I Think I Have ADHD: What to Do and Where to Go

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition that affects the brain’s development, particularly in areas that control attention, impulse control, and behavior. Roughly 5% of people around the world live with this condition.

If you suspect that your lifelong struggles with focusing, paying attention, trying to sit still, or wait your turn patiently may be caused by ADHD, it’s important to see a healthcare provider for screening, diagnosis, and treatment.

If you think you have ADHD, this article provides a checklist of ADHD symptoms that may be helpful, as well as some next steps such as finding a healthcare provider, getting yourself assessed, and receiving a formal diagnosis.

Symptoms of ADHD

There are essentially two types of ADHD symptoms:

  • Symptoms of inattention
  • Symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity

If you have ADHD, you may recognize these symptoms in yourself.

Symptoms of Inattention

The symptoms of inattention you may have experienced can cause difficulty with:

  • Focusing on work assignments, chores, or other tasks and activities
  • Paying close attention to detail, which can result in careless mistakes
  • Listening carefully and following instructions
  • Seeing tasks to completion
  • Managing your time and staying organized
  • Performing tasks that require sustained attention
  • Avoiding distractions and staying focused
  • Keeping track of items such as your wallet, keys, or mobile phone
  • Remembering to keep your appointments, return calls, or pay bills on time

Symptoms of Hyperactivity and Impulsivity

These are the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity you may have experienced:

  • Having difficulty sitting still for extended periods of time and frequently feeling restless
  • Tapping your hands or feet, fidgeting, or squirming in your seat
  • Having difficulty participating in leisure activities quietly
  • Talking excessively
  • Responding to questions before they’ve been asked completely
  • Having trouble waiting in line or waiting your turn
  • Interrupting others or intruding on their conversations or activities

Given that ADHD is a developmental condition, it starts in childhood and persists into adulthood. Looking back, you may realize that you’ve had many of these symptoms since you were young. They may have become more or less pronounced with time, but may have been present all the same.

Finding an ADHD Healthcare Expert

If these symptoms seem familiar, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. A mental healthcare provider such as a psychologist or psychiatrist can assess your mental health and determine whether or not you have ADHD. 

The symptoms of ADHD can resemble the symptoms of other mental health conditions, so it’s important to seek a diagnosis from a qualified professional. Getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step toward receiving effective treatment. 

It may be helpful to see a practitioner who specializes in ADHD, as they may better understand the condition.

These are some steps you can take to find a healthcare provider who specializes in ADHD:

  • Ask a friend or family member for a reference: If you know someone who is currently undergoing treatment for ADHD, it can be helpful to ask them who their healthcare provider is.
  • Contact your primary care provider for a referral: Depending on your insurance plan, you may need to contact your primary care doctor and ask them to refer you to a mental health expert within your insurance provider’s network who specializes in ADHD.
  • Check national or state directories: The American Psychological Association has a directory you can use to locate mental healthcare experts by speciality and location. Your state may also have a directory of local practitioners.
  • Approach local institutions: You can contact your local hospital, university medical department, or mental health institution and ask whether they have practitioners who have experience with ADHD.
  • Reach out to an ADHD support group: If there’s an ADHD support group near you, they may be able to offer advice, recommendations, or a referral.

Diagnosing ADHD

Once you locate a healthcare provider and make an appointment with them, they will likely perform an evaluation that includes:

  • An assessment of your symptoms and the difficulties you’re facing as a result. Your healthcare provider may ask you to fill out a questionnaire detailing your symptoms and their severity.
  • A thorough personal and family medical history.
  • Any blood work, imaging scans, or psychological tests that may be required to confirm the diagnosis or rule out other medical conditions.

Based on their evaluation, your healthcare provider will determine whether your symptoms match the criteria listed for ADHD in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). The American Psychiatric Association publishes this manual to help healthcare providers identify, diagnose, and treat conditions such as ADHD.

These are the diagnostic criteria listed for ADHD in the DSM-5:

  • You are below the age of 17 and have at least six symptoms of inattention. Or, you are above the age of 17 and have at least five symptoms of inattention.
  • You are below the age of 17 and have at least six symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention. Or, you are above the age of 17 and have at least five symptoms of hyperactivity and inattention.
  • You have been experiencing these symptoms for over six months.
  • You have had several of these symptoms since before the age of 12.
  • You experience these symptoms in two or more settings, such as your home, work, or school, or in social settings with friends or family, or while doing other activities.
  • You experience significant difficulties in your personal life, social life, or work, as a result of your symptoms.
  • Your symptoms are not better explained by another mental health condition, such as an anxiety disorder, mood disorder, personality disorder, or dissociative disorder.

Types of ADHD

Depending on your symptoms, your healthcare provider will determine whether you have ADHD, and if so, which type. There are three types of ADHD:

  1. Combined type: You have had enough symptoms of inattention as well as hyperactivity and impulsivity over the last six months to meet the diagnostic criteria.
  2. Predominantly inattentive type: You have had enough symptoms of inattention over the last six months to meet the diagnostic criteria, but not enough symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity.
  3. Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type: You have had enough symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity over the last six months to meet the diagnostic criteria, but not enough symptoms of impulsivity.

A Word From Verywell

If your healthcare provider determines that you do indeed have ADHD, they will chart out a course of treatment for you that can help reduce your symptoms and make it easier for you to function on a day-to-day basis. Treatment for ADHD can include a combination of medication, therapy, or coaching, depending on your needs.

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6 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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