ADHD, or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, doesn’t only affect children. The percentage of children with an ADHD diagnosis is higher, but adults can still suffer from ADHD.
By one estimate, 8.4 percent of children have ADHD. That’s compared to an estimated 2.5 percent of adults, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Yet an ADHD diagnosis isn’t as simple as diagnosing a patient with the flu or strep throat. It’s not like a doctor can draw blood and say, “Oh yes, that’s ADHD.”
Keep reading for more information on ADHD diagnosis methods, as well as information on how to treat ADHD.
Common ADHD Symptoms
A friend is talking about a relationship problem. You mean to listen, but before you know it, you’re staring off in space and your frustrated friend is asking, “Are you even paying attention?”
That’s one possible sign of ADHD, yet everyone gets scatter-brained and distracted at times. If you’re going through your own relationship problems, you might be thinking about that while your friend talks. That’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t mean you have ADHD.
But numerous symptoms of ADHD make it more likely that you’ll get an ADHD diagnosis. Those other symptoms include fidgeting, talking a lot, trouble following directions, and losing things.
Hyperfocus can also be a symptom. That sounds counter-intuitive, but feeling zoned in on something can cause you to lose track of everything else. That can lead to misunderstandings with friends and loved ones.
To complicate things further, ADHD diagnosis methods can focus more on diagnosing children than adults. If you’re an adult with ADHD, it can be harder to find a doctor willing to take the time needed to give you a proper diagnosis.
When Other Conditions Look like ADHD
If you talk a lot, you might have anxiety. You might have had too much coffee. It doesn’t have to be ADHD.
So how do doctors tell the difference between something like anxiety and ADHD? Among other things, they’ll look at the place where your symptoms pop up.
In general, you need to have symptoms in many settings to get an ADHD diagnosis. Let’s use child ADHD as an example.
Let’s say a 10-year-old is hyperactive and giggles a lot, but only during math class at school. In other classes, he puts his head down and completes the work. In math, though, he seems either unwilling or unable to focus.
His parents don’t notice any symptoms at home either. In fact, he’ll sit on the couch and read a book for an hour at a time.
In this case, it’s more likely that there’s something specific about the math class triggering the symptoms. It could be math anxiety. He might have a learning disability.
How Doctors Diagnosis ADHD
How do doctors figure out this sort of thing? They’ll ask parents, teachers, and any other caretakers to fill out questionnaires about symptoms.
If you’re a parent, you’ll also get asked if there’s any family history of ADHD. If one or both parents don’t have it, then it’s much more likely to appear in their child as well.
There are also two types of ADHD. The first type is “primarily inattentive type.” This used to get called ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder.
The second type is “primarily hyperactive-impulsive type.” A kid who talks a lot or never seems to run out of energy may have this form of the condition.
Of course, it’s also possible for someone to have both types at once. That’s called combined presentation.
A child who is primarily hyperactive-impulsive may grow up to be primarily attentive. The diagnosis can change as you age.
Doctors may be more likely to diagnosis boys than girls with this condition. It is more common in boys and men, but that doesn’t mean it can’t affect women as well.
ADHD in Girls and Women
It’s not fair to expect that ADHD will look the same in children and adults. It’s also not fair to expect it to look the exact same in men and women.
A man with ADHD may present as angrier. He’s more likely to get involved in things like car accidents and fights.
But women are more likely to feel overwhelmed. They’re often expected to organize and keep track of everything at home. That’s hard even if you’re neurotypical.
That means a man might come into the doctor’s office for ADHD treatment because, for instance, he keeps yelling at people at work. If he doesn’t stop, he risks losing his job.
But a woman might constantly forget to take her children to afterschool activities. She might not be able to keep the house as clean as she wants it. When she does that, she’ll get mad at herself rather than others.
Turmoil that is internal rather than external is often harder to diagnosis. A woman may have trouble admitting to these feelings because she’s already afraid she’s a failure. That’s usually why women get diagnosed later than boys and men.
How to Treat ADHD
You’re a parent with a child who just received an ADHD diagnosis. You may immediately say, “I don’t want my kid to get drugged.”
That’s a common reaction, but it’s not always based in reality. A good doctor will work with you and your child to figure out how to treat ADHD.
Medication is a common treatment. But if you’re not comfortable with that, your doctor can try other options first.
Those options include talk therapy. Therapy can work for both children and adults.
In fact, a mix of medication and behavior therapy is the typical recommendation for kids 6 and older. Parents will also need to get behavior training regardless of age.
Parents should not treat a child with ADHD as defective somehow. That gives kids emotional issues that linger well into adulthood.
Understanding an ADHD Diagnosis
An ADHD diagnosis should be the beginning of a conversation, not the end of one. That’s true regardless of age, gender, and presentation.
You must also be willing to try multiple treatments. If one doesn’t work, don’t get discouraged.
At Sachs Center, we’re on the cutting edge of both diagnosis and treating ADHD. Contact us today to see how we can help you or your child.