Choosing Professionals

When to Fire Your Doctor

Feel rushed or brushed off at the doctor? It can mean the difference between properly managing your ADHD and feeling misguided. Learn how to find the best doctor for your treatment and when it’s time to show yours the door.


If you ever wonder whether you or your child is receiving the right medical attention for attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD), you are not alone.

Many practitioners and clinics don’t take the time to do a proper diagnostic work-up or to develop a proper treatment plan. By “proper,” I don’t just mean using the right medical tools and techniques. I mean establishing a personal connection with you or your child.

You need to be understood and listened to as you go through the arduous process of ADHD diagnosis and treatment. Too many mental-health professionals these days ignore the person in question while trying to nail down a plan for the patient. He or she is left bewildered.

Find a Connection

The right ADHD doctor for you or your child should be more than a clinical encyclopedia. They should be able to share a joke or laugh at themselves, and to want to get to know you. They should ask you about things that have nothing to do with what brought you to their office.

We psychiatrists boast that the profession is more evidence-based than in the past, and that our diagnostic criteria for attention deficit are based upon objective symptoms and behaviors, not subjective intuitions. But while the science has progressed, our implementation of it has grown impersonal.

[Free Download: What Every Thorough ADHD Diagnosis Includes]

Unfortunately, the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD lends itself to this mechanistic model. The diagnosis depends upon identifying six or more symptoms from one or two lists. To compound the problem, many people with ADHD want to cut to the chase, get their prescription, and leave.

So if your doctor says, “Whoa! Slow down!” that’s great! Another good sign is a doctor who asks you questions, talks with you or your child about day-to-day life, and sets up a treatment plan that includes several simultaneous approaches — medication combined with behavioral therapy, say.

A doctor should give you time to ask questions about medication, if it is recommended, and encourage you to call him if you notice side effects or other problems.

Show the Doc the Door

Should you fire your doctor if you aren’t getting this level of attention regarding yours or your child’s ADHD? Perhaps. If you can’t make a personal connection, move on. Your doctor should be your partner, not a godhead whom you worship.

[Use This Checklist to Assess ADHD Doctors and Clinicians]

Other red flags that indicate it’s time to shop around for another ADHD professional include:

  • They brush off your concerns about severe side effects that you or your child is experiencing. Their goal should be to find a treatment that works without side effects, not to treat ADHD at any cost.
  • They don’t provide adequate information about potential side effects or specific ways to measure the effectiveness of a treatment.
  • They don’t offer additional options if the first is unsuccessful. Treating ADHD often involves trial and error to find out what works.
  • They reprimand you or your child for asking too many questions.
  • They tell you they’re not an expert in ADHD.

Create a New Job Description

If you’ve given a pink slip to your current doctor, here’s how to go about finding a replacement. Look for a psychiatrist who has a specialty or sub-specialty in ADHD and learning differences. and ADDA chapters will connect you with a network of ADHD families who can recommend local doctors and assess their bedside manner. An ADHD support group in your area is another valuable source of contacts, or browse online community forums, like ADDitude’s forums, to find locals with ADHD who can offer recommendations.

It’s too easy for a doctor — and you — to dismiss treatment as a quick diagnosis and medication. The best treatment plan begins with a strong connection with your doctor, who is essential to your success.

[Choosing a Professional to Diagnose and Treat ADHD]

Edward Hallowell, M.D., is a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Medical Review Panel.

5 Comments & Reviews

  1. My mother and I went to a psychiatrist for the first time to treat my ADHD (which was undiagnosed but my symptoms were there) and when we got there, the doctor didnt even let me speak. I told him that i could have ADHD and he just brushed it off. He asked me a lot of questions but he just let me say yes or no, or just a tiny commentary. I talk a lot, so I felt a bit disconnected from the doctor, he just gave me some medication and then we left. We just scheduled another psychiatrist hour with someone recommended to us, so I hope that person understands better and doesnt want to just get me out of there!

    1. My experience has been that most doctors and psychiatrists are woefully uninformed about ADHD. The frightening point here is most prescribe antidepressants or antianxiety which have been PROVEN to worsen ADHD symptoms.
      Run from any doctor that offers up those drugs to treat you.

  2. Our pediatrician prescribed 20 mg of vyvanase for my 4 yr old. I felt like we were going with the low and slow approach. After being up for almost 24 hrs watching him in such an over the top mania. I read that he could have started with 5mg. Then I lost my mind. We are in process of an evaluation by a pediatric psychiatrist now that has met all the criteria of the description above. He very well may need a med, but I want it coming from a specialist.
    Thanks, first post, still absorbing all the information I can

  3. This article assumes there are choices. In rural areas there often are NOT choices. Sometimes the best you can do is find someone who might listen to you…maybe.

    I wish Additude would be more attentive to this when they discuss finding providors!

  4. While I appreciate the contents of this article (and agree with them for the most part), I just wanted to point out something concerning about the use of pronouns. “He/his” pronouns are solely used when describing positive attributes, while “she/her” pronouns are solely used when describing negative attributes. This is concerning as it may result in subconscious associations of negative practices with persons who identify as female, and of positive practices with persons who identify as male. Please ask your writers to be conscious of these patterns in the future. Suggestions to avoid them include using gender neutral pronouns throughout, or switching up he/she pronouns between negative and positive attributes.

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