Family Health Guide

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Adult ADHD: When to Talk to Your Doctor

Signs that a person should consider getting evaluated for ADHD include:

  • A history of academic or professional underachievement
  • Inconsistent work performance
  • Difficulty managing daily responsibilities, including finances
  • Difficulty with relationships due to forgetfulness and volatile temperament

As with children, the first step will be a thorough review of a patient’s medical records and a physical exam. Other physical conditions can mimic ADHD symptoms, so those will need to be ruled out. In adults, sleep apnea and medication side effects can also cause inattention and hyperactivity. Doctors will also want to exclude other mental conditions, like depression and bipolar disorder; however, these can also co-exist with ADHD. It’s easy for someone self-diagnosing via Google to confuse these conditions, but a skilled clinician should recognize the difference and treat accordingly.

You’ll be asked to self-evaluate using a checklist of symptoms. Some doctors use the DSM-IV (R) criteria, while others use several other rating scales. For example, you may given a list of questions such as “How often do you feel restless and fidgety” and be asked to select options ranging from “Never” to “Very often.”