When talking about ADHD, the thing people say to me the most is that they are scared to approach their doctor to ask for an ADHD diagnosis as an adult. This is for a number of reasons. The top one is because imposter syndrome is absolutely huge with ADHD, you believe that you are just looking for an ‘excuse’ for your struggles and there’s also a big fear that you will go for diagnosis and be told you don’t have ADHD and then will just be ‘a rubbish adult’ and have to deal with that. Sometimes it feels better to not know. But I firmly believe it is worth every minute of fear and nerves to get the outcome of validation, understanding yourself, support from others and access to the right medication if that’s what you choose.

Close up of male hands on a desk holding a pen filling in some forms for a post on talking to your doctor about ADHD. Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

It is scary and how to approach your doctor about ADHD is one of the most asked questions I get, so I thought I’d write a bit of a tips post based on my own personal experience.

  1. Complete some online ADHD self assessments. There are a lot of free ones out there so don’t pay. This will give you an indication of which areas you are struggling in and offer some validation to help you gain confidence.
  2. Write down some of the symptoms that you can relate to, and how they affect you negatively. I have a post with a lot of signs of ADHD in Girls and Women which you might find helpful.
  3. Make an appointment, if you need to fill in an e-consult form, I ended up ticking the anxiety box as that was the closest option for me.
  4. Be prepared, if you are in England and choosing Psychiatry UK under the right to choose option (be aware that they do now have longer wait times, especially for titration, after lockdown has pushed so many to the brink) the GP will probably be cautious and want to check things out themselves so ask for an email address and you can send them the information on this page.
  5. Ask to be referred for an assessment, the GP may tell you that it sounds like depression or anxiety. If you have already been treated for these, you can use that as evidence that you have tried antidepressants/therapy but it hasn’t helped long term. As 60% of people with ADHD have a co-morbid condition, (a condition that exists alongside another) something like OCD, anxiety, depression, an eating disorder like binge eating disorder etc, it’s not an unreasonable suggestion but you can stress that treating these hasn’t worked in the past and you are trying to find the underlying cause. These are some articles that might be helpful, one about the differences between anxiety and ADHD and one talking about the link between anxiety, depression and ADHD which includes a self test for anxiety disorder.
  6. You may get told you have to be hyperactive, you can’t have ADHD as you have a good job or did well in school, that adults don’t get treated so there’s no point or that children grow out of it so you can’t have it. All these things are wrong and if you can, try to educate your GP but if you don’t feel strong enough, or don’t feel you can change their opinion, see step 8 and consider sending an email of complaint when you’re feeling strong enough.
  7. One thing to note is that it might take a very long time to get your assessment so don’t forget to ask how they can help support you in the meantime.
  8. If you get a very unsupportive doctor who doesn’t seem to listen to you, ask to end the appointment and ask to see a different one!

While you’re waiting, treat yourself as if you have ADHD. Research in whichever way you find easiest. Join some Facebook support groups, (I have one, just message me via my page for details) , read books/listen to audio books about ADHD, find some podcasts, watch videos, whatever works for you. Explore techniques on overcoming executive dysfuntion, ask your work or school/college/uni how they can help to support you. Be really kind to yourself.

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