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How Is ADHD Diagnosed In Adults And What Are The Main Symptoms?

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ADHD diagnosed

Suppose you have impulsive behavior or difficulties with paying attention. In that case, you might suffer from Adult attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a mental disorder that can lead to many problems in everyday activities. 

This condition usually appears in childhood, but some people do not get tested as children for a number of reasons and are diagnosed as adults. 

It might be a surprise, but 4.4% of adult Americans are diagnosed as adults and have ADHD. (1

It should not be left untreated, as it may cause a lot of problems in your career, relationship, and overall health, so it is very important to make a diagnosis on time. In this article, you will get to know how can ADHD can be diagnosed if you are an adult. 

Diagnosis Of ADHD In Adults 

ADHD diagnosis in adults can be difficult as the symptoms are usually very similar to those of anxiety or mood swings. Many adults who already have some anxiety issues or suffer from depression may also have ADHD. 

Some studies have shown that adults in the United States who have symptoms of ADHD, had this condition in childhood but missed a diagnosis. (2)

The question that specialist always asks is whether ADHD appears in childhood or adults with ADHD are simply not diagnosed as children? The research has shown mixed results, and some researchers have stated that this condition may appear in adulthood, while others say it was overlooked at a younger age. (3) (4)

Can A Primary Care Physician Diagnose ADHD?

Primary care physicians can diagnose this condition can be diagnosed by any family doctor or a licensed phycologist or neurologist, or internist. 

The diagnosis is a professional one, and it is one as simple as having a blood test, but it will be based on an evaluation of your medical history and your symptoms. To have an ADHD and get evaluated for ADHD,  you must have at least five of the following symptoms that influence your daily activities, so you will have problems completing them: 

  • disorganization 
  • problems with starting tasks and projects
  • problems with time management
  • not being able to focus on tasks for longer periods 
  • having chaotic surroundings or life circumstances
  • losing objects and forgetting deadlines or appointments
  • reacting impulsively 
  • feeling stressed out with everyday activities
  • becoming frustrated easily
  • restlessness 
  • misusing substances

When having some of these problems, you should consult a health professional and he will bring some balance to your life. 

Healthcare professionals consult the guidelines in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), to make a diagnosis of ADHD. (5)

They place the most common symptoms in 2 categories: 

  •  inattention 
  • hyperactivity and compulsivity 

Each of these categories has a different list of symptoms, and when children are diagnosed, they must have 6 or more symptoms, while adults need at least 5 to be diagnosed with ADHD.

Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-5)

If you have some of the symptoms stated above, you should consider taking the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS-5). This is a questionnaire that can help adults who were not diagnosed with ADHD, but it doesn’t replace an official diagnosis from a doctor or mental health professional. This is just an alarm that you should consult a health professional.

The test contains the following 6 questions, and you should answer with “never,” “rarely,” “sometimes,” “often,” or “very often.”

  1. How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people are saying to you, even when they’re speaking to you directly?
  2. How often do you leave your seat in meetings or other situations in which you’re expected to remain seated?
  3. How often do you have difficulty unwinding and relaxing when you have time to yourself?
  4. When you’re in a conversation, how often do you find yourself finishing the sentences of the people you’re talking to before they can finish them themselves?
  5. How often do you put things off until the last minute?
  6. How often do you depend on others to keep your life in order and attend to details?

If you are an adult and want to make a self–test diagnosis, you can try some other tests as follows: 

1. The female ADHD test 

Most of the studies confirm that ADHD is a hereditary disease and can occur in both men and women. In fact, the number of women with ADHD is constantly on the rise, and if you are a woman, you can take the free ADHD test and share your results with your health provider. (6

2. Inattentive ADHD test 

Inattentive attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD) is a subtype of ADHD, and this test is specifically designed for diagnosis of it. People who have this subtype of ADHD, have problems with paying attention to details and forget routine chores, and it can be treated with medications combined with behavioral therapy. 

Still, a more accurate diagnosis can be made only clinically and by a licensed mental health practitioner. 

You can take the test before seeking medical help. 

3. Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria Test

Rejection-sensitive dysphoria (RSD) is an emotional response with high intensity. It is a very painful reaction, and it occurs when you feel that others reject you because you make them disappointed and when you failed to finish your goal and didn’t attain your expectations. 

