Adult ADHD and Diagnosis

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

Since I have begun posting more about my own ADHD diagnosis, I have had people message and ask how I went about it. I realised that there is a wealth of information out there about what to do if you suspect your child has ADHD but very minimal if you’re an adult. This is possibly due to the misconception, even in the medical world, that it’s something you grow out of or because ADHD can manifest in different ways once you are an adult.

Please note that this post is about my own experience with gaining an ADHD diagnosis as an adult in Queensland. Different states have different diagnostic processes. However all states have one thing in common, if you suspect you have ADHD speak to your GP first.

Even though there is research that ADHD is genetic, I had never entertained the idea that I too could have it. Even though I was also aware of the different presentations of ADHD, it still didn’t cross my mind that it was something I could have. It also had never been bought up as a possibility by my treatment team. Not necessarily their fault, ADHD has stereotypically been a ‘boys diagnosis’. It was the naughty kid in the class, not the daydreamer in the back.

So what lead me to consider ADHD? It was reading my son’s WISC report that made me consider the possibility. The comments in the report felt like I was looking in a mirror. ‘Has the ability, but unable to complete the task’. ‘Grades don’t reflect true ability’. I coasted through primary school. However when I hit high school, and the school work was more individually driven, the wheels feel off. The most memorable was a legal studies exam. The teacher had quizzed me orally the day before and I got 100%. The next day I completed the actual written exam and I got a C.

With this lightbulb moment in hand, I completed an online self test (find it here, it’s obviously not a replacement for medical treatment, but for me it helped give me the confidence to bring up my concerns with my treatment team. Also for women but the website does have general tests too.). I scored pretty high and so brought it up with my psychologist. She agreed that it was possible.

The next step was to organise an assessment with my psychiatrist. I was fortunate enough to be already seeing her and so I only had to pay the general appointment fee. If you haven’t seen a psychiatrist before, you will need a referral from your GP. Initial appointments with a psychiatrist can be costly if you do not have private health care. I’m unsure if an adult adhd diagnosis can be completed through the public system.

Prior to my appointment with my psychiatrist I made a list of things I struggle with that I believed were as a result of ADHD. I also included examples from both adulthood and childhood. These included poor time management, inability to follow through with tasks, racing thoughts and so on. I took this list with me to the appointment. Some psychiatrists ask for school reports as well, but mine didn’t. Reports from a psychologist can also help to speed along the assessment process.

Once at the appointment I went through my concerns with my psychiatrist. I also spoke about the online test I had completed. My psychiatrist also had me answer a questionnaire which was a broad scope of the concerns I’d already brought up during the appointment. After this, they believed that I fit the diagnosis of ADHD – Inattentive Type. We discussed next steps including medication. I agreed to trial a stimulant. My psychiatrist ordered an ECG to check for any underlying cardiac issues. Once this came back clear I was able to commence medication.

It’s almost 8 months since I started medication and while it’s not a cure all, it has helped give me a step up in the right direction. Having a name for all of the things that I do, think and feel has also been immensely helpful. Many people talk about seeking labels but the reality is, people will give you labels anyway, much better to receive the right ones.

If you have an inkling that you might fit the criteria for ADHD, I urge you to speak to your GP. It doesn’t have to mean medication or endless therapy. However it can help to have a name for your struggles.

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