Diagnosis: What to Know When You Go

What you should know about ADHD symptoms and treatment before talking with your doctor about a diagnosis and treatment.

Woman with ADHD meeting with new doctor in office
Woman with ADHD meeting with new doctor in office

When you suspect you have attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD) and go to a clinician for a diagnosis, it’s best to walk in with some initial understanding of treatment and knowledge about what should happen-now and long-term. Harold Meyer, director of the New York City chapter of CHADD, offers these tips:

1. Be specific in describing your problems. Figure out what concerns you want to address in your consultation. For instance: “At work, I find that I can’t stay on task or complete projects.” “I get so caught up in minute details that I forget to do important things.” “I can’t find anything at home.” “I’m constantly late for appointments, if I remember to go at all.”

2. Consider your stance on medication before your appointment. If you’re opposed to taking medication, state your philosophy up front and ask your doctor if he can recommend other treatment options. If he insists on writing a prescription despite your aversion to medication, don’t be afraid to see someone else. Then, if you have decided on medication, remember that the prescription process varies with the individual. It’s likely that you’ll need to try more than one brand and experiment with different dosages to find the right one for you.

3. Ask the doctor to talk about meds. You want someone who will not just write a prescription, but who will also discuss the diagnosis and treatment with you. These questions should be addressed: What medications are under consideration? Why start with a particular medication? What can you expect to happen? How should you evaluate the effect of the medication?

Psyhchiatrist? Primary Care Doctor? Or Therapist?

4. Discuss follow-up. Your doctor should lay out a course of action, including treatment and follow-up appointments. Make sure that he’s accessible. You’ll need to talk with him on the phone in the weeks following the diagnosis as you work to find the right medication dosage. Will he be available? Will he charge you to consult? Will he prescribe medication refills by phone, or do you need to go to his office every time you’re running low?

5. Learn about alternatives to medication. Find out about behavioral therapies and modifications you might try. Can your doctor work with you on these? Is your doctor sympathetic to non-medical treatment? You may benefit from a referral to a psychologist who can offer behavioral help, such as ways to deal with problems at work, time-management techniques, and so on.

6. Ask if he will meet with your family. A diagnosis of ADHD affects those you live with. Your spouse and children need to learn about the condition and how you will manage it. In fact, people with ADHD are not good at observing their own behavior, so it’s best to have someone close to you monitor your behavior while on medication and let you know if they observe changes. Many with ADHD claim that their medication isn’t doing anything, while those around them report marked improvements in various behaviors.

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