So you think it’s ADHD, and you're wondering if you should get a diagnosis and how to go about it. We have drafted a piece to guide you from the very beginning.
If you would like some support as you read this blog, we highly recommend Speechify, a platform that translate the text to speech, and maybe you would like to read while you listen.
As I was diagnosed in 2015, I know first hand that the assessment process is not a straightforward one. Today, it is even more difficult due to the fact that there are not enough services carrying out assessments, and not enough trained professionals working in the area. The services that do exist have long waiting lists and the follow up support is not always available.
When you think about how the ADHD brain works, we experience overwhelm when things have too many steps and are not easy to complete .
Ironic how the process to find out if you have ADHD isn’t exactly suitable for ADHDers!!!
But I am here to suggest that you don’t let this put you off. There are many benefits to getting answers, and learning more about yourself.
Here is my top tip: try to focus on the positive outcome of experiencing the assessment process, as in discovering if you have ADHD or not, and it might just give you enough Dopamine to see the process through.
Keep reading for a step by step guide on how to decide if you want a diagnosis, book the assessment, prepare for the assessment and discover what to do next after you are diagnosed.
Step #1 - Seeking A Diagnosis
The uncertainty is real and the doubt is crippling. We may read about it online, but sometimes we are still not quite sure or maybe we don’t present with all the symptoms and we are worried that at the end of it all, we were wrong anyway!
The first step I recommend is to do some self assessments online. This will either help confirm any curiosity you have around ADHD, and work as back up or it will out your mind at ease. At the very least, you will know more about ADHD.
You can access our recommended self-assessment tools at the bottom of our 'What is ADHD' blog post by clicking the button to the right.
If you complete the questionnaires, and it is showing that you are likely to have ADHD, you can use results to support your concerns when meeting professionals to discuss the possibility of getting as assessment.
Having spoken to many who have embarked on this journey before you, I know that from time to time we can doubt our own concerns and evidence. The results in these self-assessments and your own individual concerns are enough evidence to go and investigate the possibility of ADHD.
Of course, it is very important to mention that if you decide you prefer not to get an official diagnosis, that is perfectly ok too. I know many ADHDers, due to financial reasons or personal values, never explored this option, and put their efforts into learning about themselves to improve their daily lives.
I say that getting diagnosed changed my life, however, it is important that you do what is right for you!
Step #2 - Getting on the Assessment List
Here are some of the people you might come across on this journey:
GPs will be able to provide you with a referral to a professional service carrying out assessments. It is important to note that GP’s are not specifically trained in ADHD.
Teachers are also not ADHD trained, but if your child is in school, they may be your first port of call while going through an educational psychologist.
Psychologists can only carry out assessments and not prescribe medication, but they may refer to a psychiatrist they work with.
Psychiatrists are trained and qualified to carry out assessments and/or manage medication.
Please note: many services will require you to have a referral from your GP, but there are some who will accept self referrals.
When reaching out to your GP, I always recommend doing some research yourself beforehand and having the information to give to them. Unfortunately, people are still experiencing some gaslighting, as the awareness and education of ADHD is not widespread, and you may need to advocate for yourself to receive a referral.
Please do not let this be a roadblock. It is just a roundabout, you may need to take a different route to get round the problem, if the assessment is something that you really want.
The list of services offering assessments varies often with the scope of waiting lists and funding changes . ADHD Ireland do a great job at keeping an up to date list here for you:
They also provide a really helpful support line that can give you access to a wealth of knowledge and support. No question is too small, obvious or silly. It’s usually run by Tricia who I personally know is an incredible individual! I would highly recommend reaching out to her.
Unfortunately the specific clinic I used for my diagnosis in 2015 is no longer running, but below is a list of professionals I work closely with or my clients have recommended them:
These provide diagnosis in other countries:
*I really recommend getting in touch with ADHD Care. Aswel as an assessment service, they have a prescribing service where they can deliver medication to anywhere in Europe.
Here are some top tips to think about when you are searching for/choosing a service to attend for your assessment:
They should be willing to answer any and every question you have.
Know what you are getting for your money.
Find out exactly what you’re paying for and what happens after.
Check the time frame i.e. waiting lists and duration of process.
Some clinics have over a years waitlist.
Confirm qualifications and methods of assessments.
Ensure you’re getting in front of someone that knows what they’re talking about!
Check what happens after.
Will you be given a report afterwards? Will this have a clear breakdown you could take to a GP or other medical professional in the future? It’s important you have a copy of your own report in case you move areas etc.
Will you be supported through the medication process? Do they give you results and leave you to figure it out? It’s important to know the next steps before you start the process.
Step #3 - ADHD Assessment Preparation
So you got on the waiting list. Congratulations!
Now here is a list of things that you can expect to experience during the assessment. You can expect to be:
Reflecting back on your childhood and challenges you faced.
Asked to give a detailed description of current challenges.
Complete practical exams.
Provide details to contact a parent/spouse/family member for an interview.
Provide copies of school reports if you have them.
The assessment process can be daunting as many ADHDers worry about their memory challenges, not having the correct language or not being able to describe things efficiently and how this will impact the outcome of their assessment. Depending on previous medical experience, you may be concerned about gaslighting and not being believed.
These concerns, coupled with the extensive process can cause overwhelm, which shuts the ADHD brain down. I highly recommend taking the time to document all that you know, so you have it to hand on the day, to help you stay on track.
To support you to prepare for the assessment, inspired by my work with ADHD clients, I have created an assessment prep form, which will help you to gather and document all the information you will need for your assessor. You can purchase this 30 page comprehensive document below.
Step #4 - What the Assessment Looks Like
The assessment can involve some of the following:
Clinical interview with yourself
Clinical interview with parent/partner.
Questionnaires or rating scales that measure symptoms of ADHD.
Questionnaires to be filled out by you/parent/partner/sibling/teachers etc.
Medical evaluations to rule out other physical conditions.
Psychological evaluations to assess mental health.
The assessment is going to dive deep into your life, the challenges you’ve faced and how you handle certain tasks. Your assessor will ask you a lot of questions in order to get the full picture, but remember they are not judging you. When answering, I would again speak from what you experience on your most challenging days.
The reason I have prompted this twice is because with ADHD we have memory challenges, and not everyday is a bad day. So when things are good, we can forget how negatively our ADHD impacts our daily lives. Also, the fluctuation between the level of challenges, can impact the way we see ourselves.
Below is a list of tools you may come across in relation to your assessment:
CAARS: Conners' Adult ADHD Rating Scales- Self-report
CAARS: Conners' Adult ADHD Rating Scales- Observer
Wender UTAH Rating Scale (WURS)
Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-IV (WAIS–IV)
Beck's Anxiety Inventory
Beck's Depression Inventory
Each specialist will differ in their approach. There are strict diagnostic criteria for ADHD diagnosis which draws the line of demarcation between ADHD and other conditions.
Step #5 - What Happens Next
So, if you get told that the assessor does not think you have ADHD, at least you have ruled it out, and won’t spend your life wondering. If you disagree, you can always get a second opinion.
I have often heard old school outdated professionals comment on how they agree ADHD is present, but they just don’t think it is ‘severe’ enough to warrant an official diagnosis. I would challenge this if you are looking for support to improve the situation of your life.
Give yourself the time to process the new information, and take into account the grief attached to receiving a diagnosis, especially in later life.
Go in search of supports that will help you to better understand ADHD, and yourself.
Remember: It is not a label, it's an explanation!
You finally have the missing piece of the puzzle. Now you know what type of brain you have, you can learn all about it, and start living your best life working alongside your brain, instead of against it.