Getting an accurate mental health diagnosis is the first step of any successful treatment.
Providing comprehensive and accurate diagnoses is one of the most intricate parts of my role as a therapist. When new patients come to my office, I make sure to communicate that mental health difficulties are often complex and take some time to work through. Often, people come to therapy for help with problems affecting their daily lives but discover over time that these are merely symptoms of a more deeply rooted issue. For instance, are there other medical conditions that could be causing these symptoms? How about someone’s personal, professional, and social environments? And let’s not forget how impactful our developmental and family history can be on how we act and interact with others.
A colleague of mine, Dr. Bloom, has helped us at Start My Wellness forefront a key detail in our work with patients, providing them with accurate diagnoses: neurodiversity or neurodivergence. Neurodiversity is a term that describes the different ways people see and experience the world, including how our unique brain chemistries impact our lives. Neurodivergence is one of the things that makes my work as a therapist so rewarding and complicated. Working with many different patients enriches my personal life and professional experience, giving me endless opportunities to celebrate their individuality. Navigating the road to an accurate diagnosis with my patients requires me to constantly consider how their personalities and behaviors might be manifestations or symptoms of particular mental health conditions.
Here’s an example: a patient comes in because they need help figuring out why they can’t focus at work or keep up with their responsibilities at home. This patient could be experiencing symptoms of anxiety, ADHD, or both. Fortunately, professionals like Dr. Bloom have spent their whole careers learning how to best assess and diagnose these issues.
Today’s blog is for anyone who wants to learn more about how their neurodivergence and individual issues might be related to ADHD. ADHD has become much more common for patients to bring up in therapy as information on the condition has drastically increased recently. People now see some of their unique strengths and weaknesses as potential symptoms of attention-related conditions. If this sounds like you, read on for more information on what ADHD looks like, how it’s evaluated, and how you can find help with one of our qualified ADHD specialists today.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder. It is not caused by stress, being overwhelmed at work or school, laziness, or anxiety or depression. It is a neurological disorder where the brain does not do an adequate job of regulating behavior and/or attention. Symptoms of ADHD overlap with other conditions, some of which are serious health concerns. This includes developmental disorders such as Autism, concussions and brain injuries, age related changes such as early dementia or alcohol/drug use disorders. While a serious condition on its own, early detection and treatment can differentiate ADHD from other conditions and determine if the symptoms you are having is ADHD.
What are the symptoms of ADHD?
While there are some cornerstone symptoms of ADHD, the presentation of ADHD varies from person to person. Adults with ADHD tend to have different symptoms that children with ADHD and women tend to have different symptoms of ADHD than men. ADHD can co-mingle with other conditions such as autism, depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury, and learning disabilities. These associations also effect the kind of symptoms of person will exhibit.
Some common symptoms of ADHD are distractibility, impulsivity, procrastination, difficulty focusing and concentrating, and difficulty filtering out non-essential environmental stimulation. Symptoms are pervasive, occurring in all areas of a person’s life. Symptoms are debilitating. They make accomplishing life tasks difficult or impossible. Symptoms are wide ranging. There is usually more than one type of symptom. However, not everyone who has any these symptoms is ADHD.
Is there a test for ADHD?
My answer to this question may surprise you. No, there is not a test for ADHD. There are tests for attention, vigilance, freedom from distraction, and various types of executive skills but this is not the same as a test for ADHD. This is because ADHD is a diagnosis composed of many aspects of a person’s functioning. There is not a test which measures the broad aspects of a person’s life which goes into the diagnosis of ADHD. The best psychologists can do is collect information about you, and from at least two sources and see if there is enough support for ADHD to make the diagnosis. It requires a professional to integrate all the information and determine if an ADHD diagnosis is appropriate.
How much does ADHD testing cost?
I conduct ADHD evaluations in the $450 range. Approximately 80% of the patients who consult me are appropriate for that level of care. A smaller number of people require more extensive testing, due the complexity of their issues. Overall, I have seen ADHD testing range up to $3000. All ADHD testing is not the same. It is important that one gets the appropriate level of care without paying more for services they may not need or benefit from.
Will untreated ADHD affect my relationships?
I have evaluated and treated many adults with ADHD over the years and my experience tells me that ADHD in one or more partners in a relationship does not, in the early stages of the relationship have much, if any negative impact. People with ADHD can be entertaining, creative, and free-spirited. They can be adventurous and spontaneous in their thinking and behavior. People with ADHD can be very fun to be around. People with ADHD can also be deep thinkers, visionaries, and interesting conversationalists. All these personality characteristics can make a person with ADHD a good partner, and make people feel good about being around them. However, (you know that was coming), as relationships deepen, and as people’s lives merge with shared goals, aspirations, and responsibilities, problems begin to emerge. While the person with ADHD is full of ideas and good intentions, the follow through is not there. Partners tend to feel let down, or that they cannot rely on their partner with ADHD to fulfil their part of relationship. Promising to change, the partner with ADHD inevitably fails, creating a cloud over the relationship. Both men and women with ADHD frequently tell me they feel they are letting their partners down, not fulfilling themselves in their work, and ultimately, causing a level of stress in their relationships which can be disruptive to stability of the relationship. The most frequent time I get a call from an adult wondering if they are ADHD is when something is not good in their relationship with a significant other, and “something has to change.”
When should I get an ADHD evaluation?
It is human nature not to go looking for problems which do not exist. Deciding to get an adult ADHD evaluation typically comes after, not before, the realization that something is not right in a person’s school life, work life, or home life. The issue is not so much when should a person be evaluated, but rather, how long should a person wait until they make the phone call or send the email to get the evaluation, after they see there are problems. Thorough evaluations by well qualified psychologists will be able to decide whether what you have is truly ADHD or some other condition or problem. There is never a “too early” decision to seek help, but there can be a “too late” decision, after the consequences of ADHD lead to poor outcomes in school, work, or home life.