Untreated attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can impact self-esteem and mental and physical health. Additionally, individuals may face outside judgment for behaviors or impulses they might struggle to control. Whether someone has difficulty meeting deadlines for work, remembering information in relationships, or struggling to focus, the impact of ADHD can be experienced by adults. ADHD is not a children-only issue, and adults may wonder how they can get tested for ADHD and find treatment for their symptoms, including exploring options like 504 accommodations for ADHD in the workplace or other settings.
What Is An ADHD Assessment?
Instead of self-diagnosing yourself with ADHD by taking a "do I have ADHD quiz" online, seek an ADHD Assessment with the help of a professional. An ADHD assessment is a series of psychological, intellectual, and potentially physical tests performed by a medical professional like a neuropsychologist can aid in diagnosing ADHD. For many, a diagnosis of ADHD may feel relieving, as it can affirm any struggles they have experienced throughout their life and determine the need for treatment.
Difficulties maintaining attention, filtering out distractions, making careless mistakes, and controlling impulsive behavior can be challenging, but an ADHD evaluation may be the first step toward diagnosing ADHD in adults and treating your symptoms. If you're an adult considering assessments for ADHD, you're not alone. Over 360 million adults worldwide experienced symptoms of the condition in 2020.
For parents of adolescents or children with difficulty staying interested in tasks, low ability to focus, learning disabilities, or struggles with hyperactivity and impulsivity, doctors also offer child ADHD testing. Some tests and services might be offered through your child's school to avoid labeling children with ADHD without a diagnosis.
ADHD is considered one of many mental health conditions mentioned by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), and an accurate diagnosis may help you find treatment, recommendations for support groups, services, benefits, and controlled trials. Note that this article focuses more on ADHD in adults than in ADHD in teens.
Understanding An Adult ADHD Diagnosis: Hyperactivity & Other Symptoms
A common mental health myth about ADHD is that only children can experience it, which is not the case. Although individuals might have their first symptoms as a child, adults can also struggle with hyperactivity, impulsivity, and difficulty with focus. Many cases of ADHD persist into adulthood, and not all children are diagnosed early. Undiagnosed ADHD symptoms can interfere with an individual's ability to keep a job, manage interpersonal relationships, spend money wisely, and take care of physical health, among other activities. Being diagnosed may help you understand which support tools will be useful in your life.
ADHD is thought to be partially caused by low levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in critical areas of the brain responsible for controlling behavior and attention. It is a mental health and cognitive condition that may require treatment to be managed. Family history can also play a part in the condition, as it is receiving a diagnosis is 74% hereditary. Many people may not receive a diagnosis until they are teens or adults due to stigma or misunderstandings about how the condition functions.
Symptoms of ADHD In Adults & Children
Symptoms of ADHD may fluctuate throughout the day, depending on demands and stimulation from a person's environment or relationships. For example, people experiencing ADHD might experience hyper-focus on stimulating activities, such as video games, interests, or activities they feel passionate about.
How Is ADHD Diagnosed?
The medical community recognizes three types of ADHD:
For a doctor to diagnose ADHD, a person should display at least five of the nine symptoms outlined in the DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children up to age 16 may need to show six or more symptoms of inattention.
Where Can I Go To Find An Adult ADHD Screening?
People may seek an ADHD diagnosis when their symptoms interfere with their lives in one or more areas. You may have tried several techniques for time management, organization, impulsive behaviors, or other areas without finding a potential strategy. In these cases, getting a diagnosis could be beneficial. You might be able to find ADHD testing in the following ways:
Through an ADHD or neurodivergence clinic
Through a neuropsychologist
With a psychiatrist
With your therapist
Through your school or university
Through a vocational program
If you think you may have ADHD, seeking a formal diagnosis could help you understand your symptoms. Your ADHD testing results may be given as a written report or through an online portal. You might be able to show it to doctors, therapists, and family to get services that benefit you.
Those that perform ADHD testing for individuals may be psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, psychologists, or another type of medical professional. Some doctors might label themselves "ADHD specialists." Depending on their role, they may or may not prescribe medication or additional services after your diagnosis.
Additionally, the services might not be covered under your insurance plan, depending on the type of test you choose. Some doctors may perform other psychoanalysis tests first to rule out other possible causes, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, autism, dyslexia, sleep disorders, and other mental health conditions.
Some people worry that an ADHD diagnosis means they'll be labeled or judged. They might think their symptoms are a personal flaw. However, these thoughts could lead to mental burnout and depression. Seeking an assessment doesn't necessarily guarantee a diagnosis, and it may be used to understand your symptoms more profoundly.
Online ADHD Testing
If you're curious whether you have ADHD, you can take an ADHD test online as a first step. An ADHD online test does not substitute for a doctor's diagnosis or professional services. However, it may help push you toward a formal diagnosis if you're unsure. It could also help you cope with your feelings and validate your experiences. Consider bringing your results to your appointment with your provider.
Who Can Perform An ADHD Evaluation?
An ADHD evaluation may be performed by a psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, or another behavioral health professional. Your physician may also be able to perform an ADHD evaluation. Some insurance companies may require that you visit a psychiatrist for treatment, such as medications.
Not every doctor is familiar with ADHD in adults, so you may have to search for a professional who understands the symptoms. If you're unsure who to call, you can perform a search online. Typing in "ADHD testing near me" may yield results.
What To Expect At An Adult ADHD Assessment
While every doctor may have a different evaluation process, there are general steps you might expect when going to your assessment. Prepare for your appointment by writing down your concerns and questions. Your doctor may request your medical records before your appointment. If you see a physician, you may check your blood pressure and heart rate or get blood tests done.
