Diagnosing Adult ADHD Correctly Can Be A Problem

March 4, 2013 Elizabeth Prager

Apparently, getting a correct adult ADHD diagnosis the first time you see the doctor isn't so easy. It's not unusual for someone with adult ADHD to be misdiagnosed once, twice, even more times than that before getting a correct diagnosis.

How many therapists does it take to turn on a light bulb?

I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy student and, in December, I completed my second semester of coursework focusing on basic science and interviewing patients. Several things struck me during this past semester and one really had me thinking about my own journey with doctors of psychology.

My class was discussing the importance of the patient interview and the need to ask the kind of questions that will allow our patients to answer in meaningful ways. When you ask: “Is there anything else you think I should know about your past medical history?” you won’t necessarily find out what you need. You can go weeks, months, years with patients and never find out they had a seizure when they were twelve or they once battled obesity. It’s important to ask the questions that allow you to find out what you need to know. You must be specific!

Having Adult ADHD but getting misdiagnosed

Before I was diagnosed with Adult ADHD, I had seen four therapists and three psychiatrists during the first year and a half of my undergraduate experience. They discussed "relevant" past medical history as well as my family history/struggle with bipolar disorder. I divulged that I had a horrible time getting to sleep at night - sometimes not finally succumbing to zzz's until morning. I was diagnosed with dysthymia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and/or bipolar disorder by doctors. My doctors weren't able to think that an intelligent female could still manage to have herself a whopping case of ADHD - they were under the misapprehension that ADHD was for boys and that it ended at eighteen.

In my sophomore year, after working with a certain therapist for months, my therapist stumbled upon the light switch. I mentioned to her that when I had never read books growing up, in high school or in my first year of college. I was really frustrated in my school performance. I confessed that I would forget a sentence once I read the next. The switch was flicked and she knew why my brain acted the way it did. She asked me questions about the various symptoms of Adult ADHD and she diagnosed me with Adult ADHD. All of a sudden, the room was bright as day.

It took a year and a half of doctors trying to diagnose me with disorders before I was given a name that makes sense to me. Knowing I have Adult ADHD hasn’t fixed everything, but it gives me a great framework to search for answers. It makes so much sense to me that it’s a wonder it took so long to discover. I wonder now how my life would be different if I had been diagnosed back in elementary school - when I was placed in special education classes. I wonder how many books I could have read by now. I wonder what other lights I could have turned on by myself. How many doctors did it take to turn on your ADHD light bulb?

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APA Reference
Prager, E. (2013, March 4). Diagnosing Adult ADHD Correctly Can Be A Problem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 20 from

Author: Elizabeth Prager

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