You keep losing your keys, feel you can never finish anything at work, or maybe have had a family member say “do you think you might have ADHD?.” You've had a child or adolescent assessed and diagnosed with ADHD only to find out its genetic and wondered about yourself.
Whatever the reason, getting a specialist assessment is the first step towards getting some answers and potentially explaining what you've been experiencing since childhood.
Getting an assessment and diagnosis of ADHD often helps you to understand there is a reason for many of your current and past difficulties can be an enormous relief.
Although there is no cure, there are different types of treatment to suit the individual and range from medications to help stimulate the control centre of the brain to tried and true strategies and techniques to help manage ADHD. Treatment can be tailored to you and should address all areas you may need support with.
When it comes to an assessment and potentially the eventual diagnosis of ADHD, psychiatric medical doctors categorise ADHD according to a set of criteria that all appropriately trained specialist doctors and Psychologists use. The diagnostic system used in New Zealand is called the DSM-V, and we share the use of this system with most of the English speaking world (except Europe).
Finding a qualified mental health professionaL
Finding a healthcare specialist who is knowledgeable about ADHD is key to a good assessment and diagnosis.
Generally, GP's are not able to assess and diagnose ADHD as they are general practitioners, not mental health specialists.
However they can guide you as to the appropriate specialist to see and make other suggestions i.e. paying with your insurance.
So in New Zealand, getting an assessment and diagnosis means seeing either a Psychiatrist or a Clinical Psychologist with a specialisation in ADHD. Both can assess and diagnose ADHD but only a Psychiatrist, who is medically trained, can prescribe medication.
Alternatively, you may find suggestions from support group members, or finding a healthcare professional near you are all ways to start your search.
The assessment process: overview
Before seeing you, it's likely your specialist Psychiatrist or Clinical Psychologist will send you one, or some, questionnaires to complete.
Your specialist will score and read this data before meeting with you for your face-to-face assessment.
Interview of a loved one
It's often very useful to bring your partner, a friend and/or parent to your specialist assessment appointment.
They'll be able to provide a history and their own perspective on what they have observed over time, usefully adding to the information you can provide.
SCREENING FOR CO-EXISTING CONDITIONS
While your specialist is getting to know you and your concerns, they'll also be gaining more and more diagnostic clarification, working out which co-existing conditions you may or may not be experiencing.
If you do have a co-existing condition, but it's not treated, then your treatment for ADHD will not be as effective.
Similarly, if you (or your family member) is treated for ADHD but the symptoms are not caused by ADHD, the treatment is not going to be successful.
COMMON COMPONENTS OF A TAILORED ADHD TREATMENT PLAN
Towards the end of your assessment, they'll share their thoughts with you around a diagnosis and then together you can discuss your treatment plan.
This may include referral to a Psychiatrist for medication (if that is not who you are seeing at this appointment), a Clinical Psychologist for therapy or Coach for support.
These may include questions regarding depression and anxiety (two relatively common conditions that have difficulties in attention and concentration as core symptoms) as well as looking at stressors that may be influencing the description of your symptoms.
A treatment plan may also include one, or some, of the following: