Various types of licensed professionals can diagnose ADHD, including psychiatrists, primary care doctors, and many therapists.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a developmental condition that affects attention, focus, and impulsivity.
These symptoms can make it tricky to coordinate tasks like medical appointments, follow-ups, and regular therapy or medication schedules. This is where a mental health professional can help.
If you think you may have ADHD, you might consider reaching out to a professional to start the diagnostic process. That person may be a primary care doctor, an ADHD specialist, or a licensed therapist.
Speaking with a mental health care professional can help you establish a support network and develop coping skills to help you manage your symptoms.
There are many different types of mental health professionals. The following licensed medical or mental health care professionals can diagnose ADHD:
- primary care doctors
- licensed social care workers
- licensed mental health counselors
- nurse practitioners
- physician’s assistants
A counselor who provides therapy but is not licensed as a mental health professional, such as a religious leader or life coach, cannot make an official ADHD diagnosis. But they may be able to refer you to someone who can provide a formal diagnosis.
A diagnosis for ADHD is based on criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR). To receive a diagnosis, your healthcare professional may ask you questions about your symptoms and perform cognitive tests.
An ADHD diagnosis reflects a pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsive behavior that has continued for more than 6 months. To fit the criteria, symptoms must disrupt typical functioning at work, school, or relationships.
Adults must have more than five symptoms for an ADHD diagnosis. The symptoms must have been present before age 12, and they must also be present in two or more settings, such as at work, family, home, or social settings.
For a diagnosis to be made your symptoms will not be better explained by another mental condition or mood disorder.
The diagnosing doctor or mental health professional will review your history of symptoms dating back to childhood and your school experiences.
If you’re seeking a diagnosis for your child, the healthcare professional may ask to speak with you and any other parental figures in your child’s life, including their caretakers, teachers, scout leaders, religious leaders, or extracurricular instructors.
Open communication between healthcare professionals, parents, teachers, and other caretakers is an important part of diagnosing children with ADHD.
If you’re seeking a diagnosis as an adult, your healthcare professional may ask your permission to speak with your partner, family, or friends to get a sense of how others perceive your symptoms.
An adult diagnosis may also include evaluations that test your executive functioning and spatial, logical, or memory skills.
The professionals who diagnoses your ADHD may or may not be the one who provides treatment.
Primary care doctors, specialized doctors like neurologists, and psychiatrists can diagnose ADHD and prescribe ADHD medication to treat it.
Your primary care doctor can prescribe ADHD medication but may not be qualified to provide therapy.
Psychologists, licensed social workers, and licensed professional counselors can diagnose ADHD and provide therapeutic treatment such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or talk therapy, but they aren’t licensed to prescribe medication.
ADHD diagnosis and management typically require a team of professionals. This is especially true if you’re receiving both medication and therapy as part of your treatment.
You might suspect you have ADHD, or you may be frustrated with your inability to complete tasks but not realize your symptoms fall under a formal diagnosis.
Talking with a doctor about symptoms that disrupt your ability to function at school, home, or work is often the first step in establishing an ADHD diagnosis.
If you feel your symptoms lean more toward hyperactivity or impulsivity than inattentiveness or vice versa, you may also find it beneficial to mention this to a health professional.
If you’ve previously received another mental health diagnosis but feel it doesn’t quite fit your symptoms, consider mentioning this as well. ADHD symptoms, especially in adults, are frequently mistaken for other conditions, both mental and physical.
After living with symptoms of ADHD for a long time, you may not think you have a diagnosable condition — but it may be worth talking with a mental health professional to check.
Various professionals are qualified to diagnose ADHD from primary care doctors to licensed therapists. Depending on the professional’s qualifications, they may be able to provide a diagnosis, treatment, or both.
Once you receive a diagnosis you may find it helpful to build a support network of people who can help you navigate your new diagnosis.
This may include mental health professionals who can provide treatments like psychotherapy, and also friends, family, and others with ADHD who can help you feel less alone.