Making the Diagnosis
As mentioned above, having six or more of the symptoms from each group means that you meet that section. If you are or your child is over 17, only five of the symptoms need to be present. Meeting both sections indicates that the diagnosis is ADHD combined type. Meeting only the first section shows that the proper diagnosis is ADHD predominantly inattentive presentation. Meeting only the second group means that the diagnosis will be ADHD predominantly hyperactive/ impulsive presentation.
ADHD predominantly inattentive type tends to be more difficult to identify and diagnosis because these children are usually quiet in school, which leads the teacher to believe that they are being attentive. In actuality, they may be daydreaming throughout the school day. Eventually, poor grades will indicate that something is amiss. Similarly, at home, the child may seem symptom-free if they are engaging in pleasurable activities like video games, time on the computer or watching TV. Parent frustration will grow as the child is unable to complete chores and tasks due to forgetting.
Before someone can have the ADHD diagnosis, there are several other considerations. The first is that symptoms had to have been present before age 12. This means that if everything was fine until the child’s 14th birthday, the ADHD diagnosis cannot be given. The second consideration is that symptoms must be present in multiple settings. If a child is fine at school, friends’ houses and soccer but problematic at home only, the diagnosis cannot be given. In this case, it would be valuable to assess family dynamics, parenting styles and routines to find why symptoms are triggered. The last exclusion is that there must be evidence that the symptoms interfere with the person’s functioning. Having poor attention or hyperactivity are usually associated with getting in trouble at home or having poor school performance, but if someone can have high symptoms while maintaining good grades and avoiding home problems, no diagnosis is given.
Understanding ADHD and differentiating it from other mental health disorders can be a tricky proposition. ADHD shares many features with oppositional defiant disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, learning disorders, autism spectrum disorder and mood disorders like depression and bipolar. Relax, though. The good news is that it is not your job to diagnose yourself or anyone else with a mental health condition. Your task is only to identify, track and gain awareness of symptoms so that you can report your findings to a professional.
Primary care physicians (PCP), psychiatrists, psychologists and counselors/ social workers with a master’s degree are typically able to diagnosis a condition. More importantly than the diagnosis, they can create a treatment plan that is effective for you and the person with ADHD. The professional will work to gain information from teachers to create a more complete understanding of the situation.
Just because something is well-known does not mean that it is well-understood. Gaining awareness about signs and symptoms of ADHD gives you a better ability to identify it accurately. Knowing the inattentive symptoms and the hyperactivity/ impulsivity symptoms means that you are able to convey this information to a professional. Together as a team, you can make symptoms a thing of the past.