New ADHD guidelines enable better treatment and support for people with ADHD

New Australian guidelines for the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have recently been released. This is a significant development which will lead to better identification, diagnosis, treatment and support for people with ADHD across the country.

The Australian Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guideline for ADHD, developed by the Australian ADHD Professionals Association (AADPA), provides scientific evidence and advice for the identification, diagnosis, treatment and support for people with ADHD. These guidelines containing 111 recommendations have been two years in the making, involving extensive collaborations among clinicians, researchers and people with lived experience.

Why are these new guidelines important?

ADHD is the most common neurodevelopmental disorder, affecting more than 1 million Australians – 6-8% of Australian children and 3-5% of Australian adults have ADHD. Common symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity, which can impact all aspects of a person’s life. As a lifelong condition, ADHD has a deep impact on people living with the disorder, as well as those around them.

Before this, Australian clinicians did not have any ADHD guidelines to refer to. It has always been complicated to identify the possibility of a diagnosis and unclear on how to provide support. As a result, many people with ADHD fail to get identified and receive adequate treatment and care throughout the course of their lives.

These clinical guidelines will have a profound impact on the way people with ADHD are identified, diagnosed, treated and supported. The guidelines have been developed with a focus on everyday functioning and quality of life based on age, gender, culture, setting and geography. They will reduce the time taken to obtain a correct diagnosis and improve access to early interventions and management strategies. People with ADHD will be able to receive appropriate lifetime support, and therefore experience better quality of life and health outcomes.

The guidelines provide much-needed directions for clinicians and anyone involved in supporting people with ADHD, including GPs, paediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, teachers, employers and families.  

Screening, identification and diagnosis

The guidelines highlight the importance of screening for ADHD in higher risk groups. This will help with early identification, enabling people with ADHD to receive proper support.

Groups at higher risk of having ADHD include:

  • People with other neurodevelopmental conditions
  • People with mental health conditions
  • People with some medical conditions
  • People in prison
  • People using addiction services
  • Children and adolescents in out-of-home care

It has also been noted that girls and women with ADHD may be at risk of under-identification, due to the gap in existing knowledge about how ADHD presents in girls and women. Many girls and women are currently being misdiagnosed as having depression or anxiety, or dismissed as being disorganised or lazy.

People at higher risk of ADHD who are displaying symptoms which continue despite treatment should be screened for ADHD. If they screen positive, their clinician should arrange for them to undergo a diagnostic assessment.

Treatment, care and support

The guidelines detail the importance of access to multimodal treatments including medication and non-medication (psychological) treatments.

According to a recent study, prescriptions for ADHD medications in Australia doubled from 2013 to 2020. This is due to an increased awareness of ADHD in Australia. While it’s great that more people are getting the help they need, ADHD treatment goes beyond just medication.

Medication interventions may be used to reduce core ADHD symptoms, while non-medication interventions help to minimise the daily impact of these symptoms and associated difficulties, therefore improving broader aspects of functioning.

Non-medication treatments include:

  • Lifestyle changes (e.g. healthy activity levels and sleep patterns)
  • Parent/family training for children and adolescents
  • Cognitive-behavioural interventions for adolescents and adults
  • ADHD coaching for adolescents and adults

The guidelines recommend that people diagnosed with ADHD should be provided with comprehensive information about ADHD and its symptoms, as well as their personal strengths, and their treatment and support options. They should be taught how to minimise symptoms and maximise their strengths.

How to get your screening, diagnosis and treatment

Getting diagnosed as soon as possible will lead to a better life trajectory for more children and adults. However, for many people, getting their diagnosis and treatment can be a long process due to a shortage of properly trained clinicians.

The guidelines emphasise the importance of working with qualified professionals trained in ADHD, as this is fundamental to receiving an accurate diagnosis, treatment plan and lifelong support.

New Vision Psychology provides ADHD diagnosis and treatment with highly experienced psychologists, in alignment with the new ADHD guidelines.

For more information about what’s involved in ADHD diagnosis, or to book an ADHD screening or diagnosis, call us at 1300 001 778.

Need support with an ADHD screening or diagnosis?

New Vision Psychology can help.