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5 Ways to Find Out if You Have ADHD

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By Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D., author of 10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADD

Approximately 4 percent of the general population has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). You may be wondering if you have ADD - you have difficulties staying on task, and tend to interrupt others, among other difficulties. Here are some ways that may help you find out if ADHD is an issue for you:

1. Learn the Symptoms of ADHD

You may have read or heard the terms "ADD" or "ADHD" used. The clinical term that is used is ADHD. There are three subtypes of ADHD: the inattentive type, the hyperactive/impulsive type, and the combined type. For the inattentive type of ADHD, you must meet at least six out of nine symptoms. These symptoms include: difficulty focusing, not checking your work or making careless mistakes, or losing items. For the hyperactive type of ADHD, you must meet at least six out of nine symptoms. These symptoms include difficulty staying seated, interrupting, or behaving as if you were "driven by a motor". You have the combined type of ADHD when you meet the criteria for the inattentive type and the hyperactive impulsive type. You can find out more about the symptoms of ADHD at The National Institute Mental Health.

To meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, you must have had symptoms present before the age of seven. If you aren't sure about whether you had ADHD symptoms when you were a child, keep reading under "Find Out About Your Childhood."

These symptoms must also be causing you impairment in at least two out of three areas: home, school/work, or social life. Difficulties at home may include not being able to find anything you need for the day because of your disorganization, or having arguments with your spouse because of your issues with impulsivity. Difficulties at work may include getting fired from a job because of your lack of attention to detail, or missing deadlines because you have difficulty focusing long enough to follow a project through to completion. Social difficulties include having problems keeping friends due to impulsive behavior, or constantly interrupting others.

2. Get a Family History

ADHD is an inheritable disorder. Several genes have been identified that may play a role in ADHD. This means that if you have ADHD, there's a pretty good chance that people in your family also have symptoms, including your children. Ask your family if anyone has been diagnosed with ADHD, and also if anyone in the family seemed to be impulsive and hyperactive. Also ask if anyone in the family had issues with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder or substance abuse. These issues can be more common in people that have ADHD. Remember to not only ask about your immediate family members (parents and siblings), but also ask about your aunts, uncles, and cousins. If you are adopted, whatever information you can find out about your biological family is helpful.

3. Find Out About Your Childhood

Because one of the diagnostic criteria for ADHD is that symptoms must be present from childhood, it is important to get information about that time in your life. It is normal for people with ADHD to have difficulty remembering events from their childhood. Ask your parents or other older relatives what they remember about you when you were a child. You may hear stories of you being a daredevil, or getting in trouble at school because you couldn't stay in your seat. Your parents may have even saved your report cards. Your teachers may have written things like "Doesn't work to potential," "Talks out of turn", "Blurts out answers," or "Doesn't raise hand."

4. Do Your Research

There are several helpful websites that provide support and information. Some of the biggest ADHD organizations are Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders and the Attention Deficit Disorder Association. There are also internet forums available, such as at the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Forums. There is also information on ADHD at my website.

Be aware that there are websites that may not have accurate information. Also be wary of any websites that promise a "cure" for ADHD. There is no cure for ADHD, but there is treatment available in the form of medication, counseling and coaching. If you have any questions about the information you find on a website, see if there is any research that is backing up the claims.

5. Get an Evaluation from a Specialist

For a definitive diagnosis, see a professional that specializes in ADHD. You can find an ADHD specialist by asking your doctor for a referral, by going to an ADHD resource site or by asking family and friends who have ADHD. Before you go to see the doctor, write down the medications you are currently taking. Also write down the dates of any hospitalizations or surgeries. Bring in any paperwork that you feel could help the doctor: previous medical records, letters from significant others regarding their concerns about your behavior, report cards and discipline reports from when you were a child, previous psychological testing. It helps to bring a significant other to your appointment. Studies have shown that ADHD people have a difficult time judging their own behavior, and that significant others may describe you more accurately.

Good luck on your ADHD adventure. Remember, you are not alone -- there are a lot of us out there, including me!

Stephanie Moulton Sarkis, Ph.D. is a nationally certified counselor and a licensed mental health counselor and an adjunct assistant professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL. She is the author of 10 Simple Solutions to Adult ADD, Making the Grade with ADD, and co-author of ADD and Your Money.

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