“Do I Have ADHD?”

Although it is not possible to self-diagnose conditions like ADHD, you may be wondering if in fact you do have ADHD. This section will help you to understand the common ways that ADHD presents and will link you to some resources to help you to follow-up.

ADHD Definition

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental (brain-based) condition that begins in childhood (before age 12) and can continue across the lifespan. ADHD involves difficulties with inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity.

Inattention refers to getting sidetracked, struggling to listen, being easily distracted, daydreaming, being disorganized, being forgetful, and losing materials.

Hyperactivity refers to over-activity, restlessness, fidgeting, talkativeness, and being unable to stay seated.

Impulsivity refers to intruding in other people’s activities (e.g. interrupting, blurting out), being unable to wait, and making hasty decisions without thinking through the potential consequences.

These difficulties must be beyond what would be expected for someone of the same age or developmental level.

The DSM-5 (Assessment tool) lists 3 types of ADHD: 

  1. Inattentive Presentation. Individuals with ADHD only have difficulty with attention.
  2. Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation. Individuals with ADHD only have difficulty with hyperactivity/impulsivity.
  3. Combined Presentation. Individuals with ADHD have problems with both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.

In the About ADHD website section you can learn more about ADHD and also learn about related challenges and co-existing conditions.

Do I Have ADHD?

Experts are recognizing that ADHD in adults is much more common than originally thought and is under-diagnosed. In a large survey conducted in the United States it was discovered that 75% of adults with ADHD were not diagnosed as children (Kessler R et al, 2006). This may be because children who are the inattentive type, who do not have hyperactive or disruptive behaviors and manage to get by with passing grades, often don’t get flagged as needing an assessment for ADHD (Dr. David Goodman: ADHD in Adults). Girls often fit this profile, so they have typically been under-diagnosed as children.

If you remember struggling with attention, impulsivity, or hyperactivity issues since you were twelve years old or younger, and these difficulties persist for you as an adult, then it may be time to get an assessment to see if you have ADHD. Living with undiagnosed and untreated ADHD may leave you feeling anxious or depressed, it can lower your self-esteem, it can interfere with relationships and employment, and it may negatively impact your quality of life.

ADHD Symptoms as an Adult

ADHD Symptoms as an ADULT may include:

-Difficulty maintaining attention
-Getting bored easily
-Difficulty completing a task or assignment
-Easily distracted
-Disorganized
-Forgetful
-Poor sense of time; miss deadlines, often running late
-Inconsistent performance at work
-Difficulties with day-to-day responsibilities
-Excessive activity or restlessness
-Needing a lot of stimulation and novelty
-Making impulsive decisions; tend to say or do things without thinking
-Relationship problems
-Work or school problems

ADHD Symptom Checklists

To get a sense of whether your behaviours may indicate symptoms associated with ADHD, here are a few ADHD Symptoms Checklists you may want to look at.

This is just to get you started in your quest. A proper assessment will need to be done by a physician or psychologist. If you have completed an ADHD Symptom Checklist, bring it with you when you see a physician or psychologist.

 

Assessment and Diagnosis

An assessment for ADHD can be conducted by a physician or psychologist

Physicians

It is highly recommended to involve physicians in the assessment/diagnosis process for ADHD. Because ADHD is considered a medical (neurobiological) condition and can be treated medically, it is most often diagnosed by a family doctor, psychiatrist, or neurologist.

If you start the process with your family doctor, ask questions to see how knowledgeable the doctor is about ADHD in adults or if a referral to another physician, psychiatrist or neurologist with expertise in ADHD is warranted. Family physicians typically have less expertise in diagnosing and treating ADHD than pediatricians do.

Physicians will likely start with a complete physical and a thorough medical history, family history, and a psychiatric history to determine if other conditions, such as a thyroid problem, anxiety, or depression, exist or might explain your symptoms. It can help to complete one of the Adult ADHD symptom checklists (see above) to bring with you to your first appointment with your doctor. They may also provide you with checklists and rating scales in the diagnosis process.

Cost:  No cost in Canada. Assessments and treatment by a medical professional are covered by provincial health care plans in Canada.

Note that wait lists to see adult specialists can be quite long, although many family doctors will conduct these assessments.

Psychologists

Psychologists who specialize in ADHD can diagnose ADHD, although they cannot conduct the physical/health assessment component, nor can they prescribe ADHD medication.

Benefits of a psychologist completing a psycho-educational assessment are:

  • A full psycho-educational assessment can determine if other conditions such as a learning disability exist, which is quite common. The assessment report will give you a picture of your full learning profile, including your challenges and also your natural strengths and aptitudes.
  • Psychologists can help you to learn strategies to manage your ADHD.
  • Psycho-educational assessments are particularly helpful for adults who plan to or are attending university and need their profile information, particularly when it comes to seeking out accommodations.
  • Some adults may benefit by having a psycho-educational assessment done for workplace accommodations.
  • Psychologists may also uncover and provide treatment for related challenges, such as anxiety and depression.

Costs: Unless you can access a psychologist through the health system, psychology services are not covered through provincial health care plans in Canada. Most private extended health care plans will cover psychological services. Some agencies offer sliding scale rates for psychological services if you qualify.

LEARN MORE: Adults - Do I Have ADHD?

Read this informative article by CADDAC on the ADHD Assessment/Diagnosis process: https://caddac.ca/adhd/understanding-adhd/in-adulthood/assessment-diagnosis/