHD symptoms and say “hmm, I think I might have ADHD” – in fact, this is what puts many ADHDers on the path to diagnosis. But whatever suspicions you have, you can’t actually give yourself an official diagnosis! Hence why I like to say that people with ADHD should self-refer but not self-diagnose.
Finally, I’ll throw out one more that might seem a little surprising: even your doctor should not have an opinion on your diagnosis if they have not done a thorough evaluation. I hear plenty of stories about doctors who dismiss questions about ADHD out-of-hand because they usually don’t diagnose it in adults, because they think someone who is “successful” can’t have ADHD, because they automatically tend to assume med-seeking, or for any number of other shallow reasons.
I started this article by saying that only a qualified professional can diagnose you with ADHD, and I’ll close out by saying: for that professional to give you a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on an ADHD diagnosis, they need to be someone who 1) has the necessary knowledge specific to ADHD and 2) has conducted a proper evaluation!