Diagnosis of adult ADHD

Evidence suggests that at least 2.5% of adults may have ADHD, and the real number may be higher than this. ADHD is thought to be found more in males with a diagnostic ratio of four
males for every female. However, these figures likely highlight
inequalities in diagnosis.

Getting a diagnosis of ADHD as an adult in the UK can be difficult, time consuming or expensive. Sadly, at the present time there are inadequate resources available in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) for timely ADHD assessment and treatment. Along with a lack of appropriate awareness in both healthcare professionals and the general public, this means there are likely many undiagnosed ADHD adults living with the condition.

How to get an ADHD diagnosis

As diagnosis must be done by a specialist psychiatrist there are currently two routes to a diagnosis. You can use NHS services or pay to for a private diagnosis. There are benefits and drawbacks to both these routes, with NHS diagnosis often taking a very long time but being free, or with private diagnosis being much
faster but expensive. There is a middle route for adults in England, which is to ask for a ‘Right to Choose’ referral to a private clinic, where diagnosis is generally faster than NHS but many GPs are unaware of this system, and some may be resistant.

Diagnosing ADHD in adults is more often more difficult than in children. An adult may be diagnosed with ADHD if they have 5 or more (out of 9) of the symptoms of inattentiveness, or 5 or more (out of 9) of the symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsiveness. Currently, although present symptoms are assessed a diagnosis of ADHD in adults cannot be confirmed unless your symptoms have been present from childhood. This is because it’s currently thought that ADHD cannot develop in adult brains. This often involves asking your parents/siblings questions about you as a child or showing old school reports

Importantly, symptoms also have to have a moderate effect on different areas of your life. This could include difficulty in your relationships, difficulty at work etc.