ADHD Diagnosis Guide: How to Make Sure It's Accurate

An accurate diagnosis of attention deficit disorder isn’t easy to come by, but it is essential to your good health. Find out where to go, what to expect, and how to prepare for the tests and consultations associated with an ADHD diagnosis.

Where to Go for an ADHD Diagnosis

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Where to Go for an ADHD Diagnosis

To get an ADHD diagnosis, you may start with a routine visit to your primary-care physician, but, chances are, you won’t end it there. As a rule, most general practitioners are not equipped to make the call. One reason is time. It can take several hours of talking, test taking, and analysis of the results to diagnose someone with ADHD. Most general practitioners can’t give you or your child that much attention in a busy practice.

General practitioners sometimes overlook coexisting problems, such as learning disabilities, underlying medical conditions, depression, anxiety disorder, or substance abuse. Professionals trained in diagnosing ADHD routinely screen for these problems.

How can you find an ADD expert in your area? Five possible approaches should lead to the right help and diagnosis, and a treatment plan that will best manage symptoms:

Ask a school psychologist or guidance counselor for a referral for your child. If you’d prefer to see an outside expert before getting the school involved, move to the next step.

Talk with your internist or your child’s pediatrician. Start the conversation this way: “I’ve noticed these symptoms in myself (or my child), and I’d like an evaluation. Do you know of someone who specializes in diagnosing ADD?” If the doctor says that he can do it, ask about the tests he uses and how long he typically spends making the diagnosis. If the only basis for a diagnosis is a quick interview with you and/or your child, ask for a referral to a specialist.

Contact a medical school near your home. “Call the department of psychiatry and ask, ‘Is there anyone on your staff experienced at working with adults or children with ADD?’” suggests Edward Hallowell, M.D., a psychiatrist with offices in New York City and Boston, and coauthor of Superparenting for ADD (Ballantine). “When you get the name of a professional, ask him how many people he has treated. It should be at least a hundred.”

Check with your insurer. Ask if there are experts trained in diagnosing ADD covered by your plan. If not, consider going out of network. Remember that your goal, initially, is to get a thorough, accurate diagnosis. When you have that information, the diagnosing doctor can work with your plan physician to prescribe treatment.

Call your local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness or CHADD, and ask for names of professionals who specialize in ADHD. Another good option: an ADHD support group in your area. Word-of-mouth recommendations are often the best assessment of a professional’s ability.

Introduction
Next: How Experts Make an ADHD Diagnosis
ADHD Diagnosis Step 1: The Consultation
ADHD Diagnosis Step 2: Testing, Testing
ADHD Diagnosis Step 3: Learning How to Manage Symptoms
Five Common Diagnosis Mistakes

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