How Do I Choose a Psychiatrist for ADHD?

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If you’ve been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or suspect you might have ADHD, you might want to visit an ADHD psychiatrist.

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental health, and they can help you explore treatment options. Psychiatrists are also able to prescribe medication whereas psychologists cannot.

A psychiatrist who specifically specializes in ADHD will be up to date on research and new treatments pertaining to ADHD more than your primary care doctor may be.

What Is ADHD?

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a brain disorder that affects both children and adults. Symptoms may include trouble focusing, hyperactivity, and difficulty controlling behavior. 

There are three main types of ADHD, though treatment for them all largely looks similar:

  • ADHD, combined type: This type, the most common, is a mixture of impulsive and hyperactive behaviors with inattention and distractibility.
  • ADHD, impulsive/hyperactive type: The least common form of ADHD, this type is characterized by impulsive and hyperactive behaviors with no inattention or distractibility.
  • ADHD, inattentive and distractible type: Symptoms of this type generally include inattention and distractibility, without hyperactivity. 

ADHD is relatively common; It is estimated that 10% of children have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point. Similarly, 4.4% of adults have been diagnosed with ADHD, with more males being diagnosed than females.

Therapy for ADHD

There are many different types of therapy for ADHD, including: 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for ADHD
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • ADHD Coaching
  • Supportive Psychotherapy
  • Interpersonal Therapy
  • Group Therapy
  • Narrative Therapy
  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy 

Therapy can also help people with ADHD deal with the emotional challenges of being neurodivergent in a society that is made for—and values—neurotypical people.

Also, often, people with ADHD are perfectionists. They might often feel frustrated when they can’t reach their own (high) goals. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression. It is thought that nearly 20% of people with ADHD also have major depressive disorder.

Moreover, whether someone was diagnosed with ADHD early in life or late in life, people with ADHD develop their own ways of coping with their deficits. But, psychotherapy can help people learn easier ways to cope.

What Therapy Can Help With

Therapy can help with time management, organization, and problem-solving skills. But it can also help someone feel like they have more control over their life. By feeling more in control of any symptoms, they are more likely to realize that their symptoms are simply the effects of living with ADHD and not personal character flaws.

Therapy Can Address Self-Stigma

Additionally, many with ADHD struggle deeply with self-stigma. They wouldn’t judge a friend or loved one who had ADHD, but they judge themselves deeply. Therapy, especially narrative therapy can help them tell themselves a different story.

ADHD Psychiatrist vs. ADHD Therapist

While both are able to help individuals deal with their ADHD symptoms, psychiatrists and therapists have slightly different roles.

Psychiatrist vs. Therapist

Psychiatrist
  • Can prescribe medication

  • Understands conditions on a neurological and biological level

Therapist/Psychologist
  • Cannot prescribe medication (in most states)

  • Helps a client manage and cope with symptoms

A psychiatrist is a physician, so they can prescribe medication. They will also be able to discuss mental health disorders from a biological and neurological perspective. Moreover, they'll have an understanding of how the brain interacts with and influences emotions.

A psychologist will be able to administer the correct tests to diagnose whether you have ADHD. They then will be able to work with you in therapy. In therapy, they can teach a client the skills and strategies to cope with the challenges having ADHD presents them with. If you are seeking medication they will have to refer you to a psychiatrist. However, there are some states that allow psychologists to prescribe mediation.

Can a Psychiatrist Diagnose ADHD?

Any licensed mental health professional can diagnose ADHD, but working with a psychiatrist has the added benefit of them being able to prescribe medication. They can also help you rule out and/or treat any other mental health diagnoses.

ADHD and Your Physical Health

A psychiatrist will also be able to help you with any medication side effects and how medication or ADHD itself (i.e. forgetting to make appointments) is affecting your physical health. Many people with ADHD also experience conditions such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, and eczema.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Some people may have ADHD and other mental health disorders such as anxiety disorder or substance use disorder. So, an ADHD psychiatrist can help coordinate the treatment of these disorders as well, and help you find the correct combination of medications if more than one is necessary.

They may also recommend therapists/psychologists/other specialists that they know have experience working with clients who have ADHD and other mental health disorders.

How to Find an ADHD Psychiatrist 

Though it can feel overwhelming to look for an ADHD psychiatrist, you can break the task down into several smaller ones:

  • Look them up online: Do an online search to find psychiatrists who treat ADHD in your area.
  • Figure out where your insurance is accepted: Check which therapists or psychiatrists take your insurance. If you do not have a therapist, search for low-cost therapy options.
  • Check availability: Once you've narrowed your search, you can take a look at their availability so that you'll know if their schedule meshes well with theirs.

Do You Want an MD or a DO?

Are you looking for an MD (Doctor of Medicine) or a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine)?

These are equivalent credentials, and both can prescribe medication to you, but a DO may also take a more holistic or mind-body approach.

Do You Prefer Online or In-Person Treatment? 

You will also want to decide if you are looking for virtual appointments or in-person appointments. There are pros and cons to each.

If you prefer the convenience of staying home then online therapy may be a better fit. However, if you don't live alone, you may not have as much privacy as you would like.

Meeting a therapist in-person may afford you more privacy and sometimes speaking in person can be more comforting and you won't have to worry about any connectivity issues.

Ask Friends and Family for Recommendations

Ask friends or loved ones if they have recommendations, or, if this is for your child, ask the school or your child’s pediatrician if they have any recommendations.

If this is for you, you can ask your primary care doctor or your current therapist, if you have one, if they have any recommendations.

Do You Have Specific Preferences?

Some clients may be more comfortable speaking with a psychiatrist who is of their gender or cultural background. You may want to meet with someone who is LGBTQIA+ allied or kink-allied.

Consider what your preferences are and narrow your search down to those who might be a good match for you.

Search Social Media

If you are a social media user, you might have started wondering if you have ADHD because someone’s content about ADHD resonated with you.

If this person is a psychiatrist in your state, you can ask them if they are taking new patients (and/or what their policy is regarding social media followers as patients), or if they have recommendations of anyone you can work with.

Resources and Directories

There are also several online directories you can access that may help you find an ADHD psychiatrist: 

  • Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD): CHADD has a directory of their psychiatrists who are professional members
  • The Attention Deficit Disorder Association has a professional directory where you can find an ADHD psychiatrist. They have peer support groups that you can join if you become an ADDA member.

A Word From Verywell

Finding an ADHD psychiatrist may feel like a catch-22, especially given that searching for the right person involves using the very executive function skills you likely are struggling with. But fear not, while it may feel overwhelming, plenty of people with ADHD are able to find ADHD psychiatrists and receive the care they need to help them lead easier lives. 

9 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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By Theodora Blanchfield, AMFT
Theodora Blanchfield is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and mental health writer.