Your child shows signs of other mental
health disorders, such as
anxiety, that last more than a few weeks or seem to be
Your child is having academic or behavioral problems
For young children who show
signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, watchful waiting is
appropriate. It is difficult to diagnose ADHD in children younger than age 5.
Young children generally have short attention spans, and their normal range of
behavior includes periods of high activity and impulsivity. If you notice any
ADHD symptoms in your preschooler that do not seem age-appropriate, work with
your child to improve behavior. Keep a record of your child's behavior for 6
months to see if it improves. If it continues or has consequences, such as
being expelled from day care or preschool, talk with your doctor about having
your child evaluated.
When Amanda, 30, was diagnosed with ADHD five years ago, she began to understand the risk-taking that had marked her teens and twenties: the drug abuse, binge drinking, and casual sex with numerous men who had flirted with her in bars.
She couldn’t put the brakes on those intensely exciting experiences, but she also despaired that her life was out of control. “Before I was diagnosed, I was depressed a lot because I just didn’t understand what was wrong,” says the Baltimore resident, whose last...
Watchful waiting is
not appropriate for school-age children and teens with ADHD symptoms. Children
need attention from a doctor if they have behavior problems that occur in more
than one setting, such as poor relationships with parents and poor academic
Problems caused by inattention may not become
significant until the teen years, when greater self-reliance is expected. A
change in school (such as advancing to junior high or high school) or a new
environment (such as moving to another city) can trigger problems with
inattention. If you think your child may have an inattention problem, see a
doctor to find out if ADHD is the cause.
Watchful waiting may not be appropriate
if you are an adult and think that you may have ADHD. Consider how long you
have experienced symptoms, and think about any major changes or difficult
situations that are affecting your life. Your symptoms may improve when you
have addressed and worked on those issues. But talk to a doctor if your
symptoms concern you. If you have other symptoms, such as
depression or anxiety, a doctor can help diagnose and
treat your problems.
Who To See
Health professionals who can diagnose and treat
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with medicine include:
Ask your doctor about his or her training
and experience related to ADHD. Diagnosing and treating ADHD requires an
ability to identify and distinguish behaviors that can be subtle and
complicated. Also, make sure your doctor has enough time to
evaluate you or your child. Accurate diagnosis and successful treatment of ADHD
takes repeated office visits and observations. It is also necessary that your
doctor be able to coordinate between other health professionals,
family members, teachers, and caregivers.