Who can Diagnose ADHD?
- Psychiatrist: An MD who treats the brain, can diagnose and prescribe medication. Don't assume they have experience with ADHD though. Ask questions and if they're not the one for you- ask for a reference. You're looking for someone who will understand your challenges and work with you. Note: Child psychiatrists often have more experience with ADHD and many will now treat adults as well.
- Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner : May diagnose and prescribe medication- Ask about their experience and interest in finding the best treatment for you. Some are not comfortable diagnosing but are adept in medication management
- Registered Nurse Practitioner or Physicians' Assistant: May also diagnose and prescribe-Again- good management of ADD symptoms is largely dependent on the knowledge of your provider.
- Psychologist: A brain specialist who is not an MD, but may be a good choice for seeking a diagnosis- especially if Learning Disabilities are suspected. No prescription authority, but they often refer to someone who can manage medications.
- Note: A complete neuro-psych evaluation (performed by a school or private psychologist) is often required to qualify for accommodations at school or in the workplace. In these cases, diagnosis of ADHD, alone, is not enough. Impairment is not enough. You must document that your symptoms are truly disabling.
- Family doctor: Knows your family but may not have extensive knowledge of ADHD. With any luck, they'll know where to refer you for diagnosis if they are not comfortable with the evaluation. Some will work with non-prescribing specialists to medicate.
- Pediatrician: MD for children- will usually treat up to age 18. Given that estimates of ADHD in children is 4% - 7% , a number even specialize in treating ADHD. Can prescribe.
- Neurologist: Specializes in treatment of the brain and central nervous system- When more than basic ADHD is suspected, they may be a good choice for an initial evaluation. As MDs, they may prescribe
- Behavioral Neurologist: Another MD that specializes in brain and Central Nervous System disorders- Again- if behaviors are extreme, they may be a good choice for the diagnostic process. Yes, they may prescribe.
As you can see, providers that diagnose and treat ADHD come from a variety of specialties; such as child and adolescent psychiatry, pediatrics and family medicine, as well as from adult psychiatry. Adults seeking experienced providers may need to seek help from sources they wouldn’t usually consider.
It is so important that the evaluating clinician is knowledgeable about ADHD. He or she must be experienced in recognizing ADHD, but also in recognizing other co-occurring conditions that may be present, as well as being able to tease out other conditions that may be confused for ADHD. Effective treatment begins with an accurate diagnosis. Misdiagnosis leads to ineffective treatment, more problems, and lots of frustration. So really do your research to find an experienced specialist.
Go back to Find a Provider>>> Note: There is no concensus as to who is qualified to diagnose ADHD. Given the high incidence of comorbid disorders, however, we have narrowed the field to certain providers with prescription authority and psychologists.
The National ADHD Research Center, however, includes Clinical Social Workers, Therapists- (including Family and Marriage Therapists- and Counselors.(Indeed, many of these professionals have years of practice in the field).
ADDitudeMag.com has a great article- naming fewer professionals as qualified diagosticians, but you can compare their relative training, services offered, as well as their relative fees. See: Who can Diagnose ADD? - What difference does it make?.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) recommends even fewer professionals to consult for diagnosis- eliminating social workers, therapists and counselors.
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