ADHD Overdiagnosis: What you need to know

ADHD Overdiagnosis: What you need to know

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a mental condition characterized by severe and ongoing inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive behavior, which impairs a person’s ability to function normally. However, it’s fairly common for an adult or a child who’s easily distracted, frequently irritable, or have difficulty completing tasks to be misdiagnosed as having ADHD.

Here are some of the reasons why it is overdiagnosed.

Inadequate evaluation

Before rendering a diagnosis, a certified psychiatrist -- ideally someone who has experience treating ADHD -- must thoroughly examine a person who shows signs of the condition. But one study found that 16.7% of psychotherapists rendered an ADHD diagnosis despite not meeting its diagnostic criteria. These unmet criteria are often discovered when patients get re-evaluated or when they receive a second opinion.

To get an accurate diagnosis, psychiatrists should start by interviewing a patient to obtain his or her medical history and get an extensive overview of his or her health condition. They should also conduct the necessary neuropsychological tests to gain insights into the patient’s social and/or academic circumstances.

Finally, mental health professionals should rule out other that they are not symptoms of similar psychiatric disorders like mood swings, anxiety disorders, learning disabilities, or sleep apnea. Note that in some cases, ADHD-like symptoms may be completely unrelated to ADHD.

Societal pressure and stress

Some parents may feel pressured to put a name to an unidentifiable disorder when their child shows ADHD-like symptoms. This may be due to the demands of the current educational system, which exerts undue stress on parents whose 2-3-year old child are expected to read and do well in school.

As a result, healthcare providers prematurely diagnose ADHD and prescribe treatments in order to make the parents feel at ease. Here at Meridian Psychiatric Partners, one of the most commonly asked questions regarding ADHD concerns stimulants, a critical component of the treatment. Stimulants for ADHD are controlled substances, and as responsible mental health professionals, we take great precaution in prescribing them.

Feel free to get in touch if you’d like to learn more.

Intentional overdiagnosis

Healthcare systems also intentionally misdiagnose ADHD due to health policy constraints, which are prevalent in the US. Based on recent studies, some clinicians render an ADHD diagnosis to a person only suspected of having ADHD because a hospital or a small healthcare practice needs a diagnosis “to access and reimburse treatment.” In these cases, clinicians diagnose ADHD in children who have imprecise symptoms, resulting not just in a premature diagnosis but also in inappropriate treatment plans.

Diagnosing and treating a serious mental condition like ADHD should not be left to the guesswork and misconceptions of doctors. To get an accurate diagnosis, seek the help of mental health experts who offer comprehensive evaluations, take the time to educate the patient and his or her loved ones about ADHD, and are willing to work with the patient to find the best therapies.

Meridian Psychiatric Consultant’s mental health professionals in Chicago, Evanston, Lake Forest are ready to take your queries about ADHD. Talk to us today.