Any physician who has continued their education in ADHD and mental health can treat patients with ADHD. There are several specialists who have the ability to diagnose ADHD.
Attention deficit hyper disorder (ADHD or ADD) can also be diagnosed by certified psychologists, psychiatrists, family doctors, pediatricians, nurse practitioners, master-level counselors, and social workers too.
However, this often leads to confusion regarding the type of medical practitioner to approach for diagnosing ADHD. Each of these specialists has its own strong points and drawbacks to consider.
ADHD cannot be diagnosed through a physical exam, such as an x-ray or blood test. It requires a standard diagnostic procedure performed by a certified healthcare professional.
During the diagnosis, the medical professionals will enquire about you and your child to determine if the signs meet the criteria for ADD.
These criteria are given in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the official diagnostic guide used in the United States.
Irrespective of the specific definition of ADHD, whether inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive or combined, there are several conditions that need to be met to diagnose ADHD. These include:
- Certain symptoms present before the child reaches age 12
- Symptoms present in multiple settings (school, home, work, etc.)
- Symptoms interfere with or reduce daily functioning
- Symptoms cannot be inferred from another mental health condition
The diagnosis of Inattentive type ADHD for children up to 16 years of age involves checking for six or more symptoms of inattention.
For those over 17 years of age, there should be at least five symptoms. These symptoms, if present for at least six months can suggest the presence of ADHD.
Some common symptoms that are checked for inattentive type ADHD include:
- Difficulty staying focused on specific tasks or activities
- Making careless mistakes and disregarding details more often
- Seemingly unable to listen when spoken to
- Problems with organizing
- Failing to complete tasks or follow instructions properly
- Avoiding, or disliking, long-term tasks
- Losing important items often (keys, wallets, school materials, etc.)
- Frequently forgetful
- Easily distracted
The diagnosis of Hyperactive-Impulsive type ADHD involves using the same age and time-based criteria as defined above. Some visible symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD include:
- Frequent fidgeting and squirming
- Moving about of feeling restless in any situation
- Ignoring instructions to stay or sit still
- Excessive talking
- Inability to participate in leisure activities quietly
- Interruptive and disruptive intrusions in conversations
- Difficulty waiting for their turn
Besides diagnosing the presence of ADHD, a neurologist will also determine its severity, into mild, moderate or severe depending on the extent of symptoms.
Importance of Diagnosing ADHD
You may be tempted to avoid putting your child through the diagnosis process for ADHD for one of many reasons.
You may not have trust in the medications. You may be concerned that being labeled with ADHD may affect your child more than help.
However, everything points to the importance of diagnosing ADHD as soon as possible for optimal treatment.
Getting an early diagnosis of ADHD can be the key to ensuring successful treatment for your child, even if you don’t plan on giving them medications as part of the treatment.
Symptoms of ADHD also lead to feelings of shame, embarrassment or guilt about underachieving. It can also cause frustration for the time it takes to complete simple tasks.
Thus, a diagnosis can help to reduce these negative emotions.
When you have a written diagnosis of ADHD, you can also avail accommodations and facilities at your school or workplace.
You may be allowed to move in your work desk to a quieter area of the office.
Once the diagnosis of ADHD is confirmed, it also helps to begin a course of treatment which makes life more manageable.
If you wish to get assessed for ADHD, you should start by talking to your family physician.
The doctor may not carry out detailed diagnostic tests but can refer you to a professional who is certified to assess mental conditions, such as a neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist and another physician.
Make sure to follow all instructions relating to treatment, medication and therapy to make your life easier.