Why is adult life so difficult 1

Adult ADHD Diagnosis: How I Cope With It

by Sara Dörwald

It's September 4th, 2018. I'm nervously standing at the main train station in Münster and looking for the way to the clinic. My ADHD test will start right there. The doctor told me that I should plan the whole day for it because the test was very extensive and would check different areas. I can still remember that day very well: My expectations were high and secretly I was happy because I wanted to have ADHD. Not because the diagnosis would be great, but because it would explain the chaos in my life.

Such an explanation is what many seek for their own ADHD diagnosis in adulthood to get. We look for the reason for outbursts of feeling, for the lack of attention, the low tolerance for frustration, the unreliability. My test was preceded by many smaller and larger actions. I went to several doctors, none of whom did extensive diagnostics. For example, a neurologist gave me an A5 slip of paper to fill out, then said “You have ADHD” and directly prescribed medication for me. How can you take something like that seriously?


Focused learning with ADHD


My path to ADHD diagnosis

Fortunately, one day I found out about the EOS Clinic in Münster - a specialized facility for psychotherapy - in an ADHD forum. I contacted them directly and described my symptoms. A short time later I received a large pile of questionnaires that I was supposed to fill out. Questions were asked about my birth and childhood, behavior at school, my relationship with my parents and so on.

However, the questions were not just directed at me - some information had to be provided by my parents, others I sent to my friends and former roommates. In addition, questions were asked about symptoms of borderline illness, depression, autism spectrum disorders, psychoses and other clinical pictures. The whole thing was very extensive. I forwarded the collected answers back to the clinic.

Some time later I received a letter stating that I was likely to have ADHD. I can take part in an ADHD test. At this point a huge stone fell from my heart because I was finally taken seriously. I had the chance to take a professional test.

Why ADHD is so difficult to diagnose in adulthood

It is not easy to diagnose ADHD even in children. Educators pay attention to the behavior of children in their environment and see whether it is appropriate and age-appropriate. Can the children sit still and concentrate long enough? Are you a team player or do you bother others? Do they seek attention more than other children? There are many things that are being watched. But even when educators do their job very well, they are often wrong. Not every impulsive boy has ADHD, and not every quiet girl is shy. The signs of ADHD aren't clear - and the older someone gets, the harder they are to spot. Many people still believe that ADHD will grow out and that the problems will go away by the onset of adulthood. But that's not true (more information).

There is another difficulty with us women: ADHD is mainly diagnosed in boys and men. These are more noticeable on the outside; we women are often very restless inside (more on this). The problem with that is that you can't tell from the outside that we're like a running pinball machine with the attention span of a squirrel. Finding an expert to diagnose ADHD in adulthood is not easy. Many symptoms of ADHD are associated with other illnesses: borderline, bipolar disorder, depression. They are so-called comorbid disorders. If these are not recognized or incorrect diagnoses are made, inappropriate treatment follows, which can make things worse.


How is ADHD diagnosed in adulthood?

There are a number of reasons adults may get tested. In my opinion, I will name the most common ones below, but there are certainly more. Adults have the following reasons for having an ADHD test:

Your child is showing symptoms of ADHD

You are the parent of a child who has, or is being tested for, ADD or ADHD. No test was taken in your childhood for some reason - maybe you weren't noticeable enough or were labeled "alive". Or maybe no one paid any attention. In your child, you recognize a lot of things that you had problems with in your childhood. With an ADHD test, family members are often given the opportunity to be tested as well, as ADHD can have hereditary components.

A relative is showing symptoms of ADHD

The opposite occurs: a parent or sibling of yours will be tested. It happens time and again that adults at 40, 50 or even 60 years of age are tested and diagnosed with ADHD. Here, too, the case occurs again that the family members can be tested.

You yourself notice ADHD symptoms

You are like me: You or those around you have long felt that you are more inattentive than the average person. It started in childhood or adolescence and did not “grow out”. You have tried to get your problems with organization, self-help books and courses under control, but you have not succeeded. You read more and more about ADHD, ADD and similar problems and ultimately decide to get tested.

Others see you as having ADHD symptoms

You are being treated for an illness - for example, depression, bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorder. A doctor will notice that you are showing symptoms outside of these diseases that do not match such a disease.

