Can You Really Self Diagnose ADHD? How to Approach Self Diagnosis & When to See a Professional

Can You Really Self Diagnose ADHD? How to Approach Self Diagnosis & When to See a Professional

Though some ADHD symptoms disappear or become less noticeable in adulthood, many adults with ADHD still find that their symptoms affect their daily life. 
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Though the World Health Organization (WHO) helped to create an ADHD screening tool used by reputable institutions ranging from Harvard to NYU, the Attention Deficit Disorder Association urges against self-diagnosis.1 They explain that diagnosing ADHD, especially in adults, requires “extensive knowledge, skills, and training” not just to identify ADHD properly, but to distinguish it from other conditions that may mimic ADHD.2

But while these tools found online should never substitute professional medical advice, they can still be a good place to start. Read on to find out more about what an ADHD diagnosis means, symptoms to look out for, and ADHD treatment plans to consider.

Wondering if You have ADHD?

Whether one of your kids was just diagnosed or you’re ready to investigate why you have difficulty focusing on tasks, there are many reasons why you may be wondering if you have ADHD. Before you dig deeper, here are some fast facts you should know:

  • ADHD is a developmental disorder; experts believe it cannot develop in adults without it first appearing during childhood.3 However, many adults (especially women) get by without a diagnosis by masking their symptoms.
  • Adults with ADHD were often described as “daydreamers” or “chatterboxes” or simply “lazy” when they were children.
  • ADHD is commonly associated with (or mistaken for) other psychiatric conditions like anxiety, addiction, depression, and bipolar disorder.4
  • A phenomenon that can occur in people with ADHD is hyperfocus, in which you become so engrossed with something that you block out the world around you. This might look like a social media binge, excessive shopping, or even something productive like completing a major project in one night.
  • Hyperactivity tends to decrease by adulthood, but struggles with impulsivity, restlessness, and inattention may persist, often affecting your work and relationships.5

There are many misconceptions about adult ADHD; explore some of them here.

ADHD Symptoms to Look Out for 

Though some ADHD symptoms disappear or become less noticeable in adulthood, many adults with ADHD still find that their symptoms affect their daily life. These symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mood swings
  • Poor time management skills
  • Trouble with multitasking
  • A general feeling of restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Trouble following directions
  • Low frustration tolerance
  • Constantly feeling disorganized
  • Sleep disturbances

While anyone can experience the symptoms mentioned above from time to time, a person with ADHD will struggle with several of the symptoms for an extensive period of time. The symptoms will also affect their daily functioning.

How to Self-Diagnose ADHD: Is It Possible? 

To receive an accurate diagnosis of ADHD, it’s best to see a specialist who can thoroughly assess your symptoms and history. It’s also important that you approach online diagnosing sites with caution, as they are notorious for overprescribing addictive ADHD drugs

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However, online screening tools and tests like the one created by the WHO can be a great starting point. While no two people experience ADHD the same, recognizing some of your own symptoms on the screener can be reassuring if you tend to wonder why you seem to struggle more than others. And if you do recognize your symptoms and suspect you have ADHD, there are a number of preliminary actions you can take before even receiving an official diagnosis.

The Self-Diagnosis Approach: Holistic Measures 

If you struggle with the ADHD symptoms listed above or an online screening tool has suggested you may have ADHD, consider making the following simple lifestyle changes as your first line of defense. You may find that these holistic lifestyle changes are enough to help control your symptoms without medication as proven in numerous studies we’ll share below.

  • Proper nutrition: Poor diets consisting of processed foods, simple carbs, and excess sugar are known to exacerbate ADHD symptoms due to their temporary dopamine-boosting effects.6 Following a diverse diet of whole foods, including various vegetables and fruits, is the best way to get the nutrients your body needs.
  • Adequate sleep: Due to deficits of the prefrontal cortex, which controls executive functions, sleep disturbances are common in people with ADHD and exacerbate ADHD symptoms, like inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. You should aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night with a consistent wake-up and bedtime schedule.
  • Controlled screen time: Excess screen time can interfere with sleep and increase irritability, which makes your ADHD symptoms worse. Screens (and their noisy notifications) can also wreak havoc on your productivity and contribute to time blindness, which are common symptoms in people with ADHD. Try cutting out an hour a day to gradually reduce your screen time, designating screen-free zones in the house, turning down notifications, and using screen time trackers.
  • Mindfulness and relaxation: Studies have shown that mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga significantly improve ADHD symptoms while strengthening the prefrontal cortex.7 Find meditation intimidating? Check out this beginner’s guide to get started and explore other mindfulness techniques here

OTC Medications to Try

If you’ve implemented healthy lifestyle changes and still find you need more support, consider taking medication. But before jumping into prescription medications, try an OTC medication or supplement for a gentler approach.

