How to Test Yourself for ADHD

  Sunday, July 25, 2021
Contributed by Emily Ruiz, MA

You are in one of the most important business meetings of your career. Your bosses are questioning your work ethic. For some reason, you can not focus to save your life even though you truly want to. You may look out the window because you saw a bird pass by or daydream that you wish you were flying versus being in an uncomfortable meeting. When you look back to your manager, you realize your boss asked you a question, they look upset, and now you don't know what to do.

Growing up and leading to this moment, you were used to this situation where you exist in one of three different modes. The first mode you are currently experiencing is where you can not retain information presented. It seems like information passes one ear out the other.  Next, you feel alien with thoughts of "Am I real/ Is this real?" and not connected to the present moment. The third is one of your favorite modes because you hyper-focus, and you can knock out weeks of work in hours. 

These modes have made you feel that things are different for you versus your peers. You have felt this way your whole life but have rationalized it by the idea of if something had been “wrong”, you feel like it would have been caught in elementary school if you had a condition. Unfortunately, this typically isn't the case because teachers look for textbook examples of ADHD. Learning differences can manifest in different symptoms, and no person's condition looks identical to others. Childhood ADHD may not be caught due to their environment and symptoms. When we think of the textbook definition of childhood ADHD, we imagine a kid bouncing off the walls, someone who has similar qualities to a hurricane- intense, high energy, and very destructive. Due to these differences, children who had ADHD may not have had the help they needed and grew up to confused adults.

There might be a possibility that you have adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adult ADHD is a chronic learning difference that may create problems in relationships, work, and school. It will affect your self-esteem because you can not pinpoint why things are more difficult for you versus others. 

All disorders are on a spectrum, and for ADHD, it can look different for each individual. As an adult, you can see your symptoms by not paying attention. Quite possibly, you may be rewarded for some of the ADHD behaviors like being reckless and others nicknaming you the ‘fun friend’. You don't have the best relationship with money because when you see something you like, you.want.it.now. The term delayed gratification does not exist in your dictionary. The symptoms can also show themselves through physical traits like bouncing your leg, picking at your fingernail cuticles, and not sitting in a chair for a long period of time. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 4.4% of American adults are diagnosed with ADHD, with a higher prevalence in men versus women (we will talk about this a little later). The highest percentile of adults diagnosed with adult ADHD are individuals who are 35-44 years old. Presented in the statistics, it mentioned that adolescents were diagnosed if they had severe symptoms but not symptoms that might be deemed as average. Teens and adults who experience this confusion and frustration have a higher chance of co-morbidities.

Co-Morbidity in ADHD

People from the outside looking in see someone comfortable living in a mess, who waits until the last minute to complete a task and is a little spacey in meetings. Due to this discrimination, people with ADHD might participate in negative coping mechanisms in an attempt to feel better.

Pharmaceutical companies have preyed on people's insecurities of being lazy and readily prescribed Adderall for a one-size-fits all. Adderall is a common pill used for focus in people who have ADHD, and is also one of the four most misused medications in the United States. This marketing ploy alongside the American work ethic creates a recipe of disaster for those who have ADHD. Medications are needed for ADHD, but you need to find a reputable doctor and counselor to ensure you are taking the correct dosage.

In combination with possible substance abuse, other mental disorders might be at play due to ADHD having symptoms of causing lower self-esteem, problems with sleeping as a million thoughts are racing, and possibly being defiant. Per the ADHD institute, conditions such as anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder, and OCD are common. The institute does note that the most common co-morbidities in adults are depression and bipolar disorder. 

ADHD and comorbidity in adults does not look the same for every person. There are significant differences in a person's gender, whether female, male, or gender-nonconforming. 

ADHD in Women

Due to gender norms, the ADHD diagnosis focuses more on how men relate to ADHD than understanding significant differences for women with ADHD. 

Discrepancies in criteria and a general misunderstandings of ADHD lead to girls and women being less likely to be diagnosed versus their male counterparts. Some showcase their symptoms, such as being talkative or are described as being spacey. There are others who are quiet and seem like the grade-A student. Looks can be deceiving.

Girls and women with ADHD are more likely to experience co-morbidity of eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and have problem relationships at home instead of work. An interview with WebMD, ADHD specialist, and psychologist, discussed how women are in a state of being overwhelmed due to stress in their home life.

When people do not have a diagnosis to help understand their condition, they become confused, frustrated, and exhausted. The underdiagnosis of women is due to their childhood. According to ADDitude, girls will try to hide some of their symptoms to seem more "normal." They will take much longer than their classmates to finish assignments because they don't want to be seen as a problem. 

ADHD in Men

Men are more likely to be diagnosed, but it depends on what symptoms show themselves. A man with ADHD may have difficulty focusing, experience high energy, have poor communication skills, participate in reckless behaviors, and be disorganized. 

ADHD in men can show through their work or romantic relationships by experiencing feelings of shame and self-disgust. Men with ADHD want to prove they can be successful and may have difficulty keeping up with some of the tasks presented because ADHD changes their brain to make them disorganized. One key symptom of men with ADHD is that they experience some levels of anger, whether it be internal or external vocalizations. 

