Living with the symptoms of ADHD can make it hard to go about your daily life. It can affect your relationships and social life. That’s why when someone has symptoms of ADHD, they might have a lot of questions. What exactly is ADHD? How is ADHD diagnosed and treated? How do I talk to my doctor about ADHD? What are the questions I should ask my doctor or a psychiatrist about ADHD?
Here, we break down what you need to know so you’re prepared with questions to ask your doctor or other health professional about ADHD.
What is ADHD?
ADHD, commonly known as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, is a behavioral condition. It is characterized by a combination of inattention, impulsivity, and sometimes hyperactivity. Although these symptoms often occur together, it is possible for one to occur without the others.
While it is commonly diagnosed in childhood, ADHD is not a condition exclusive to children. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 4.4% of adults have ADHD. People with ADHD do not lack intelligence or discipline, they just experience challenges with being able to focus on completing tasks.
It’s not clear what causes ADHD. Studies suggest that genetics can play a role. ADHD can be a result of a combination of factors, including environmental factors, brain injuries, and nutrition, to name a few. ADHD is more common in males than in females. Someone with ADHD may have other conditions, which can include learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder.
What are the symptoms of ADHD?
People who have ADHD have a combination of symptoms that include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms can interfere with quality of life and work, school, jobs, or social and personal lives.
People with symptoms of inattention may find it hard to:
- Pay attention to details
- Stay focused during conversations, lectures, or while reading
- Follow through on directions or instructions
- Organize tasks and activities and complete them
- Remember details in doing daily activities, such as when they’re doing chores or running errands.
People with symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity may find it hard to:
- Sit still for a prolonged period of time
- Wait their turn before speaking or before completing other people’s sentences
- Not interrupt in others’ conversations, games, or activities
- Quietly engage in a solo activity.
People with ADHD may feel so overwhelmed by a situation, tasks, or decisions that their brain “freezes,” limiting their cognitive functioning. This can lead a person to struggle with focus, problem-solving, motivation, and task completion. Someone experiencing ADHD paralysis may find it challenging to start or complete even the most important tasks, which may impact their performance in academic and professional settings.
Can I talk to my primary care doctor about ADHD?
So you might be asking, “How do I ask my doctor if I have ADHD?” You can absolutely start the conversation with your doctor. If you have any of these symptoms, bring up the topic during an appointment with your primary care provider (PCP). A PCP could be your primary care doctor, a physician assistant, or a nurse practitioner. If you have a psychiatrist, you can talk to them about ADHD.
Here are some tips for bringing up ADHD to your doctor:
- Prepare ahead of time. Think of the questions you want to ask and write them down. Write down your concerns as well. There are no silly questions so be sure to be as open as you can with your PCP.
- Think about your symptoms. What are the symptoms that you are experiencing that make you concerned? Write them down so that you don’t forget them during your visit.
- Make a list of all your medications. Let your doctor know all the medications you’re taking, including any over-the-counter medications.
- Bring someone with you. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember everything that the doctor says. Taking notes during your appointment is a good way to keep track. If you’re comfortable, you can also bring a close friend or relative who can be there to help you listen, take notes, and remember what you and your doctor discussed.
- Be candid with your doctor. Don’t be afraid to open up and be honest with your doctor. Sharing your symptoms and concerns, and being specific about them, helps your doctor assess your situation and next steps. There is no shame in being open with a health professional involved in your care, whether it’s your doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, or other members of your care team.
What questions should I ask my doctor about ADHD?
To help you get started with questions to ask your doctor, psychiatrist, or other health professional about ADHD, consider these below:
- What are the symptoms of ADHD?
- If I was diagnosed with ADHD as a child, can I have it as an adult?
- How is ADHD diagnosed?
- What are the treatment options for ADHD?
- What are the medications used for ADHD?
- What treatment options are right for my situation?
- What kind of lifestyle changes do I need to make to help with ADHD?
- How can therapy help me manage ADHD?
How do doctors test for ADHD?
There is no one test that diagnoses ADHD. When you have an ADHD appointment, doctors test for ADHD using information from many sources, including:
- Your symptoms
- History of your previous and current functioning
- Your results from behavior rating scales
- Medical exams and tests to rule out other conditions
Sometimes, you may not remember everything about your functioning or symptoms. That’s why your doctor may also ask questions of your family members or other people who know you well to get more details about your situation and to understand the big picture.
Health care professionals use standard classification guidelines to make a diagnosis. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is a reference handbook that doctors use to make diagnoses. Your doctor or other health care professional will follow guidelines from this handbook for making a diagnosis of ADHD.
If you see your family doctor, it’s unlikely that they’ll diagnose ADHD unless they have specialized training. Your family doctor will likely refer you to a health care professional who has experience diagnosing ADHD and can do a thorough evaluation. Health care professionals who are able to diagnose ADHD include:
- Developmental pediatricians
- Clinical psychologists
- Clinical social workers
- Nurse practitioners
- Licensed counselors or therapists
Can I talk to my doctor about medications for ADHD?
Treatment options for adults who are diagnosed with ADHD include medication, talk therapy, or a combination of the two. Talk therapy can help you change behavior and thought patterns to make living with ADHD more manageable.
If your doctor prescribes medications for ADHD, here are some things you might want to ask:
- What are the medications used to treat ADHD?
- What are the side effects of these medications?
- Can medications for ADHD be addictive?
- What about antidepressants? Can they help me and how do they compare with other medication options?
- What about other medications I’m taking? Can they interfere with medications for ADHD?
The options that are right for someone else may be different for you. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to treating ADHD, so be sure to talk to your doctor or health care professional about the treatment options that are best for you.
Support from SonderMind for ADHD
If you are living with symptoms of ADHD and want to talk to a licensed mental health care professional, SonderMind can help. We’ll connect you to a licensed therapist, psychiatrist, or psychiatric nurse practitioner who can diagnose and offer treatment plans designed for your individual situation. We’ll find the nearest provider available near you, who takes your insurance, and specializes in your area of support. If you’re not sure who to see, we can help you. Just answer a few questions, and we’ll take care of the rest.
SonderMind psychiatry is available in Ohio and Colorado. Meet with a psychiatrist