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ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is a developmental neuropsychiatric disorder that begins in childhood. Its main symptoms are problems with attention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. ADHD entails long-term difficulties in managing and controlling one’s actions. “Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” doesn’t just mean an inability to concentrate.

It is normal to experience these symptoms occasionally. In ADHD they are frequent, long-term and impair functional capacity. Symptoms may also include problems with executive function and trouble controlling emotions and behaviour.

ADHD does not begin in adolescence or adulthood, and the diagnosis of ADHD requires the disrupting symptoms to have started in early childhood. If the symptoms appear in adolescence or adulthood, they are likely to be caused by something else. The disorder occurs in about 2–4% of adults.

When should you be examined?

Diagnosing developmental neuropsychiatric disorders in adults is challenging. Features of these disorders occur in many people, but making a diagnosis requires confirmation of symptom clusters and diagnostic criteria.

Testing is only needed if you’re currently experiencing clear deficiencies in your functional capacity that influence various areas of your life, you’ve been experiencing them for a long time, and they can’t be better explained by another cause.

Before seeking to get tested, you should think about why you’re suspecting a developmental disorder right now and whether there are any other possible explanations for your current challenges.

Just wanting to improve your self-understanding isn’t grounds for further investigations.

Mild neuropsychiatric symptoms don’t necessarily require a diagnosis if functional capacity is good, if treatment is not needed or if self-care is sufficient.

If you suspect you may have developmental attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the condition was not diagnosed in childhood, then it might be a good idea to talk with your parents before seeking treatment. They can tell you what kinds of problems you experienced in childhood that might be explained with ADHD. Together you can start collecting some of the preliminary information that will be required for an examination.

FSHS psychiatrist / 30 April 2024