ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and it is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects both children and adults, impacting their ability to pay attention, control impulsive behaviours, and manage hyperactivity.
People with ADHD find their mind often wanders, making it challenging to pay attention to one thing for a long time; they may find it hard to concentrate on tasks, whether it’s schoolwork, chores, or even conversations.
They might also have difficulty controlling their impulses, which means they might act before thinking, interrupt others, or struggle with waiting their turn.
Additionally, some people with ADHD experience “hyperactivity.” Similar to having an energy level turned up high all the time, they may fidget a lot, have trouble sitting still, or feel the need to be constantly on the move.
ADHD is not something that a person can simply “grow out of” or control on their own. But with proper understanding, support, and sometimes medication, individuals with ADHD can learn to manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives. It’s essential to remember that everyone is different, and ADHD affects people in various ways. Understanding and empathy from others can go a long way in helping individuals with ADHD navigate their challenges and utilise their unique strengths. The first step to learning to manage ADHD is to get an accurate assessment.
There are three main types of ADHD, which are based on the predominant symptoms individuals experience. These types are:
- ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Presentation (ADHD-I):
- This type used to be referred to as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) in the past.
- People with ADHD-I have difficulties sustaining attention and focus, often making careless mistakes in school or work.
- They might have trouble organising tasks and activities, frequently losing things necessary for daily tasks.
- Following through with instructions can be challenging, and they may seem forgetful or easily distracted.
- ADHD Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation (ADHD-HI):
- Individuals with ADHD-HI are predominantly hyperactive and impulsive.
- They may be fidgety, restless, and have difficulty sitting still or engaging in quiet activities.
- Impulsiveness can lead to interrupting others, difficulty waiting for their turn, and making hasty decisions without thinking about the consequences.
- It’s important to note that some of these symptoms might be common in young children, but for ADHD-HI, they are more severe and persistent.
- ADHD Combined Presentation (ADHD-C):
- This type combines symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.
- Individuals with ADHD-C experience a combination of the symptoms mentioned in ADHD-I and ADHD-HI.
- They may struggle with attention, focus, restlessness, and impulsivity, leading to difficulties in various aspects of life, including school, work, and relationships.
It’s essential to understand that ADHD exists on a spectrum, and not every individual will experience the same set of symptoms. Additionally, the symptoms need to be severe enough to interfere with daily functioning and occur across different settings, such as home, school, or work, to meet the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. If someone suspects they or a loved one may have ADHD, it’s crucial to seek a professional assessment.
An ADHD assessment with a psychologist typically involves a comprehensive evaluation to determine whether an individual meets the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. The assessment process usually consists of several steps, which may include the following:
- Initial Interview: Our psychologist will conduct an initial interview with the individual (if an adult) or their parents/caregivers (if a child) to gather relevant background information. They will inquire about the individual’s developmental history, medical history, educational experiences, and current challenges. It’s also common for the psychologist to ask about the individual’s behaviour in different settings (e.g., home, school, work) to understand the scope of the difficulties.
- Behavioural Observation: Our psychologist may directly observe the individual’s behaviour in various contexts, such as at home, school, or in a clinical setting. This observation helps the psychologist better understand the individual’s behaviour, social interactions, and attentional patterns.
- Rating Scales and Questionnaires: Our psychologist may use standardised rating scales and questionnaires to gather information from the individual, their family members, teachers (if applicable), or other people involved in their life. These rating scales provide insights into the individual’s ADHD-related symptoms and the impact of these symptoms on their functioning.
- Cognitive Testing: Our psychologists may conduct cognitive assessments to evaluate the individual’s cognitive abilities, including attention, memory, and executive functions. This can help identify areas of strengths and weaknesses related to ADHD.
- Medical Examination: While psychologists cannot prescribe medication, they might recommend a medical examination by a physician or psychiatrist to rule out other medical conditions that could be contributing to the symptoms.
- Collateral Information: Our psychologist may request additional information from the individual’s school or work environment to gain a comprehensive understanding of the challenges faced by the individual in different settings.
- Criteria Assessment: Our psychologist will compare the individual’s symptoms and behaviours against the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5 or the most current version).
- Differential Diagnosis: It’s crucial for the psychologist to consider other potential explanations for the individual’s symptoms to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Some conditions, such as anxiety disorders or learning disabilities, can present with similar symptoms to ADHD.
- Feedback and Recommendations: Once the assessment is complete, our psychologist will provide feedback to the individual (or their parents/caregivers) and discuss the findings. If an ADHD diagnosis is made, the psychologist may recommend appropriate interventions, accommodations, and treatment options. These may include behavioural therapy, educational support, and, in some cases, medication management.
Each assessment is personalised to the individual’s unique circumstances and needs. The goal is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the individual’s challenges and strengths, leading to appropriate support and interventions.