It is very common for people with ADHD to have this symptom and feel rejected, although this might not be the case. 

You can screen yourself and take the test here if you have concerns about having this strong emotional response. 

Still, clinical evaluation is needed to make an accurate diagnosis. 

Besides these tests, health professionals will take into consideration several other factors to diagnose your ADHD:

  • Psychological tests
  • Meetings with relatives, teachers, or parents 
  • Personal monitoring of the child or the adult concerned
  • A CT scan or MRI to look for brain abnormalities 
  • Test your hearing and vision 
  • Make blood test to check the lead levels 

How ADHD Is Different From Anxiety? 

ADHD is slightly different from anxiety, and the symptoms may differ from those of anxiety. 

From one side, anxiety symptoms include nervousness and fear, while ADHD symptoms include problems with focus and concentration. 

Some anxiety symptoms may also include some physical symptoms:

  • Palpitations 
  • Sweaty palms
  • Migraines
  • Frequent urination 
  •  Teeth grinding 
  • Problems with digestions
  • Muscles spasms
  • Fatigue 

In some cases, though, they can be very similar, and it may be difficult to differentiate them. 

To be more precise, anxiety disorder is a mental illness where you feel nervous, panic, have fear, and feel distressed or uneasy, and if the symptoms are severe, it can affect your work, school activities, and relationships. 

ADHD symptoms include: 

  • Impulsiveness
  • Hyperactivity 
  • Problems with organizing and completing tasks
  • Inattention 
  • Poor short memory 
  • Poor listening skills 
  • You get easily distracted

If you want easily to differentiate the symptoms, you may ask yourself, your child, or a relative the following questions: 

  • Is your child a worrier? Ask your child if they have worries that will not go away regardless of what they do. Ask your child if fears make it hard for them to do what they want.
  • Is your child shy?
  • Ask your child if there are things that make them very scared when they think about them.
  • Is your child anxious about going to school, or do they even feel homesick at school?
  • Does your child become anxious or irritated if they have to leave the house?
  • Is there a family history of anxiety?
  • Does either parent suffer from anxiety? 

Based on the answers, you will be able to see whether you, your partner, or your child has anxiety or ADHD symptoms. If the anxiety symptoms are severe and anxiety runs in the family, then it is very likely that you should be treated for anxiety symptoms. 

If the anxiety symptoms are mild, then ADHD treatment should be considered.  

ADHD Paralysis Is A Real ADHD Experience

ADHD paralysis is an experience for people who have ADHD and it is not a diagnosis. In fact, this paralysis occurs as a result of the impaired executive function – the self-regulating management system of the brain. 

When you have ADHD paralysis, you have the feeling of being overwhelmed by too many tasks or too much information. It can be an everyday experience for people with ADHD and they will find it challenging to start with an assignment, task, or project because they find it to be very overwhelming and apprehensive. 

It may sometimes overlap with depression as people with depression also have problems with completing everyday activities and enjoyment, but they are different because people with ADHD can usually do things that they find interesting, while people with depression find it difficult to be engaged in any kind of activities. 

ADHD Paralysis Symptoms in Adults

 Symptoms of ADHD paralysis depend on the individual, but in general, people will experience the following:

  • People with ADHD paralysis wouldn’t know how to start a task or a work assignment
  • They overanalyze and think of many ways how to resolve a problem
  • Feel anxious and lack self-esteem before starting a task or an assignment or a project
  • Overthink or overanalyze many different solutions to a problem

How to treat ADHD paralysis?

To prevent this condition, you can:

  • Keep a planner to manage your activities
  • Stop overthinking and trust your first instinct when resolving a problem 
  • Avoid digital stimulation and spending too much time in front of screens
  • Speak With a Licensed ADHD Healthcare Provider

Is ADHD A Real Health Condition?

Although there is so much controversy linked to ADHD in psychiatry, there are many convincing studies and clinical trials that show that ADHD is a real mental disorder and should be treated. 

This mental disorder is caused by many factors, both hereditary and environmental. 

It is usually treated with stimulant medications and psychological counseling.