You know that feeling you sometimes get? You come home and put your keys down and 2 seconds later you have no idea where you left them?
Or you walk into a room but you can’t remember why you even went there in the first place?
Or maybe you planned a double appointment because you forgot all about the first one?
Well, that’s pretty much what ADHD is like. Except it’s not “sometimes”. It’s 24/7.
Ok, maybe not 24/7.
People with ADHD don’t have any of these issues when they’re asleep. If they’re asleep that is as.
I say “if” because Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPD) is very common among people with ADHD as well.
Great for dancers going to festivals, not so great for people that have 9-5 jobs and need to be up early in the morning.
But no, if one of these things happens to you pretty regularly you probably don’t have ADHD.
And no, if you have days where this happens to you 4 or 5 times, you probably don’t have ADHD either. That is actually quite common and a lot of people have that.
There is no need to start linking any of these things to ADHD until you have them every day, all day. And even then you might not have ADHD. You may just be forgetful.
They’re not conclusive but they will give you an indication.
Most likely, if you take one of these tests, the test will confirm something you already know, you don’t have ADHD.
After all, despite the impression you might sometimes get from the media, only a small percentage of the population has ADHD. Your chances of being outside of this group are much bigger than your chances of being part of it.
Sorry, we’re elitists like that 😉
Granted, if you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering whether you have ADHD (or you are somebody who knows me and wonders why I act like such a random idiot at times in which case this is not relevant 😉 ) so your chance of scoring more toward the AD(H)D side of the test is slightly higher.
If you’re in that group, keep in mind the tests are not conclusive. They just give an indication.
A diagnosis is part of a longer process that involves:
- Interviews with the parents, relatives, teachers, or other adults
- a trained specialist watching the child or adult
- Questionnaires or rating scales that measure symptoms of ADHD
- Psychological tests
To give you an example, I’ll run you through my own diagnoses (in the Netherlands).
*** warning, I went on a bit of a tangent and rather than keeping it brief I, kinda lengthily, ran through most of the process, Feel free to scan if you’re easily distracted ***
First, I did an online test.
Mind you, I didn’t do it to see if I had ADHD. I did it because a friend was annoying the hell out of me by always saying I had ADHD (he did for sure).
So I decided to take the test and to proof, once and for all, that I didn’t have ADHD, I was just energetic. (I’d link the test but A – it was in dutch, and B – they’ve since replaced it with a different test).
As it turned out, the test had 3 outcomes (I did the test several times, purposely giving different answers, to see if it only had one outcome or more 🙂 ).
The first outcome was along the lines of:
“Nothing to see here, move along. If you want to know more about ADHD read recommended resources.”
The second outcome was a bit more open to the possibility and said something like:
“You most likely don’t have ADHD. But, if you want to be 100% sure make an appointment with your GP.”
Now I didn’t get either of those when I answered the questions honestly. Instead, my outcome said something like:
“It’s likely you have ADHD. Don’t call us, we’ll call you”
And call they did.
Within 24 hours, a friendly lady called me to do a 15-minute phone interview.
Given that I was at my mom’s place I decided to go upstairs so I could do the call in a nice quiet room, rather than in the living room. Too many distractions there.
At this point, I was sure that the tests results were wrong and this interview would just confirm that.
But, I had 15 minutes to spare anyway so why not go through the interview and be certain the test results were wrong.
So I went ahead and had a lovely chat with the friendly lady on the other side of the line.
At the end of the call, she explained that it was procedure to go over the interview with another colleague before saying anything.
Fine by me, I didn’t have ADHD anyway. That was something I was sure of. She then told me that it usually takes them about 15 minutes to discuss it and that she would call me back afterward.
Sounded fair to me.
I walked down the stairs again and started to tell mom about the call I just had when the phone rang again.
Odd, I usually don’t get that many calls. Most people know it’s much easier to reach me through messages.
Turns out that discussing my interview took more like 15 seconds than 15 minutes and they wanted me to come in for an in-person interview.
I’ll admit, at this point I was a bit confused. After all, surely I didn’t have ADHD so why did they want me to come in?
But, better safe than sorry, so we made an appointment.
By now I started to get a bit more curious. All I knew about ADHD at that time was the annoying kid next door when I grew up. He never stopped screaming and was always throwing tantrums. That definitely wasn’t me.
So why would they think I could have ADHD after all?
Luckily the web is full of information and Google is your friend (mine anyway) so I went ahead and started reading.
As I worked my way through website after website there were things I could identify with:
- Often abandoning projects before they’re done
- starting studies and not finishing (most of) them
- getting distracted even when people are having a 1-1 conversation with you
- misplacing things
- forgetting about important appointments
- forgetting what you were going to say in the middle of …
A yellow truck!!
That reminds me, I have to go to the gym!
Wait.. uhmm.. , right… I was saying something… What were we talking about again?
Never mind. Probably wasn’t important.
But also things like being able to focus very intently on things that did interest me.
At times, the focus is so strong that people with ADHD become oblivious to the world around them. Up to the point where your reading while the bell rings in school, everybody leaves the class and you don’t notice a thing until the teacher taps on your shoulder to tell you that recess is almost over and you need to get to your next class.
They even came up with a name for that, hyperfocus.
Still, everything I read seemed more like a description of my father than of me. And who cares that ADHD is hereditary.
