You keep losing your keys, feel you can never finish anything at work, or maybe have had a family member say “you might have ADHD.”
Whatever the reason, getting a specialist assessment is the first step towards resolving this suspicion.
Finding a qualified mental health professionaL
Finding a healthcare specialist who is knowledgeable about ADHD is key to a good diagnosis. In New Zealand this means seeing a psychiatrist.
A referral from your doctor, suggestions from support group members, or finding a healthcare professional near you are all ways to start your search.
Getting a diagnosis: overview
A psychiatric history will include a comprehensive face-to-face interview of at least an hour. The early part of the assessment will include what led you to think that you (or your family member) may have ADHD as well as identifying any challenges that you (or your family member) are experiencing as a consequence of this.
Then your healthcare provider will compare the symptoms described against diagnostic criteria and attempt to see if these symptoms could be explained by any other condition. 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 maybe influencing the description of your (or your family member's) symptoms - for example medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism.
Interview of a loved one
If you have a friend accompanying you (and your family member) to your chosen healthcare provider, a collateral history may be obtained from them as they will be able to provide an objective viewpoint of your (or your family member's) symptoms and any problems arising subsequent to them.
A unique part of the assessment for ADHD is a discussion about the presence of previous symptoms as this is the kind of condition that arises in early childhood and keeps on going.
Part of this discussion will be about your (or your family member's) schooling and whether or not you / they had any challenges at school.
If you're looking for an assessment for ADHD, a useful thing to do is to see if you can find any school reports as these often highlight the behaviours exhibited in that environment.
Screening for co-existing conditionS
Your healthcare provider will also look to see if any co-existing conditions exist. This is in order to provide an effective treatment for you.
If the co-existing condition is not treated then the 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.
What happens next?
Sometimes, simply getting a diagnosis of ADHD can help you sense of your (or your family member's) life and past decisions.
You will want to discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider. Treatment can help you manage ADHD and may include lifestyle changes, medication, and therapy, and often includes more than one component.
An essential part of any management plan (especially if you discuss the role of medication) will be a letter to your GP. If medication is discussed, you should expect dosing regimes and side effects to be part of this discussion.
Follow up appointments can then be agreed (as to whether it is with the psychiatrist or the GP and when follow up appointments should occur).