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A Guide to Evaluation for Adult ADHD

Everyone feels a little overwhelmed from time to time. But if you can't concentrate long enough to get through a TV show, flip through a brochure, get to appointments, or arrive at work on time, and your impatience and/or impulsive behavior interferes with life, you may be one of the millions of adults here in the U.S. and around the world with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD. Getting evaluated for ADHD can be a daunting process for many individuals. In this guide, we'll walk through practical steps to help you navigate the journey toward understanding, diagnosis, and treatment options for ADHD.



Self-Assessment

Start by conducting a self-assessment of your symptoms. There are several online resources to choose from. Reflect on your experiences and behaviors, paying attention to inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity patterns. Keep a journal to track these symptoms and how they impact your daily life, including work, school, relationships, and daily tasks.


Consult with a Healthcare Professional

Once you've conducted a self-assessment and suspect you may have ADHD, the next step is to share these results with a healthcare professional for further evaluation. Be prepared to discuss your symptoms, medical history, and any relevant information that may help the evaluation process.


Dr. Ned Hallowell, an ADHD mental health expert, says, "To get a diagnosis, consult with a professional who has a lot of experience in diagnosing ADHD." This could be a psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologist, family physician, or anyone in the mental health field. The key is to interview them and/or do your research carefully to ensure they have this experience because many people think they understand it but don't. Seeing a professional who has a lot of experience with ADHD can determine whether or not you get an accurate and complete diagnosis. The best referrals are typically from someone who has already seen that professional.


Seek a Formal Evaluation

A comprehensive evaluation is essential for an accurate diagnosis of ADHD. This evaluation may include one or more of various assessments, including:

  • Clinical Interview: The healthcare professional will conduct a thorough interview to gather information about your symptoms, medical history, family history, and other relevant factors.

  • Behavioral Assessments: Standardized questionnaires and rating scales may be used to assess ADHD symptoms and their impact on various aspects of life.

  • Medical Examination: A physical examination may be conducted to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be contributing to your symptoms.


Collaborative Approach

ADHD evaluation often requires a collaborative approach involving multiple healthcare professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, and other specialists. They may work together to gather information, interpret assessment results, and formulate a diagnosis.


Based on the evaluation results, the healthcare professional will determine whether you meet the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. If, after reviewing all this information, your physician decides the following:

  1. That you have the symptoms of ADHD,

  2. You have had them since childhood,

  3. You have the symptoms in at least two life settings (school, home, with peers, etc.), and

  4. There is no other diagnosis that can explain your symptoms, then a presumptive diagnosis of ADHD can be made.


Diagnosis and Treatment Options

If diagnosed with ADHD, various treatment options may be recommended, including:

  • Medication: Stimulant medications, such as methylphenidate or amphetamines, are commonly prescribed to manage ADHD symptoms. Non-stimulant medications, such as atomoxetine, may also be prescribed.

  • Therapy: Behavioral therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and ADHD life coaching can help individuals develop coping strategies, improve organizational skills, and address emotional challenges associated with ADHD.

  • Lifestyle Changes: Healthy lifestyle habits like regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a balanced diet can complement other treatment strategies and improve overall well-being.


Ongoing Monitoring and Support

ADHD is a lifelong condition that may require ongoing management and support. Regular follow-up appointments with healthcare professionals can help monitor treatment effectiveness, adjust medications, and address emerging challenges or concerns.


Navigating the evaluation process for ADHD can be complex, but it's a crucial step toward understanding your symptoms and accessing appropriate treatment and support. By taking proactive steps, seeking guidance from healthcare professionals, and actively participating in the evaluation process, you can gain clarity about your condition and embark on a path toward improved well-being and quality of life. Remember, you're not alone in this journey, and support is available to help you every step of the way.


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