G is for Getting Diagnosed

The diagnostic process can be stressful or simple, and it varies from clinician to clinician.

It can be as simple as an interview or as complicated as complete neuropsychological testing.

It can be as easy as describing your difficulties in detail to the first clinician you see or as difficult as explaining yourself fifty times to as many clinicians.

The reasons you might be denied a diagnosis are many.

  • You might be (or appear to be) female.
  • You might be a person of colour.
  • You might be autistic.
  • You might have other psychiatric diagnoses already.
  • You might get (or have gotten) good grades in school.
  • You might be Predominantly Inattentive, rather than Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive.
  • You might be poor.
  • You might have parents who don’t believe in ADHD.
  • You might have parents who don’t want you labelled.
  • You might have parents who don’t want to deal with the stigma of having a child who has “something wrong with them.”

And that is just a partial list (and the most common ones I see).

The choice to try to obtain a diagnosis is not simple. There are a lot of factors to consider, from how the diagnosis might benefit or hinder you, to your history with psychiatric professionals, to your financial means.

It’s okay to get a formal diagnosis if you just want to know for yourself that you aren’t imagining things, and there’s a real reason why you struggle with so many things.

It’s okay to avoid a formal diagnosis if you have a history of trauma at the hands of medical and/or psychiatric professionals.

It’s okay to get a formal diagnosis if you aren’t struggling as much as someone else.

It’s okay to avoid a formal diagnosis if you can’t afford it and can’t access funding to pay for it.

It’s okay to get a formal diagnosis if you think treatment will help you better manage your life.

It’s okay to avoid a formal diagnosis if you think it will negatively affect how people treat you.

What matters is that you make an informed decision and explore your options. Just remember, the label doesn’t change who you are as a person.

It just helps to explain some of why you are who you are.

C is for Children

Naturally, the idea of ADHD is that it is a disorder of childhood. More attention to adults has been granted over the past couple of decades, but by and large the image is still that of hyperactive little boys. In fact, some insurance agencies don’t cover treatment for adults, and some doctors refuse to even refer adults to be assessed!

But let’s talk about ADHD in children for just a moment, shall we?

Because there are a few things we do need to discuss.

ADHD begins in childhood. Just when, nobody is certain, but the diagnostic criteria state that symptoms must be present prior to age 12 in order to qualify for the diagnosis. Given what we know about typical child development and what is impacted by ADHD, it’s not something that should really be diagnosed prior to age seven.

So here’s the why of all of that.

The behaviours that generally signify ADHD in children (e.g., extreme hyperactivity and/or chattiness, disorganization, lack of focus) are developmentally not fully in place prior to age seven. This means that it is totally possible for a three-year-old to be literally climbing the walls at preschool and not meet the criteria for ADHD by age seven.

In addition, most of what we know about ADHD and how it manifests is based on research performed on male children. It’s only recently (in terms of the science world) that research has been done on females. This means that females are often not recognized as having ADHD, because their behaviours are different from their male fellow ADHDers, even when they have the same type of ADHD.

And on top of all of that, some races and classes are more likely to get the ADHD diagnosis than others. Some are more likely to be dismissed as just being unintelligent or problem students, while others are more likely to end up with medication without a proper assessment, because it’s just easier to diagnose on the fly and get the parents/school out of your face.

All of these things mean that the world of ADHD is tricky to navigate and confusing for people who are newly diagnosed as well as for those who were diagnosed in childhood.

How old were you at diagnosis? Do you have any thoughts as to why it happened then?