So, where do you turn when you ask yourself or a loved one: Do I have ADHD? There must be a reason why you are asking that question. Are you experiencing symptoms that relate to inattention, or are you unable to stay on task because you are hyperactive or impulsive? In the world we live in, almost every day you hear someone say when something goes wrong "It must have been my ADD."
It is not that easy. Everyone at one time or another has had moments of forgetfulness or misplacing your car keys. During times of stress or just being extra busy everyone has had times that they felt like they were running around like a "Chicken With Your Head Cut-off." That does not mean you have ADHD however. These can be normal physical and emotional reactions or symptoms that emerge to many of life's circumstances - or even other illnesses or medication side effects. Therefore, the Do I Have ADHD question must be compared or referenced to a standard. That standard has been the DSM IV TR, and in 2013 the DSM V was published.
WHO (the World Health Organization) has developed the Adult ASRS screener to be used by the general public to gain a quick assessment of symptoms that can serve as a conversation starter with an individuals physician. This simple screener is designed for the person who asks: Do I Have ADHD? It is based on the DSM IV ADHD criteria and is still helpful even with the new DSM V criteria, but is not diagnostic. In other words, if you mark several of the responses as positive that does not mean you have ADHD. It does mean that you may have several symptoms that are similar to ADHD and you should seek further guidance from your doctor. If you would like to use this screener, go to the link below and print out the screener, fill in the blanks and take it to your doctor. Four or more checkmarks in the darkened areas suggest you may have symptoms that are consistent with ADHD. ASRS Adult ADHD Screener v:1.1
Your health care professional will do a complete history and physical. This is to determine the possible cause of your symptoms. Perhaps you are having some of the symptoms of ADHD, but these are simply do to life's stressors, and are not having a major impact on multiple areas of your life. Your history is important because it will reveal if anyone else in your family has ever been diagnosed with ADHD - a mother or father, sister or brother, or one of your children. If you are asking the question: Do I Have ADHD, be prepared for this question by thinking about your mother, father, sisters, brothers, and/or children. What were they like growing up and as adults. Many adults discover they have had ADHD after one of their children becomes recognized as having ADHD.
Here is a quick summary of the DSM IV TR ADHD Criteria which has been established in order to answer the question "Do I Have ADHD." Your health care professional will base their assessment on these criteria. First and foremost must be the differential diagnosis, in other words an expert must work with you to determine that there is no other cause, which means that you really will need to consult with a physician. These criteria then assume that the symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity the patient is presenting with:
IA. To meet the diagnostic criteria for DSM IV ADHD there needs to be six or more of nine established symptoms of inattention, and those 6 or more signs must have been present for at least 6 months or more. Here is the critical point, these symptoms must be severe enough such they are being disruptive and inappropriate for what would be considered to be their age or level of development. Click on DSM IV ADHD Criteria for Signs of Inattention and read about those 9 signs which include making careless mistakes, not finishing assignments, losing things and not being able to focus on any one topic for any length of time.
With regard to ADHD, the newest version of the DSM - DSM V - has expanded information regarding adults with ADHD, specifically so that those individuals who may suffer from the symptoms of ADHD into adulthood can continue to receive treatment for this disorder, as needed. Nearly 20 years of research is now providing more in depth guidance for therapists and doctors as they work to provide help for these individuals. This research has shown that criteria used to diagnose ADHD in Children can be used equally well for adults - although only 5 instead of 6 symptoms are needed fo achieve a reliably accurate diagnosis. A second important adaptation changes the language surrounding the age when a child's ADHD symptoms can be identified, specifically being present prior to age 12, versus age seven in DSM IV manual. For complete information click on the link below and order a copy of the new DSM V:
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5
Part B of the criteria for Hyperactivity-Impulsivity consists of 10 items. Similar to the Inattention in part A of the DSM IV for ADHD there needs to be six or more these ten signs present for at least 6 months, and to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for their individual level of development. Click on DSM IV ADHD Criteria for Signs of Hyperactivity/Impulsivity and read about those 10 signs including fidgeting, restlessness, feeling driven like a motor, and intruding or butting in on conversations.
DSM IV ADHD Adds:
Finally there are these four additional items that must be taken into account before a final diagnosis of ADHD can be made
As you now have read through this diagnostic criteria, you are likely wondering what am I supposed to do with all of this? The easiest thing to do is print off the ASRS Screener noted above, complete those brief 6 questions and then based on those results talk to a family member or friend. Then, if your answer to the question: Do I Have ADHD appears to be, Yes, it seems so, set a time to talk to your health professional.
Before scheduling an appointment ask your doctor if they have experience diagnosing and working with patients who might have ADHD. Most doctors will be honest with you and if they do not feel comfortable doing this, they will recommend another doctor for you to see. You can also ask friends or co workers if they know of anyone who might have adhd and which doctor they might be seeing. These are the two best ways to select an appropriate physician.
A physician with experience will first discuss your complete personal and family medical history, then run differential diagnostic testing to identify if there is any other medically related issues that could be causing these symptoms. Your doctor will then be best able to answer your question: Do I Have ADHD. They will also help you identify the severity of the symptoms, in which setting those symptoms are likely to appear, and then discuss with you a variety of treatment options if the diagnosis of ADHD is confirmed. These options are likely to include behavior therapy, possible dietary considerations, and a variety possible medications - their benefits and possible side effects.
The great news is that once a correct diagnosis is made there is often improvement just from a relief of knowing you are not nuts, and there may be a cause. In addition, there has been remarkable improvement seen when specific behavior therapy is combined with appropriate medication treatment. So, if you have ever said - do I have ADHD - be encouraged, if you are diagnosed with ADHD there is help for you.
More information on Children and ADHD
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