ADHD is a condition commonly associated with children, in particular boys who display hyperactive traits at school.

However, not only can it affect adults, it’s also something that impacts women – and misconceptions around neurodivergency mean that many people struggle to receive a diagnosis and treatment.

The lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder presents differently in different people, with women more commonly experiencing ‘inattentive ADHD’ (and symptoms like daydreaming or forgetfulness) and men displaying ‘external’ symptoms such as fidgeting and hyperactivity.

As someone with ADHD gets older, they may find that these external symptoms die down but associated issues like impulsivity, poor concentration, and risk-taking become more severe, impacting work and personal relationships as a result.

For those who were not diagnosed as a child, it can be daunting to seek medical advice, especially if you’re worried about being dismissed or misdiagnosed.

Conversations around mental health issues and neurodivergency have no doubt broadened our understanding of adult ADHD, and although many still report delays and problems with NHS diagnosis, it’s still important to seek help if you’re struggling.

We want to demystify the process of getting suspected ADHD assessed and – if you are diagnosed – treated.

Armed with knowledge of how the system works, you should hopefully be going into appointments knowing exactly what to expect, without stress or fear.

ADHD diagnosis

If you suspect you have ADHD, the first port of call should be your GP, who will do a preliminary assessment before potentially referring you to a community mental health team.

They may then refer you on to an ADHD specialist neurobehavioural psychiatrist for further assessment.

Although GPs cannot formally diagnose the disorder, they will look at three things when deciding whether to make a referral:

  • you were not diagnosed with ADHD as a child, but your symptoms began during childhood and have been ongoing since
  • your symptoms cannot be explained by a mental health condition
  • your symptoms significantly affect your day-to-day life – for example, if you’re underachieving at work or find intimate relationships difficult

Waiting times may be long, which is why some who can afford it may choose to visit a private psychiatrist.

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