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Who Can Diagnose ADHD? And How Do They Do It?

By Diana Kelly Levey

You’ve done some online research and think you have some symptoms that indicate that you might have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. But who should you go to in order to get assessed and possibly diagnosed?

A wide range of medical professionals are able to diagnose this neurodevelopmental disorder — including psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists and primary care physicians. But some experts have more expertise with ADHD, know how to test for the developmental disability, and may be more likely to provide an accurate diagnosis.

We talked with Nekeshia Hammond, a psychologist, speaker and author, for her suggestions on the process you should follow to determine if you have ADHD and the best professionals to provide that assessment. Here are her suggestions:

First, Check for Other Issues

ADHD symptoms can actually be symptoms of other issues, including other mental health issues or psychological issues, says Hammond. Your primary care doctor can do physical tests, including blood work, to make sure there isn’t a health issue that could be interfering with your ability to concentrate. Health conditions that might contribute to that include anemia, blood sugar issues, thyroid issues, sleep problems or undetected seizures, Hammond says.

Once your blood test results indicate no other issues, your primary care physician may refer you to a mental health expert with more expertise in ADHD. Your primary care physician can listen to your symptoms, ask questions about your struggles and behaviors, and even request that a family member complete an “observer form” to help assess whether you have ADHD. They can even use this information to diagnose you with ADHD and advise on the next steps.

Still, Hammond suggests you get tested by a mental health professional so you’re confident in the diagnosis. Most often, questions from a primary care physician are not as comprehensive, Hammond says. “Psychological testing looks at everything that’s happening in the person’s life,” she says.

If you believe your primary care doctor is not taking your ADHD concerns seriously, you should then seek further consultation with a mental health professional.

See a Mental Health Professional with ADHD Expertise

ADHD symptoms can be similar to symptoms for other psychiatric disorders, including anxiety disorder and depression. That’s why it’s important to consult with a mental health professional who understands the nuances of each disorder and can help decipher whether your attention problems and other symptoms might be due to anxiety or depression. Or, they can diagnose you with ADHD in addition to anxiety and depression. (These conditions can often happen together.)

Look for a doctorate-level psychologist or someone with similar credentials who can assess you for ADHD, suggests Hammond. They can provide the comprehensive psychological testing you need.

What to Expect During an In-Person ADHD Evaluation

Here are some tips that can help you prepare for an in-person ADHD evaluation with a mental health provider:

  1. If possible, bring the results of the blood tests from your visit with your primary care physician.
  2. Set aside enough time. The initial psychological consultation will be 60 to 90 minutes if you book an in-person session, Hammond says.
  3. Have patience for the process. After that initial intake session, the mental health professional will schedule you for testing — which can be done in one long session or a few sessions. For example, some children take more time for testing, need more breaks or are more fatigued. They may need testing to be broken into multiple days, says Hammond.
  4. During the testing process, the mental health provider will note their observations and your answers on their report. The questionnaire will feature questions related to attention problems and personality testing, among other things. The provider will use all of these indicators to get a clear picture of whether you may have ADHD.
  5. After the clinician submits their evaluation and the testing concludes, it can take a few weeks to get the results about whether you should be diagnosed with ADHD or something else. “Many of the tests require additional time for scoring and writing up comprehensive reports, which is why many psychologists take a few weeks to schedule the feedback session,” says Hammond. This can vary based on the availability of the psychologists, but it’s generally about one to three weeks’ turnaround time for many psychological evaluations, she says.
  6. Then you’ll have a follow-up session about the findings. Your mental health provider will discuss the results and share treatment options. If a child was tested, the meeting would be with the parent or caregiver to go over all findings and treatment recommendations based on the psychological evaluation report results.

Getting an ADHD Diagnosis Online

You can get an assessment and diagnosis through online companies that partner with psychologists and other mental health providers. Make sure you’re getting a quality assessment that’s evaluated by a doctorate-level psychologist.

ADHD Treatment After Diagnosis

Once you’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, you’ll want to talk with a mental health provider about treatment options. You’ll also want to let your primary care physician know of the diagnosis.

“Some people will need to be on medication, while others can benefit from individual and/or group therapy,” says Hammond. A mental health provider can help you learn how to make modifications and accommodations in your professional and personal life as well as talk through your day-to-day challenges.

If you don’t have ADHD, you should still consider setting aside time to talk to a professional who can help you work through the symptoms and challenges you’re facing.

The Bottom Line:

Your primary care physician or a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist or a neuropsychologist can all diagnose ADHD. Some of them won’t do a comprehensive intake questionnaire. Getting a true ADHD diagnosis will ideally be done by a mental health expert who is following a formal evaluation process.

ADHD Online offers an online assessment for ADHD in all 50 states. We work with a network of doctorate-level psychologists to evaluate all assessments and provide a diagnosis if appropriate.

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