So you think you have ADHD? Things to consider before seeking an ADHD diagnosis. photo credit: s_falkow

There are only two more days left in this special week to raise awareness about ADHD. Maybe you’re trying to raise your own awareness because you suspect you might be a member of this clan of chameleons.

By getting an accurate diagnosis you’ll finally be able to figure out why you’re alternately endearingly wonderful, then embarrassingly blunderful, one moment to the next.

One of the tricky things about getting an ADHD diagnosis is that there’s no test for ADHD. Which is too bad, because it’s actually like being pregnant: you either have, or do not have, ADHD. If only we could pee on a stick and get on with it, but that’s not the case; at least, not yet.

It’s also not like a driving test, although driving tests do provide a hint: if you’ve failed yours five times already, you might have ADHD.

So how do we know what makes our forgetfulness, distractibility, impulsivity, and messiness diagnosis-worthy rather than just garden-variety? Here are some things to consider before going for a diagnosis.

1. Have you been ADHD-ey since childhood?

ADHD is considered largely inherited, so symptoms have to have been present since childhood for a diagnosis.

– gather evidence of symptoms by talking to people who’ve known you really well since childhood: parents, siblings, teachers, truant officer

scour school report cards. Comments like, “gets easily distracted,”  “not living up to their potential,” and “she goes or I do” are definite clues.

2. Big shake-up lately?

Has your life just taken a big turn?  For example, you just started higher education, got married, had kids, got a promotion at work, impulsively left your 20-year career and marriage to walk the Camino De Santiago?

ADHD symptoms are contextual, meaning: you might make a fabulous criminal lawyer, but at home you’re not so great at remembering to take out the garbage. If you’ve taken on new demands in some area of life and find you’re suddenly unable to cope, ADHD symptoms may be the culprit. Many adults receive their diagnosis during such times.

3. Do you have kids diagnosed with ADHD?

They got it from somewhere (and it wasn’t a toilet seat). Consider this a free pass to go directly to your child’s diagnosing paediatrician or whoever diagnosed them, and ask them if they can diagnose you or make a recommendation to someone who can.

4. Have you been diagnosed and treated for depression or another mood disorder and still feel like your inner Wonder Woman is being thwarted by an invisible arch villain? The bad guy sabotaging your wonderfulness might be ADHD.

– women especially have been misdiagnosed for depression, anxiety disorders, or bi-polar disorders when the underlying culprit was ADHD. You might have ADHD alone, or ADHD plus something else (the majority of adults with ADHD are diagnosed with at least one co-occurring condition), but unless the ADHD is treated, you probably won’t be able to use your super-powers to their full potential.

Take the test

The Jasper/Goldberg Adult ADD Questionnaire will take longer than peeing on a stick, but it is a legit ADHD screener (it’s used by the physician who diagnosed me as part of his diagnosis).

This quiz will give you an idea of the severity of symptoms, and if you have enough of them to seek a formal ADHD diagnosis.

One word of caution: there are other screeners out there, but they’re not all legit. For example, if you’re a woman I would highly recommend taking my ADHD Diagnostic Quiz for Women, but it probably won’t help with your diagnosis. It will help you feel better about getting one because laughter, after all, is the best medicine…right?

Tomorrow: what to ask the doc

Tomorrow I’ll share some tips on what to look for in a diagnosing physician. Not all docs have the knowledge, experience or expertise necessary to make a diagnosis. Here’s how to screen them before giving them a chance to screen you.

See Part II here.


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