During an ADHD assessment, your doctor may interview you to gather information about your symptoms and medical history. They might ask how your symptoms affect your daily life, work, and relationships and how long you've been experiencing them. This may help them determine whether you have ADHD. Bring your notes and have an open conversation with your doctor.
After an interview about your symptoms, you might also partake in testing involving IQ, memory, inkblots, mental health, sensory sensitivities, and ADHD symptom self-reports. Some individuals might complete puzzles or timed tasks. Although there may be no "right" way to complete these tests, if you feel nervous, let your testing provider know.
Several conditions can present with symptoms similar to ADHD, such as depression and anxiety. There are comorbid conditions associated with ADHD as well, such as autism and dyslexia. Additional medication or therapy may be recommended if a comorbid condition is identified.
When Should I Get Tested?
If you're unsure if you should get an ADHD assessment, ask yourself about your symptoms. Suppose you feel that you have a handle on disorganization, distractibility, or impulsiveness and don't think you would benefit from a formal diagnosis or treatment. In that case, you do not have to meet with a provider.
However, if you feel that your symptoms are getting in the way of your ability to be successful and causing you significant stress, a professional ADHD screening may allow to more treatment opportunities and accommodations. You might also feel relief to determine the name of what you have been experiencing. Many research-backed treatments can minimize the impact of ADHD on your life.
An assessment may also help you rule out any other conditions that might be causing your symptoms, whether physical or neurological. For example, lead poisoning or sleep apnea may cause symptoms that look like ADHD.
You may be able to receive accommodations for work or school under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as ADHD is considered a disability. For example, you may be granted extra time on testing, quiet testing environments, or assistive technology. For more information about accommodations, you may visit the Health and Human services website or the National Institute of Mental Health site.
ADHD symptoms may cause difficulty with daily habits and lifestyle. However, a diet focusing on protein, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, combined with regular exercise, may decrease the severity of symptoms you experience.
However, the most effective treatment known for ADHD combines multiple strategies. These include stimulant medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and diet and exercise adjustments. Your doctor may give you specific recommendations to help manage your condition.
Stimulant medication is effective in up to 70% of cases of adult ADHD. Stimulants may work by increasing the amount of dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. They are often monitored due to their potential for dependency. You may also take these medications daily. Often, doctors will start these medications at the lowest dose and monitor clients for side effects until the optimum dosage is reached.
If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.
Not everyone decides that medication is right for them, which can be okay. An ADHD coach, lifestyle changes, and therapy can make a difference in managing adult ADHD symptoms. Seeing an in-person or online therapist may help adults understand their minds and find supplemental coping mechanisms in addition to other forms of care.
If you're considering online therapy, evidence has shown that online therapy can be effective in treating ADHD symptoms. A literature review of 11 articles pointed toward improved outcomes for participants who sought treatment online. Participants were also satisfied with the delivery mode for this type of treatment. Online therapy also effectively treats mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression. If you're interested in internet-based therapy, platforms like BetterHelp can connect you with a licensed, experienced therapist to help reduce any negative impacts on your lifestyle and relationships.
I was skeptical of counseling before I started, Brianna was the first counselor I was paired with. After only 2 months of sessions once a week for an hour, I have already seen improvement with my overall mental health as well as how I handle stressful/anxiety situations. She is friendly and understands my concerns. She keeps a structured session (as requested). She lets me choose the topic and keeps me on track. She helps me on my bad days and makes me better days feel like great days.
Delores is completely nonjudgemental and really helps you think through your immediate feelings and perspectives. I'm so grateful to work with her and am comfortable either letting her structure our sessions, or structuring our sessions on my own -- she's content to do either.
Being evaluated for ADD/ADHD (attention-deficit disorder, now referred to as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) can be a proactive step if you're experiencing symptoms. If you receive a diagnosis from a professional, you might begin to use the tools available to minimize the impact of symptoms on your life, career, and relationships.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are a few frequently asked questions about adults with ADHD.
Why Is It So Difficult To Get An ADHD Diagnosis?
Since ADHD may be more frequently diagnosed in children, adult patients with symptoms may feel they are not taken seriously. More people over time may be considering ADHD as a condition, and not everyone is diagnosed. Past stereotypes about what ADHD looks like could also cause difficulty in receiving a diagnosis. Hyperactivity is often considered by doctors. However, clinicians may overlook or not recognize inattentive types of ADHD.
Adults, women, and minorities may be overlooked. Since many ADHD tests are done in adolescent and pediatric psychiatry, adults might lack options. Additionally, getting a complete neuropsychological exam can be expensive, and not everyone can afford it. However, more resources may come out each year for adults with ADHD. You are not alone in your quest to get answers, and ADHD can still impact adults as much as it does children.
Potential symptoms of ADHD:
hyperactivity and impulsivity
intense focus on some subjects only
making simple mistakes
note that 6+ symptoms must be present to receive diagnosis
How Much Does It Cost To Take An ADHD Test?
The cost of a test for children and adults to get an ADHD diagnosis can vary. If you receive a diagnosis from a therapist during a regular therapy session in person, it may be around $100-$200. However, receiving complete neuropsychological testing may range from $300 to $3,000 or more.
If you're looking for a low-cost option, consider seeing a provider that accepts your insurance plan or doing a neuropsychological exam at a university. Psychology students may offer testing for a reduced cost. You can also look into vocational rehabilitation services in your area. They may offer funding for testing for those with a pre-existing disability.
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