ADHD -- Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder -- is a neurodevelopment disorder. That means it is a problem with the way the brain develops in early childhood. So problems with attention and behavioral control must be present from early childhood in order to qualify for the diagnosis. If attention problems or hyperactivity start later, then you're looking at a different diagnosis, and a different course of action (let's find out what it is!)
Issues in ADHD Diagnosis
ADHD is a very over-diagnosed disorder. The problem with that is the medications used to treat it are stimulants -- most people will feel more focused when using them, whether or not they have ADHD. And the medications have side effects... especially when used long-term starting at an early age.
On top of that, there's the danger of other problems going unrecognized as a result of being misdiagnosed with ADHD -- problems like anxiety disorders, autism spectrum, even bipolar disorder.
Of course, if you do have ADHD, it would be much better to know about it -- because there are treatments that work. Medications are helpful, yes, but mindfulness exercises, biofeedback, and neurofeedback can also be very helpful.
My approach to diagnosing ADHD
There are a number of different approaches to testing for ADHD -- many of them focus primarily on measuring symptoms and behaviors. In my view, it's much better to measure brain functioning and emotional factors, so we can get a clear view of what is causing the symptoms and behaviors. Here's how I do that:
- I'll take you through a structured clinical interview that will help us understand how your background, family history, relationships, emotions, anxieties, and so on relate to the attention symptoms.
- For teens, I'll interview the parents as well, to get more information about developmental history and early behavior.
- I'll administer a battery of cognitive tests that measure things like memory, concentration, abstract reasoning, language & visual processing... that will show us whether the pattern of relative strengths and weaknesses is consistent with ADHD, or with another diagnosis.
- I'll also administer a personality test that measures different aspects of social and emotional functioning, and that will help us understand how much of a role things like mood and anxiety problems could be impacting attention. It's not necessarily one-or-the-other -- if you have both ADHD and some problems with mood or anxiety, then addressing the emotional problems can improve the ADHD symptoms as well.
After we meet and go through the evaluation together, I'll score the tests, compile all the data, and put together a report that details all the results and what they mean. From there, I'll give you some concrete recommendations to help you focus more, procrastinate less, and succeed in life.
To get started, contact Psych Lab Psychology Center at (562) 684-1300.