Brillia

Brillia is a non-prescription medication clinically proven to reduce symptoms associated with ADHD and anxiety without the use of harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects. Its active ingredient consists of targeted antibodies to the brain-specific S100B protein, a key regulator of many different intracellular and extracellular brain processes, including various enzyme activities, calcium homeostasis, and communication between neurons. Brillia gently and impactfully  normalizes this protein to reduce undesirable symptoms of ADHD while balancing monoamines (dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin) in different parts of the brain. These are the same neurotransmitters targeted by prescription ADHD drugs, but Brillia achieves these effects without impacting any other systems in the body or interacting with other medications or supplements. 

You do not need an official diagnosis or prescription to take Brillia, and once you find your correct dosage, you do not need to increase dosage over time to see results. Even more, Brillia is a part of a holistic strategy called the 5 Pillars, which encompasses the healthy lifestyle changes mentioned above. From following a healthy diet to getting sufficient sleep, each of these science-backed habits helps to maximize Brillia’s success, and over time they will become automatic. This process eventually replaces the need for medication, although you can continue to take Brillia as long as it is providing relief. 

Find out more about how Brillia works.

B Vitamins

Some studies have suggested that taking particular B vitamins may improve ADHD symptoms.8 One study found that combining magnesium and vitamin B6 for two months significantly improved symptoms like hyperactivity, aggression, and inattention. Researchers have also noted a link between low levels of B2, B6, and B9 with ADHD diagnoses and symptom severity.9

L-Theanine

This amino acid occurs naturally in green tea and has been found to improve attention, memory, focus, and executive functions, which are all areas of struggle for people with ADHD.10 There is some evidence that L-Theanine is most effective when combined with caffeine, but use caution because caffeine is notorious for wrecking sleep.

Ginkgo Biloba

Some research has shown that ginkgo biloba supplementation significantly improves attention problems, hyperactivity and impulsivity.11 However, you should always ask your doctor before taking this supplement as it can have harmful interactions with other medications.

Starting with Prescription Medications 

If you’ve made healthy lifestyle adjustments and tried non-prescription medication without success, you may want to try prescription medication as a last resort. ADHD medications typically consist of stimulants and non-stimulants, although some doctors prescribe SSRIs and SNRIs to treat symptoms, especially if you have a comorbid condition like anxiety. Although these medications are helpful for many, ask your doctor what to expect when it comes to side effects and dependency, which are common with these types of pharmaceutical options. And it’s important to remember that no medication or supplement, no matter how effective at reducing symptoms, is a cure. You should always pair medication with healthy lifestyle changes and consider therapy to develop a long-term plan that works for you.

When to Get an Official ADHD Diagnosis 

Although you do not need an official ADHD diagnosis to start making healthy lifestyle changes or to take Brillia, you should consider getting one if you are interested in taking prescription medication. You may also want to get a formal evaluation if you think work accommodations can give you the support you need to perform well at your job. Even more, getting an official ADHD diagnosis can be a relief if you’ve struggled with symptoms for years without knowing why.

Find more resources and tips about managing ADHD at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.

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References:
  1. https://nyulangone.org/files/psych-adhd-screener.pdf
  2. https://add.org/adhd-test/ 
  3. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/symptoms/ 
  4. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12888-017-1463-3 
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adult-adhd/symptoms-causes/syc-20350878 
  6. https://add.org/put-pizza-seriously/ 
  7. https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/adhd-mindfulness-meditation-yoga 
  8. https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/treatments-supplements#b-vitamins 
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5153567/#s10title 
  10. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2022.853846/full 
  11. https://econtent.hogrefe.com/doi/10.1024/1422-4917/a000309
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