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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Seeking Help/Possible Diagnosis

09/28/2010

Question:

To Whom It May Concern: I am a 24 year old college student and will be finishing my Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy in December. It was recently suggested to me by my professor, who has significant clinical experience in school-based practice working as an occupational therapist that I demonstrate many behaviors related to ADHD. She recommended that I look into getting tested for this condition.

After doing my research, I realized that the information I was finding seemed so relevant to me and my academic and social histories. I was shocked when reading the information and cannot believe this concern was never brought to my attention before- as it seemingly fits my behaviors. At my university, there is a five month waiting period to be tested for ADHD so I was referred to vocational rehab services. When I contacted voc. rehab, they also said they could not assist me because of my upcoming graduation and there was not enough time for me to be assessed properly.

My question is, where do I turn to get tested for ADHD? Can I make an appointment with my primary caregiver whom is a part of the health-alliance at UC? Would I then be referred somewhere else? My concern is also cost. I have health insurance, but if making an appointment with my primary caregiver, would my visit be charged as a regular office visit? Or would there be different costs in regards to testing and/or diagnosis, as well as interpretation of results? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated as I am anxious to find out if this is what has been making life so challenging at times throughout my past 24 years. Thank you.

Answer:

Contrary to popular belief, there is no "test" for ADHD at this time. Although differences between patients with ADHD and normal controls can be demonstrated unequivocally on group averages in brain imaging, brain electrical activity, neuropsychological testing, and genetics, the variability from one person to another precludes using any of these as a diagnostic test for individual cases at our current state of knowledge.

The diagnosis is made by history, according to 5 criteria found in DSM-IV, the official diagnostic and statistical manual. One of the 5 criteria is a symptom count on 2 lists of 9 possible symptoms each. Another is that the symptoms are not better explained by another disorder, such as depression, bipolar, anxiety, or psychosis. If you take along collateral info, such as the observations of your professor and old report cards from elementary school, any mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, psychiatric social worker, psychiatric nurse) should be able to make the diagnosis. Many pediatricians and family practitioners have experience making the diagnosis. By the way, student mental health services at most universities are also used to this.

Forget "testing" and get an evaluation from a good professional experienced with ADHD.

Your story is not unusual: Bright people are often able to get through early schooling despite attention problems but run into a glass wall as they move into activities where they have to take more responsibility for self-organization. Parents of children with ADHD often come to a realization from learning about their child's problem that they also have the same thing.

If the diagnosis is confirmed, there are various interventions available, and you can learn more about these from the ChADD website (Children and Adults with ADD) and from the handbook A Family's Guide to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Handbooks in Health Care Co., Newtown, PA, 2004, http://www.hhcbooks.com/   

ADHD is a chronic disorder that you can learn to live with and cope with and compensate for.

For more information:

Go to the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder health topic, where you can:

Response by:

L Eugene Arnold, MD, MEd L Eugene Arnold, MD, MEd
Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University