What is the best way to know ADHD symptoms, versus some other condition?

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Answered by: Tanya, An Expert in the Understanding ADD and ADHD Category
It is sometimes difficult to determine if a child - or an adult for that matter - truly has ADD or ADHD, when we live in a society that is quick to diagnose the condition and prescribe medication for treatment. What is the best way to know ADHD symptoms, either for their child or themselves?

For parents who are suspicious that their children may have ADD or ADHD, they should do quite a bit of testing and evaluation with qualified individuals prior to moving on to the step of medication. In most cases, the parents much each - separately - conduct an evaluation of their own child, giving information about routines, behaviors, education, etc.

The child's teacher usually also conducts and completes an evaluation with their observations regarding the child's classroom behaviors and schoolwork. The school counselor will also often conduct and complete an evaluation after meeting with and speaking with the child personally. Once all of these individuals have conducted evaluations of their observations, the parent(s) will gather all of the information and take the child to a physician.

I wouldn't recommend that a parent take the child to a regular family physician for something as serious as an ADD or ADHD diagnosis, but at the very least to a pediatrician or pediatric behavioral therapist. If the pediatrician feels that he/she is not equipped to diagnose this condition, he/she will refer the family to someone who is more experienced in the field.

For an adult, what is the best way to know ADHD symptoms for themselves or someone who they care about? It is often more difficult, and there aren't as many outlets available to determine the condition (ie: parent evaluations, teacher evaluations, school counselor evaluations, etc.). Many adults have times during their lives where they lack focus or feel scatterbrained, but it is often a temporary and situational thing. It is often more than temporary or situational, however, when the adult has the inability to focus on one thing long enough to complete a task, or get necessary work done in a timely manner. They will also talk incessantly, often interrupting others as a result of the impulsiveness that they literally have no control over. This will often present problems in several different areas of their lives: work, home life, socially, etc. Many times in adults the condition goes undiagnosed for years because it is attributed to other factors (ie: the party has always been a "list maker," needing to make a list daily in order to accomplish certain tasks or goals by being able to mark them off somehow). There are also certain foods and beverages that can lessen the symptoms or ADD or ADHD in adults, and therefore mask its presence at times; as well as certain foods and beverages that can magnify symptoms, making lack of focus and impulsiveness seem overexaggerated and extreme. The adult with undiagnosed ADHD often has trouble fitting in socially with others, as the inability to control impulses such as interruption wear on friends and family after a time. When an adult suspects that they may have the condition, there are several self-evaluations that can be completed before visiting with a doctor.

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