Diagnosis of ADHD
Beyond symptoms, one needs to look at the context in which symptoms are present and their consistency across environments. For a diagnosis of ADHD behavioral signs and inattention must be present in at least two settings that would include home, school, work, and social situations. A child may have trouble focusing on specific tasks such as sitting still during instruction or completing school work such a symptoms typically worsen when sustained effort is required. Individuals may excel in other areas such as playing games, including video games, as new information and continual feedback reinforces attention. Symptoms appear to be most common during elementary school and impacts 3% to 7% of school aged children. If one has the ability to successfully maintain focus in multiple environments it begins to negate the possibility that ADHD is present and that symptoms are more likely to indicate another issue. To correctly assess for ADHD look at symptoms, the context in which they present and verify if they are not a result of emotional issues such as depression and anxiety.
Diagnosis made upon the presence of symptoms without consideration of other variables can lead to treatment interventions that are ineffective and may create other challenges as well. Lack of confidence and poor self esteem are often reported by individuals that have been incorrectly diagnosed with ADHD. Improvement with medication is used by some to confirm an ADHD diagnosis but again may be misleading as common stimulants, including caffeine, improve concentration and focus for most individuals. An individual with an incorrect diagnosis may use stimulant medication to function and then question their ability to do so without it. Many become dependent on medication in order to complete daily tasks. Often times, inattention and poor focus are often complaints of adults seeking treatment for alcohol and drug addiction then supported by their belief that they have ADHD. Adult diagnosis of ADHD can be problematic as supporting information may not be valid or available.
Effective treatment begins with accurate diagnosis and treatment options including medication and behavioral interventions to assist in symptom management. The treatment of choice is for ADHD is typically stimulant or specific non stimulant medication that assists effectively managing symptoms. Behavioral interventions may include:
Setting goals for task completion that is divided into smaller parts
Creating a environment that is engaging and without distractions
Allow for breaks that may entail physical activity
Utilize positive reinforcement to reward desired behavior
For those experiencing depression or anxiety, psychotherapy and/or non stimulant medication focused on identifying and addressing the causes will be most productive in eliminating symptoms that cause distress.
ADHD and similar conditions can be effectively managed with treatment and create productive, successful lives for those who previously suffered. Communicate with your doctor, psychiatrist, licensed therapist, or treatment center for an accurate assessment. Explore options to best manage your situation and remain aware of the difference between medication use, abuse, and dependence.
Dr. Grosso serves as Clinical Director for NSIGHT Psychology and Addiction in Newport Beach California.
If you or a loved one are struggling with the effects of ADHD in your life, please call Nsight Psychology & Addiction at (888) 557-8091 and one of our professional admissions staff will be available to help answer any questions you may have.
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