Recently Diagnosed with Adult ADHD? Here are Your Next Steps

This content has been updated from previous article on September 17, 2020.

It’s becoming increasingly evident that Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) diagnoses are on the rise among adults, underscoring the need for understanding and support in this realm. While ADHD is traditionally associated with childhood, the surge in adult diagnoses can be attributed to various factors, including destigmatization, heightened awareness, improved mental health understanding, and more accessible treatment avenues.

Unveiling the Growth in Adult ADHD Diagnosis

The landscape of ADHD diagnosis is shifting. Although ADHD is typically identified during childhood (between ages 3 and 17), there’s a noticeable increase in adult ADHD diagnoses. Several factors contribute to this surge:

Past Diagnosis Gaps: A significant number of adults remained undiagnosed with ADHD in their childhood due to societal stigma and limited comprehension of the condition.

Elevated Awareness: The public is becoming more informed about ADHD with the emergence of increased research, making it easier to recognize the condition’s manifestations in adulthood.

Advanced Mental Health Understanding: The mental health community is better equipped to detect and diagnose ADHD in adults with the establishment of official diagnostic criteria.

Increased Mental Health Acceptance: Society is becoming more accepting of mental health treatment, encouraging adults to seek help. Prevalence of social media is leading the charge in bringing mental health awareness to the forefront.

Diagnostic Tools: The availability of standardized and validated screening tools facilitates accurate ADHD diagnosis.

Social environment: Adults may also be less frequently diagnosed with ADHD primarily because they are no longer immersed in an educational environment that facilitates early recognition.

signs-of-adhd

Statistics suggest up to 6% of adults in the US live with ADHD, yet only a fraction have been formally diagnosed or treated. Receiving an ADHD diagnosis as an adult might initially overwhelm you, leaving you uncertain about the next steps. Rest assured, LifeStance Health providers specializing in adult ADHD have invaluable insights to guide you through this pivotal phase.

Getting Diagnosed by a Professional Mental Health Provider

Understanding ADHD involves comprehensive diagnostic screenings and evaluations. These processes delve into various aspects of your behavior, symptoms, and history to provide a thorough understanding of your condition. You’ve already taken the first step many may avoid. Understanding the need to change challenges faced in daily life, such as work or relationship issues, are normal and expected, is a positive first step.

Validating Your Emotions

Upon receiving any diagnosis, a wave of emotions is natural. As you grapple with the implications of ADHD for your past and future, it’s important to embrace your emotions—even if they seem contradictory. Psychologist Noreen Donovan, Ph.D., emphasizes, “A diagnosis of ADHD as an adult may come with mixed emotions—relief that arises from knowledge and grief associated with missed past opportunities. It is important to tune into and accept all of these feelings.” Remember, you’re not alone; various professionals can support you during this journey.

Recognizing the Genetic Component of ADHD

Gaining insight into the genetic factors contributing to ADHD can be liberating, relieving you of self-blame. It’s essential to realize that ADHD isn’t a result of your actions, alleviating any sense of responsibility for its occurrence. Learn more about how genetics play a role in ADHD here.

There Are Many Adult ADHD Treatment Options

While there is not a cure for ADHD, many effective adult ADHD treatment options are available. Managing the most intrusive adult ADHD symptoms without stifling your unique personality is possible with the help of the right care plan. “It is recommended that adults talk to a professional about their treatment options,” Donovan sad. “This includes adult ADHD medication to treat ADHD symptoms in adults, coaching to support executive functioning, and therapy to address common psychological distress including increased stress, Anxiety, Depression, low self-esteem, and underachievement.”

ADHD Medication May Be the Answer

“After a diagnosis of ADHD, the next step would be a trial of ADHD medication (unless medically contraindicated),” psychologist Kenneth Wilson, Psy.D. said.

There are a few different types of mediations. Stimulants are the first-line treatment option for people with ADHD. WebMD reports that stimulant medications work for 70% to 80% of people. These medications allow people with ADHD to focus and quell hyperactivity. Some non-stimulant medications are also approved for ADHD treatment. A psychiatrist or psychiatric advanced nurse practitioner can help you determine what, if any, medication is right for you. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether medication works as part of your treatment plan.

Partnering with Therapists and ADHD Coaches

Navigating ADHD requires robust support. Regardless of whether you opt for medication, engaging with a therapist is a pivotal aspect of your treatment strategy. Therapists can help you manage emotions tied to your diagnosis, develop impulse control, and more. Psychologist Emily Hotz, Psy.D., highlights the benefits: “A therapist or coach could help an individual with ADHD focus on executive functioning strategies that can target organizational skills and help them understand any barriers that have gotten in the way thus far.”

Harnessing Strategies for Success

Understanding your mind and leveraging strategies can significantly impact your journey with adult ADHD. For instance, Hotz suggests using a planner for consistency or engaging in hands-on activities to bolster focus. Online support groups, ADHD organizations, and specialized apps like Tody can offer additional tools for managing ADHD-related challenges.

Fostering a Positive ADHD Dialogue

ADHD need not be a limiting factor; it can be an avenue for growth and uniqueness. Some individuals consider it a “superpower,” enhancing multitasking and creativity. Hotz encourages embracing strengths and adapting to weaknesses: “Successful people focus on their strengths to work around their weaknesses.”

You're Not Alone

Embracing life post-diagnosis can be challenging, but you’re not alone on this journey. Reach out to our expert providers at LifeStance Health to take that vital step toward a more balanced and fulfilling future. This can be a difficult time for anyone. However, you do not have to navigate it alone. Make an appointment today with one of our expert providers and take the next step toward a more balanced future.

Authored By 

LifeStance Health
LifeStance Health

LifeStance is a mental healthcare company focused on providing evidence-based, medically driven treatment services for children, adolescents, and adults.


Reviewed By

Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S
Nicholette Leanza, LPCC-S

Nicholette is a faculty member at John Carroll University’s Clinical Counseling program, and she is also the host of the LifeStance podcast, Convos from the Couch.