Adult ADHD Diagnosis: What’s Involved?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a chronic condition, with symptoms including struggling to pay attention, hyperactivity and difficulty controlling impulsive behaviours.

This is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood and often lasts into adulthood. However, it can sometimes be hard to get an adult diagnosis of ADHD, as many are unaware of how the symptoms present themselves.

In this article, we will delve into how ADHD is diagnosed in adults, looking at how to get diagnosed, what the condition actually is and how adults may present with the condition. 

Table of Contents

  • What is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)?
  • ADHD – How Does it Present in Adults?
  • What Causes ADHD?
    – Complications of ADHD
  • How to Get Diagnosed with ADHD as an Adult?
    – Testing & Diagnosing of Adult ADHD
  • Booking In Your Assessment

What is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)?

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that includes a combination of persistent problems, such as difficulty paying attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. In adults, this can lead to unstable relationships, difficulty performing in work or education and low self-esteem.

In most cases, symptoms of ADHD start in early childhood and continue into adulthood. These may be easier to identify when patients are younger, with symptoms including impulsiveness, restlessness and difficulty paying attention being easy to spot. In adulthood, symptoms may manifest differently. Treatment includes medications and counselling.

ADHD – How Does it Present in Adults?

The symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can be categorised into two types of behavioural problems –, difficulty concentrating and focusing, and hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

People with ADHD experience an ongoing pattern of the following types of symptoms:,

  • Inattention, or having difficulty paying attention; and/or 
  • hyperactivity, which means having too much energy; and 
  • impulsivity, such acting without thinking.

Inattention brings with it a number of challenges, including making careless mistakes or difficulty paying close attention to detail, being easily distracted by unrelated thoughts or being forgetful in daily activities.

Signs of hyperactivity and impulsivity may include; experiencing extreme restlessness, having difficulty sitting still for extended periods, talking excessively or interrupting others.

What Causes ADHD?

While the exact cause of ADHD is not fully understood, a number of combining factors are thought to be responsible.

The first of these is genetics, as in most cases, the disorder tends to run in families. Research has shown that someone with ADHD is likely to have a parent or sibling with the condition too. The genes inherited from your parents are a significant factor in developing ADHD; however, no one singular genetic fault is responsible, as the way this is inherited is complex.

The function and structure of the brain may also play a part in ADHD. People with the condition may have differences in their brain compared to someone without it, for example, studies have shown people with the condition have certain areas of the brain that are larger or smaller than usual.

An imbalance in the level of neurotransmitters in the brain has also been linked to ADHD.

Those at higher risk of ADHD include those with brain damage, those with epilepsy and those who were born prematurely.

Complications of ADHD

People with ADHD may also suffer from other psychological issues like mood and anxiety disorders or learning difficulties.

Repeated patterns of failures and frustrations due to ADHD can worsen conditions like depression. This could also be the same for anxiety disorders, which cause overwhelming worry and nervousness – the setbacks caused by ADHD can heighten these feelings.

ADHD has also been linked to unemployment, alcohol or substance abuse, unstable relationships, poor physical and mental health and poor self-image. It is therefore essential that adults with ADHD get diagnosed as soon as possible. A prompt diagnosis will enable proper treatment and management of the condition, therefore improving one’s quality of life. 

How to Get Diagnosed with ADHD As an Adult?

There is no single test for ADHD in adults, and diagnosing adults can be challenging because the list of symptoms used to diagnose children and teenagers may not also apply to adults.

Symptoms in adults may include underachieving at work or in education, difficulty making or keeping friends or difficulty in relationships with partners.

As part of your assessment, your psychologist will ask about your present symptoms, and in some cases, adults may be diagnosed if they have five or more symptoms of either impulsiveness or inattentiveness that are listed in the diagnostic criteria for children.

However, a diagnosis of ADHD in adults cannot be confirmed under current diagnostic guidelines unless your symptoms have been present from childhood. To see if this is the case, your psychologist may speak to family or teachers to gain a better picture.

Testing & Diagnosis of Adult ADHD in Australia

Your doctor will assess your symptoms and may refer you to a psychologist for an assessment if you are presenting with typical ADHD issues, such as trouble paying attention and restlessness. 

An ADHD psychologist will administer a series of diagnostic tools, which may include a behavioural rating scale or filling in a checklist that best describes your symptoms. Tests for conditions that often coexist with ADHD, such as depression or anxiety, may be carried out here too. The psychologist will check if the symptoms you are experiencing may be explained by another mental health condition and the extent to which they affect your day-to-day life.

Your psychologist will use your responses to formulate a diagnosis. After which, they will then review treatment options and assist with planning the appropriate course of medical and psychosocial help.

If you think that you may have symptoms of ADHD, get in touch with our team of psychologists for a screening session. In this 1-hour session, we will administer an ADHD screener and advise you if a formal assessment is necessary.

New Vision Psychology is a private practice based in Sydney’s CBD, with clinics in Martin Place, Castle Hill, Burwood, Chatswood and Hurstville. We have been diagnosing and treating ADHD for more than a decade. We are dedicated to your mental health journey and go the extra mile to provide the right fit for your specific needs.

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