There are certainly other reasons that justify ADHD testing in adulthood. However, from personal experience and from exchanging ideas with other ADHD people, I know that these four reasons are very common. But what happens after an ADHD diagnosis in adulthood?


The Impact of ADHD Diagnosis on Me

My first reaction after being told my diagnosis was relief. Through the test, the doctors had ruled out other potential psychological disorders and neurological abnormalities. Since these are associated with even more problems than ADHD, I was happy to have “only” ADHD. I knew there were ways to deal with it - and that without heavy medication. I had already successfully practiced some concentration techniques for years and implemented them in my everyday life (some of them I describe in my book) I no longer had to accept my unreliability, my forgetfulness and my low tolerance for frustration as inevitable - thanks to the clarity of the causes, there was now one Starting point for changes.

After the relief, there was a huge increase in my confidence. I was able to think about how things would go on in concrete terms - no vague ideas, but very clear planning. At the university, for example, there is the possibility of applying for disadvantage compensation for examinations in the case of certain illnesses. Students are then given the opportunity to write alone in one room or have more processing time for exams. Something like this is great for an ADHD person who is distracted by every sound!

But how do you come to a diagnosis?


Who Can Make an ADHD Diagnosis in Adulthood?

A professional ADHD diagnosis can only be made by specialists - this also includes general practitioners with appropriate training. You can find out more about this here. You can often find appropriate doctors and contact points through your health insurance company, your family doctor or on the Internet. You may have to search for a while before you get a place for a test. Many specialists have more patient inquiries than they can accept and long waiting lists form. Sometimes you have to wait more than a year, especially with psychotherapists. During my search, I found out that many specialist clinics that specialize in ADHD and other neurological abnormalities were fully booked for several months.


What can you do before your test?

You don't have to wait for a diagnosis to transform your life and make a difference. There are also options for a potential ADHD patient or an undiagnosed ADHD patient. I started dealing with self-management, organization and productivity more than 15 years before I was diagnosed. As a result, I was able to give my life more structure and get my concentration problems under control. It wasn't always easy and I often failed. But despite these difficulties, I have been able to bring about many positive developments in my life.


How can you respond to a diagnosis?

Congratulations, you passed the hurdles and received a test. Welcome to the ADHD club! At first you won't know what to do now - just start with this: Find a doctor. Just like when looking for a test, you will likely have to wait a long time. However, this is no reason to cancel the search or not to start at all. This website is a good place to start.

Go looking for like-minded people. There are many ADHD people who organize themselves on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or in forums! Type "ADHD" into the search and you will see that you are not alone. And if you speak English well, expand your search to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Another possibility are self-help groups; here is an overview.

During my studies, I dared to ask the WhatsApp group for my degree program whether someone there has ADHD or knows who, who knows who ... The feedback was very positive. No matter how you do it: get active! This will grow your network of people who may already have more experience and with whom you can exchange ideas and get tips. Speaking of tips ...


Tips for ADHD sufferers

During my research on time and self management, organization and productivity, I found NO Book tailored for people with ADHD. That's why I picked up tips from a wide variety of books: books that were written for business people, for authors, students, the self-employed ... I tried a lot of them and put aside even more frustrated.

So that you don't feel the same way and you waste many years of your life on finding tips and tricks, I did it for you - and wrote a book myself (click here for the book). You can benefit from my experience and research that I have summarized in my book. On two pages each, I will introduce you to a technique and give you exercises so that you can work together with your ADHD. In addition, you will learn how to shape your surroundings to your advantage and how to get out of a low motivation. You can find an XXL reading sample here:


Focused learning with ADHD



Getting a diagnosis of ADHD in adulthood is not easy. You need time, patience and perseverance. You have to look for the right doctor, stick with it, and follow up. Over and over again - until you succeed and are approved for a test. It's annoying, difficult and has to be organized - but it's worth it! Whether the test shows that you have ADHD or another neurological abnormality: both results provide explanations and new approaches to action. Even if you aren't diagnosed with an abnormality, you can rule out some causes of your problems.

Are you thinking about an ADHD test at the moment or do you know someone close to you who was diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood? What is your experience with this topic? Feel free to write it to me in the comments below this article - I read every post with great interest and look forward to exchanging ideas.


Image: © Audrey Fretz / unsplash.com