Call a doctor if:
- You notice that you or your child has symptoms of (ADHD) that began before age 7.
- Your child is showing signs of ADHD, such as inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity, that are causing problems at home or school. Parents and teachers often notice this behavior during the child's first few years in school.
- Your child shows signs of other mental health disorders, such as or , that last more than a few weeks or seem to be getting worse.
- Your child is having academic or behavioral problems at school.
For young children who showsigns of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, watchful waiting isappropriate. It is difficult to diagnose ADHD in children younger than age 5.Young children generally have short attention spans, and their normal range ofbehavior includes periods of high activity and impulsivity. If you notice anyADHD symptoms in your preschooler that do not seem age-appropriate, work withyour child to improve behavior. Keep a record of your child's behavior for 6months to see if it improves. If it continues or has consequences, such asbeing expelled from day care or preschool, talk with your doctor about havingyour child evaluated.
School-age and teen years
Watchful waiting isnot appropriate for school-age children and teens with ADHD symptoms. Childrenneed attention from a doctor if they have behavior problems that occur in morethan one setting, such as poor relationships with parents and poor academicperformance.
Problems caused by inattention may not becomesignificant until the teen years, when greater self-reliance is expected. Achange in school (such as advancing to junior high or high school) or a newenvironment (such as moving to another city) can trigger problems withinattention. If you think your child may have an inattention problem, see adoctor to find out if ADHD is the cause.
Watchful waiting may not be appropriateif you are an adult and think that you may have ADHD. Consider how long youhave experienced symptoms, and think about any major changes or difficultsituations that are affecting your life. Your symptoms may improve when youhave addressed and worked on those issues. But talk to a doctor if yoursymptoms concern you. If you have other symptoms, such as or anxiety, a doctor can help diagnose andtreat your problems.
Who To See
Health professionals who can diagnose and treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with medicine include:
- (may specialize indevelopmental problems).
- (may specialize in adults or children and adolescents).
- (may specialize in child or adult nervoussystems).
- who specialize inpsychiatry.
Health professionals who do not prescribe medicines but can provide behavioral therapy or family counseling include:
- . Psychologists alsofrequently diagnose ADHD.
- Behavioral specialists.
- Psychiatric nurse specialists.
- Licensedprofessional counselors.
- Family therapists.
Ask your health professional 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. In addition, make sure your health professional 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 health professional be able to coordinate between other health professionals, family members, teachers, and caregivers.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.