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How is Adult ADHD Diagnosed and who can Make the Diagnosis?

written by: jamesj • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 10/18/2010

Adult ADHD is usually diagnosed when people find their children have the condition, since it is genetic in nature. Medical professionals may make the diagnosis of adult ADHD, but only a doctor can write prescriptions for drugs.

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    Discovering ADHD

    ADHD has been missed in many people over the years, and they do not find out they have ADHD until they are adults. Often they make the discovery when their children are diagnosed with the condition. Diagnosing adult ADHD is a relatively new thing in medical circles, but making the discovery is a relief to many adults. They are finally able to put a name on something that has bothered them for years to varying degrees.

    Often people who are now adults were able to compensate when they were children, and managed to get by without major problems. As life becomes more complicated as one grows, compensating becomes more difficult. Usually the symptoms do show up in children, but one can reach adulthood without showing severe symptoms.

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    Symptoms and causes

    Normally the symptoms of ADHD will show up in a child before he or she is seven years old. There are many degrees of the condition, and if it is very mild, it may not be obvious. It can get worse, and these are the situations adults sometimes find themselves in.

    The major symptoms of ADHD in adults are: difficulty focusing or hyperfocus; disorganizaiton and forgetfulness, impulsivity, emotional difficulties, restlessness or hyperactivity, Everyhone has some of these symptoms from time to time, but it is ADHD when it is consistent and causes problems with normal daily living.

    Psychologists believe ADHD is a genetic disorder passed down generation to generation. The idea of foods such as sugar, or strict parenting, have no medical basis for causing ADHD.

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    How diagnosis is made

    There are several aspects as to how adult ADHD is diagnosed and who can make the diagnosis. There are many checklists and surveys you may take to give you an idea of whether you have the condition. If you reach a certain score on one of those surveys, you may have ADHD, but the better barometer is thinking about how much trouble you may be having in various areas of life.

    Another consideration is where problems occur. The symptoms need to be present in more than one location, like both at work and at home. The symptoms also need to be causing significant problems on a consistent basis. Being forgetfull now and then is not likely ADHD, but when being forgetful is the norm, there might be a problem.

    A medical doctor, a psychologist, and in some cases a counselor or social worker, can make an ADHD diagnosis. Only a medical doctor may write a prescription for drugs however. If a psychologist makes the diagnosis, you may still have to see your regular doctor to get a prescription for medications.

    Medications are known to help in many cases. Some people are able to manage their symptoms in other ways. Others do not treat the condition, believing it to be a positive.

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