Are My Adult ADHD Symptoms Really Signs of ADHD?

March 11, 2013 Elizabeth Prager

ADHD doesn't own its signs and symptoms. There is a lot of overlap with other mental health disorders and it's important to tease out whether your X symptoms implies a Y diagnosis, not a Z.

Though I've been clinically diagnosed twice with ADHD and have several of the impulsive/hyperactive as well as inattentive symptoms of the disorder, my new (as of Friday) psychiatrist wants to make sure my ADHD diagnosis is correct. It doesn't feel like he's being skeptical and he wasn't rude in the way other doctors have been. I once had my gynecologist ask why I took Concerta and then tell me I shouldn't be taking it because I'm a woman in my twenties! I think my new doctor wants to do right by me and offer me the best care possible.

ADHD Can Look Like Other Mental Health Disorders

ADHD symptoms can be similar to symptoms of other mental health disorders making a correct diagnosis tricky to obtainAdult ADHD is a neurological disorder that can appear like several others to varying degrees. ADHD can look a lot like bipolar disorder; it can look sort of look like obsessive-compulsive disorder; ADHD can look a whole lot like depression at times. How do we, along with our doctors, decide that our "irritability" symptom, for example, places us in the ADHD column or whether it places us in the bipolar column?

This is really difficult to do! My undergraduate degree is in psychology and I've spent some time working with kiddos with autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, etc. When one student got stuck drawing straight lines for hours, it was hard to identify, for example, whether it was due to his autism or perhaps his OCD diagnosis.

Do I Really Have Adult ADHD?

This is where testing comes in, I suppose, and solid documentation of symptoms. My new doc is having me record my manic and depressive behaviors until I meet with him again early in April. A score of "low moderate depression" indicates that it was really hard for me to get work done that day. The tricky thing is, though, a symptom of ADHD is "low motivation and procrastination". What separates the two?

In my life, what I've seen separating the two is response to treatments. The unique and frustrating thing about the field of psychology is that you can't look into someone's brain to determine their "dysfunction" like an gynecologist would use an ultrasound to determine the health of your ovaries. You must use a variety of evidence-based methods to determine what exactly is wrong and why. And, even after all the testing and patient interviews, whether a drug or therapy method works can be the best standard for diagnosis. Stimulants have worked well for me; therefore, I believe ADHD makes sense as my diagnosis.

How do you know your ADHD is ADHD? Have doctors diagnosed you incorrectly in the past?

APA Reference
Prager, E. (2013, March 11). Are My Adult ADHD Symptoms Really Signs of ADHD?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 24 from

Author: Elizabeth Prager

Carmel Ramkissoon
June, 6 2013 at 3:39 pm

Academic difficulties are also frequent. The symptoms are especially difficult to define because it is hard to draw a line at where normal levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity end and clinically significant levels requiring intervention begin. To be diagnosed with ADHD, symptoms must be observed in two different settings for six months or more and to a degree that is greater than other children of the same age.

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