So, I was still sure they were wrong and I didn’t have ADHD.
It was with that feeling, and newfound knowledge, that I went for the in-person interview.
Another lady was waiting for me and I started to wonder if somehow only women were allowed to do be part of the diagnosis process and how that could not possibly be true as that would be really strange, not to mention illegal. Yes, I can be random at times.
And, in case you’re wondering… Obviously, they don’t just work with female doctors. It was something called “coincidence”.
That said, in the entire process (which lasted over a year for me, but more about that in another post) I only ran into one male psychiatrist.
Meanwhile, a friend of mine went through the same process only encountered 1 female psychiatrist. Funny how coincidences work (told you I could be random).
This time, rather than an intern that did the phone call, it was an “actual” doctor (psychiatrist) who picked me up from the waiting area to do do the interview.
Before we began she offered me coffee or tea (coffee please) and actually started with some chitchat about coffee.
Did I like coffee? Yes! I love it! (some things never change)
When did I start drinking coffee? Not sure, I don’t remember. As a kid is all I remember.
Did I drink a lot of coffee? No idea, what’s “a lot”?,
After that the interview started and we moved on to questions about focus, restlessness and… uhmm.. a lot more.
The interview took an hour, but I by the end of it I couldn’t remember half of it. Maybe she was onto something with this focus thing.
She gave me some tests to do at home and told me to drop them off again in 2 days.
Apparently saying: “Do them and send them in when you’re done.” was not very successful with their patients.
As the tests were rarely filled out and handed in when they said that, they opted for this instead. A clear deadline with an actionable point.
And I did what she said.
I actually did it all the same day because… Well, I don’t know. I guess I wanted to proof they were wrong and I didn’t have ADHD. I was so not that annoying kid from next door.
Oh, and she casually mentioned that yes, 20 cups of coffee a day is a lot. Too much even and I should really try to cut down a bit.
But she also said it was quite common among people with ADHD to drink a lot of coffee before they were diagnosed as it’s a form of self-medication.
Hmmm, maybe she didn’t know what she was talking about after all.
So by now I’ve done an online test, a phone interview, an in-person interview and some more tests. And “they” tell me that it’s likely I have ADHD. Naturally, by this time I start to think “what if”.
Mind you, she only said “likely” so, there was still a chance that I was right after all and they were wrong. I mean, how could they possibly know better than me, right? And yes, can you say “denial”.
I mean, how could they possibly know better than me, right? And yes, can you say “denial”.
A new appointment was made to discuss the test results and they took the opportunity to do a second interview as well.
So a test, a phone interview, a regular interview, more tests and another interview. Either they are really thorough or they are just indecisive. Let’s hope it’s the first one.
They decide, again, that it’s likely I have ADHD.
And because it’s likely they want to interview some people that have known me all my life. Well, that’s easy, that only leaves my mom.
Over to mom again it is. She’s deaf, so calling is a bit.. uhmm.. impossible. Or rather, at this point in her life, she could hear about 25% of all sounds, on one side, with a hearing aid.
So, maybe not “deaf” deaf but calling still wasn’t an option. Not a viable one anyway.
We have coffee (duh!), check our schedules and make another appointment.
And btw, if you made it to this point you probably don’t have ADHD. Or, if this is the 11th post about ADHD you’ve read in a row, you might be
Or, if this is the 11th post about ADHD you’ve read in a row, you might be hyperfocusing and it may be a good idea to make an appointment with your GP. The results from the tests above should give you an indication.
So off we go for the next appointment.
By now my mom has already been asked to fill out some tests as well, answering questions about me before I turned 12 so they can have a look at that information as well.
This time, the interview takes about 1.5 hours.
Part of it is spent asking my mom questions and the other part was spent asking me more questions.
Some a bit more intimate than I felt comfortable discussing in the presence of mom.
But then, sending her out and having her sit outside alone, waiting for me to finish the interview, seemed rude.
After all, she was there to help me. So that wasn’t an option anymore, even though it was offered as one before my part of the interview started.
Ah well, too late now.
Anyway, another interview over and I get (surprise, surprise) informed I likely have ADHD. But, the doctor is going to discuss it all with another doctor first before saying anything conclusive.
That settles it, they’re just indecisive!
The next day there is another phone call. My doctor (yes, I’ve gone to calling her my doctor) calls to tell me that they’ve decided I have ADHD.
Wow, they can decide after all. Apparently, they were just thorough. Time to stop denying and see how I can move forward.
So why did I write all of this?
Honestly, mainly because I got distracted when I was writing.
I could have just said “there is more to the diagnosis than a test”as I had planned to do. Because that’s all I wanted to make clear before writing more about ADHD.
Instead, this is now going to turn into a series of posts. Or at least 2. Time will tell.
But there you have it, an insight into the process involved with diagnosis.
So rather than telling you more about ADHD, like I intended to do with this post, I’m going to leave it here for now.
I’ll write more about ADHD in the next post.
And if you don’t know XKCD yet (cartoon above), go there now for your dose of smart humor.
Just check back from time to time to see if it’s up. Or subscribe to my newsletter which serves absolutely no purpose but to inform people about new posts 🙂
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Get some that are available under Creative Commons licenses (and provide the proper attribution), make your own (I was too lazy) or buy them from a stock agency (yes, that costs money).