Home Business Insights & Advice Understanding the ADHD diagnosis journey for adults

Understanding the ADHD diagnosis journey for adults

by Sarah Dunsby
27th May 24 10:19 am

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often associated with children, but it can persist into adulthood, affecting many aspects of daily life, including work, relationships, and overall well-being. For adults who suspect they may have ADHD, the journey to diagnosis can be a transformative experience. This article delves into the process of getting an ADHD assessment by psychiatrist and highlights the importance of specialised care.

Recognising the signs of adult ADHD

ADHD in adults can manifest in various ways, often differing from the more noticeable symptoms seen in children. Common signs include:

  • Inattention: Difficulty focusing on tasks, frequent daydreaming, and being easily distracted.
  • Hyperactivity: Restlessness, an inability to stay still, and a constant need to be active.
  • Impulsivity: Making hasty decisions without considering consequences, interrupting others, and difficulty waiting for one’s turn.

These symptoms can lead to challenges in professional settings, such as missed deadlines and disorganisation, and in personal relationships, where forgetfulness and impulsive behavior can strain interactions.

The importance of professional assessment

Seeking a professional ADHD assessment by a psychiatrist is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Self-diagnosis can often lead to misunderstandings and ineffective coping strategies. Psychiatrists specializing in ADHD have the expertise to distinguish ADHD from other conditions with similar symptoms, such as anxiety or depression.

Dr Stefan Ivantu, Private Consultant Psychiatrist and ADHD Specialist in London advised “that over 60% of those diagnosed during adult life may present with one or more associated conditions.” Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialise in mental health, including ADHD and co-existing conditions. They can also differentiate ADHD from other conditions that may share some similar symptoms.

Steps in the ADHD assessment process

The process of diagnosing ADHD in adults involves several key steps:

1. Initial consultation

The journey begins with an initial consultation with a psychiatrist. During this meeting, the psychiatrist will discuss the patient’s medical history, symptoms, and the impact these symptoms have on daily life. This comprehensive discussion helps the psychiatrist understand the patient’s concerns and the context of their experiences.

2. Detailed diagnostic evaluation

A thorough diagnostic evaluation follows the initial consultation. This assessment may include:

  • Clinical Interviews: In-depth discussions to explore the patient’s history, behavior patterns, and symptom severity.
  • Questionnaires and Rating Scales: Standardized tools that assess ADHD symptoms and their impact on various aspects of life.
  • Collateral Information: Input from family members, friends, or colleagues who can provide additional perspectives on the patient’s behavior and challenges.

3. Differential diagnosis

ADHD symptoms can overlap with other mental health conditions. The psychiatrist will conduct a differential diagnosis to rule out other potential causes of the symptoms. This step ensures that the diagnosis is accurate and that the treatment plan addresses the right condition.

4. Comprehensive feedback

After completing the assessment, the psychiatrist will provide comprehensive feedback. This session includes a detailed explanation of the findings, a confirmed diagnosis if applicable, and a discussion of the next steps. Patients have the opportunity to ask questions and gain a clear understanding of their diagnosis and treatment options.

Treatment and management of adult ADHD

Once diagnosed, adults with ADHD can benefit from a tailored treatment plan that addresses their specific needs. Treatment typically involves a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle adjustments.


Medication can be a crucial part of managing ADHD symptoms. Psychiatrists may prescribe stimulants, such as methylphenidate or amphetamines, or non-stimulants, such as atomoxetine. These medications help improve focus, reduce impulsivity, and enhance overall functioning.


Psychological therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), are effective in helping adults with ADHD develop coping strategies. CBT focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors, improving organizational skills, and managing time more effectively.

Lifestyle adjustments

Incorporating certain lifestyle changes can significantly improve the quality of life for adults with ADHD. These may include:

  • Structured Routines: Creating and sticking to a daily schedule to enhance organization and reduce forgetfulness.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity to boost mood, energy levels, and overall mental health.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices such as meditation and deep breathing to reduce stress and improve concentration.

The role of an ADHD specialist

Choosing an ADHD specialist for the assessment and treatment process is essential for comprehensive care. Specialists in ADHD bring a wealth of experience and knowledge, offering patients access to the latest research, treatment modalities, and support systems.

Expertise in adult ADHD

ADHD specialists are well-versed in the unique challenges faced by adults with the condition. They understand how ADHD can impact various aspects of adult life and tailor their approach to meet individual needs.

Holistic approach

Specialists take a holistic approach to treatment, addressing not only the core symptoms of ADHD but also any co-occurring conditions, such as anxiety or depression. This comprehensive care ensures that all aspects of the patient’s well-being are considered.

Continuous support

Ongoing support from an ADHD specialist is crucial for managing the condition effectively. Regular follow-up appointments allow for monitoring progress, adjusting treatment plans, and providing continuous encouragement and guidance.

The benefits of an accurate ADHD diagnosis

Receiving an accurate diagnosis of ADHD can be life-changing for adults who have struggled with undiagnosed symptoms for years. The benefits of a proper diagnosis and treatment plan include:

  • Improved Work Performance: Enhanced focus and organisational skills can lead to better job performance and career advancement.
  • Stronger Relationships: Understanding and managing symptoms can improve interactions with family, friends, and partners.
  • Increased Self-Esteem: Successfully managing ADHD symptoms can boost confidence and self-worth.
  • Better Overall Health: Effective treatment can lead to improved mental and physical health, reducing the risk of other health issues.


The journey to an ADHD diagnosis for adults is a significant step towards understanding and managing the condition. By seeking an ADHD assessment by a psychiatrist, individuals can receive a comprehensive evaluation, accurate diagnosis, and personalised treatment plan. With the support of an ADHD specialist, adults with ADHD can overcome challenges, achieve their goals, and improve their overall quality of life.

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