There is a sense of mystery about ADHD diagnosis. What are adult ADHD assessments like? Where to start to seek help? The media reports of long wait times? All these factors may impact on people seeking diagnosis and support.
More and more we hear about those suffering from untreated symptoms and the difficulties faced due to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However with the increased number of social media platforms using reels and videos to educate people the “stigma” of ADHD is reducing.
We are finding that more adults are seeing poor concentration, changing hobbies, making errors, not being able to sit still, their brains “running constantly” and wondering if they too meet the criteria.
Let’s take some of the mystery out of it.
Firstly, it is important to understand the different terms associated with ADHD and the differences between this condition and others with which adults may face.
What is Adult ADHD?
Gone are the days when it was thought that children outgrew their ADHD and if, for whatever reason, you did not receive a diagnosis as a child at all there is a high likelihood of dismissing the idea that you might have ADHD now.
It is now understood that up to 30-60% of children diagnosed with ADHD continue to be affected as adults.
ADHD is primarily a condition that involves the prefrontal cortex – the region of the brain associated with decision making, the expression of personality, social interactions and other complex cognitive behaviour. We hear the term “executive function” used considerably when discussing conditions like ADHD because it describes a set of cognitive processes and mental skills that help an individual plan, review, and carry out their goals.
When this set of skills fall into confusion or disorder, or fails to completely mature into adulthood, a range of symptoms and difficulties may arise which when considered collectively, could be indicators of the condition known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
What are some of the symptoms and difficulties involved with ADHD?
Trouble concentrating and staying on task – non completion of work, being easily distracted, displaying poor listening skills or focus and generally “zoning out”
Hyper-focusing – neglecting other tasks or losing time to other more absorbing, rewarding tasks.
Being disorganised or forgetful – procrastinating, tardiness, forgetting simple items or appointments, and poor time management skills
Being impulsive – a lack of self-control, engaging in risky or reckless manners, insecurity or an extreme hypersensitivity to criticism and a tendency toward addictive behaviours.
Emotional dis-regulation – mood swings, poor motivation, being easily overwhelmed, stressed or flustered and general concerns with self-esteem and confidence.
Restlessness or hyperactivity – an inability to sit still or achieve inner peace, racing thoughts and a constant feeling of agitation or craving for excitement.
One of the more frustrating aspects of this list of symptoms, is that many of us have multiple experiences of similar ones throughout day-to-day life; the dismissal of someone’s suffering as something ‘everyone else has to manage’ can be very invalidating. Therefore, it is crucial to get a professional diagnosis rather than rely on online questionnaires or self-diagnose via anecdotes or comparison to friends and colleagues.
What are the three types of ADHD?
The symptoms in the list above can be roughly separated into two characterisations: those of inattentiveness and those of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Using these groupings, three types of ADHD can be distinguished:
ADHD Inattentive type where sufferers largely face symptoms of inattention and few to none of those relating to hyperactivity and impulsiveness. This type, once known as ADD though this term is now outdated, is more prevalent in women.
Hyperactive-impulsive type where more symptoms of those kind are experienced
Combined type where all three symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity are present.
What are some of the effects of ADHD in adulthood?
Many adults with undiagnosed ADHD have reported being labelled as “lazy”, and report feeling “incompetent” or as someone who simply can’t cope with the pressures of life. Sometimes these labels and misconceptions cause as many problems as the symptoms of the condition itself.
Being seen as weak, awkward, or even less than intelligent, can result in severe loss of confidence and negative self-image which can in turn manifest in depression, anxiety and chronic stress.
Coupled with the pressures of poor time management or organisation skills that are standard for the condition, this means that many sufferers have trouble with the usual expectations of employment. This includes routine, meeting deadlines and may even contribute to feelings of worthlessness and a sense of underachievement.
Impulsive spending, a lack of care with personal finances, forgetfulness of due dates, appointments and frequently losing important items may all place a strain on personal and family relationships too. It can be very frustrating to continually feel as though you are disappointing loved ones by not being as organised or responsible as they expect.
It is important to realise however, that ADHD does not have to stand in the way of achieving success. With correct, professional and timely diagnosis and treatment that includes strategies for work and careers, and an inclusive approach for families and other relationships, adults with ADHD can successfully manage their symptoms and thrive.
How to get an adult ADHD diagnosis.
Adult ADHD diagnosis is your first step and you need to find a service that feels like they will be able to help you.
When you are looking for the right service provider look for things like:
How long will it take?
Is there ongoing support?
How much does it cost?
Do you like the Psychologists and feel you can trust them? (all really important).
How do adult ADHD assessments work at Boutique Psychology?
To give you some insights into our service (we can’t speak for how it works everywhere of course).
First you can phone call or email to make sure we are the right people, then we will book you in for 2 appointments.
The first appointment is a couple of hours. We start by completing a clinical history with you, to understand how your experiences impact on your life and then we ask you to complete several standardised assessments. Some are pen and paper, some are with a computer.
It is important to note, that ADHD is not a blanket diagnosis, is not identified by a single cause, or even by the same collection of causes as the next client. The range of symptoms and experiences of the individual will vary from client to client as well.
From here we will have a second appointment with you, this one is a little shorter, at that time we will go through our easy-to-read report with you explaining the results of the assessments you completed. We will work with you to answer any questions you have about the report and what it means
After that, you can continue to see one of our Psychologists who can provide ongoing support. A personalised approach to therapy and treatment is used.
Sometimes people get a diagnosis and just want to “sit” with it before they seek treatment. We understand that everyone’s lived experience is different and we will be here if you need our ongoing support.
It is worth noting that should medication be a consideration; this should first be discussed with a practising psychiatrist with regular reviews before a GP takes on prescribing.
Want more resources or reading?
Read more about the difference between ADHD in adults and children