The stress, shame, and frustration will create a bottle-like effect for men with ADHD, and they feel like there is the only way to release it- they experience rage. Men are much more likely to showcase their anger issues versus their female counterparts. One of the reasons we do not see anger in women as much is because our society is keener on seeing a man's rage than a woman's. Instead of expressing their rage outwardly, some men do something much more dangerous. They will focus their resentment, anger, and hate to themselves. Internal anger manifests itself through a level of shame in men who have or might suspect that they have ADHD. 

Anger can build in the day-to-day aspects of life like in work, where frustration becomes more prevalent from tasks such as focusing on smaller details like paperwork. It can be its own Mount Everest to people with ADHD due to the lack of stimulation. Due to the Mount Everest of paperwork, there is a higher likelihood that men with ADHD will be fired or let go of their role versus neurotypical co-workers. The initial shame they have will be intensified, which results in depression and relationship strain. 

Relationship partners for men with ADHD might not understand when their love loses his job and why they can not start with job applications. As the same problem with paperwork, searching for roles is exhausting, mentally numbing, and tedious. People with ADHD have a hard time accomplishing these skills. With additional pressure, it can be even more difficult for men with ADHD. 

Men are less likely than women to seek help because society has taught them that asking for help is weak. They might self-isolate or lie in an attempt to self-sabotage and not hurt their partner further. Men may not know that seeking help is one of the most important actions a person can accomplish. 

ADHD in Gender Dysmorphia and Gender Nonconforming 

In looking at the LGBTQ+ community, transgender individuals are 3x to 7x more likely than their cisgender counterparts to develop or be diagnosed with ADHD. (The definition of cisgender by Merriam-Webster defines a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with their birth sex) 

People who do not identify as male or female have a unique problem due to the stress of understanding their identity in a world that sees life as black or white. Individuals will have higher levels of intensity, frustration, and more anxiety than cis-gendered peers. Due to this high level of stress and energy, individuals who are non-binary or part of the LGBTQ+ are more likely to result in emotional outbursts, which is another symptom of ADHD. 

'How do I know if I have ADHD?'

A self-screening questionnaire is a helpful resource to understand and possibly start the first step in your healing. Think of it as a start to a grand adventure of self-discovery. The Adult Self-Report Scale (ASRS) was developed by the World Health Organization as a primary tool for individuals to use as a baseline before they meet with a primary care provider or counselor. 

The questions are relatively straightforward by with only eighteen questions. You rank your score to determine if you need additional assistance for a formal diagnosis. Some of the questions you will find on the questionnaire attached will be:

  • How often do you have problems remembering appointments or obligations?
  • Do you fidget or squirm by moving your hands, feet, or legs? 
  • If a project is mentally taxing, do you delay or procrastinate it? 

Now What?

The self-screening analysis is a way of determining more common symptoms versus a full psychological diagnostic test. We highly recommend reaching out to your primary care doctor, psychologist, or other testing centers to receive a full, detailed report regarding your ADHD. To fully understand the complexity of a person's diagnosis, there will need to be a few visits or meetings to understand the depth of how ADHD affects the client's life. There are many trained professionals with a specialty in adult ADHD who would be able to help you.

Suppose you decide after your self-screening analysis that you want to receive a formal screening. Schedule an appointment with your psychologist or psychiatrist, who will want a complete in-depth understanding of your physical, mental, and emotional health. The psychiatrist might even include your loved ones like a romantic partner or family. Your loved ones see you daily to notice your symptoms in real-time. To receive the most accurate diagnosis for possible ADHD, there will be various tools used. 

Getting help is similar across the board for kids and adults with ADHD by using medications that help with focus, counseling, journaling, and treatment for conditions that co-exist with ADHD. JournalOWL helps gain control of the ADHD symptoms by having set journal prompts and a trained mental health coach to help with your progress. Register for our program by clicking here

With JournalOWL, our counselors note their specialties so that you can easily find a counselor with experience in adults with ADHD. Specialties are much more intensive versus interests such as needing additional training and skills. Our comprehensive journalling allows the individual to be able to present and able to express themselves in a healthy, constructive way. In our article of How ADHD sufferers can learn to journal effectively, Dr. Carrie Jackson discusses how you can reduce stress and keep track of your feelings. Journaling is proven to decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression. You are not alone in having ADHD, and it is never too late to get the help you need. 

About Emily Ruiz, MA

Emily Ruiz is a contributor of JournalOwl with a passion for spreading mental health awareness. She believes that mental health topics are instrumental in creating change. She enjoys writing about PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other arrays of topics by adding an emotional feel to her writing.

Before joining the JournalOwl team, Emily received her Masters in Communication with a focus in healthcare advocacy at East Carolina University in North Carolina. She has assisted organizations teaching social skills to children who are autistic and ADHD and teaching mindfulness to teenagers with BPD and who are high-risk self-harm and suicide. Emily created a training module for a non-profit equestrian therapy, Difference instead of Disability, for her independent study during her master’s program.

Emily and her husband are North Carolina natives who enjoy traveling, exploring, and general shenanigans with one another. They foster and rescue animals in their free time. She enjoys riding horses, theatre, and reading.

Health Disclaimer

JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.

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