Adulte nouvellement diagnostiqué avec le TDAH … je pense.december 22, 2019
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After consulting with my PCP and therapist, I was recently screened by a LICSW who specialized in adult ADHD. I found the screening interview confusing in a few ways and find myself wondering what to do now. Can you folks who have been through this process help me understand some of the things I was told during the screening?
My PCP, therapist, and the social worker who did the ADHD screening all agree that it sounds like I am an adult with ADHD symptoms. I’ve suspected for a few years and done a lot of reading and tried to learned skills to help cope but they just haven’t helped, so I finally found it in me to get screened.
However, during my screening process the social worker used a lot of black and white statements about people with ADHD and said she couldn’t give me a specific diagnosis because I didn’t seem to fit the profile of having childhood ADHD. I understand that the DSM requires symptoms to show up prior to the age of 12 and also understand how serious the diagnosis is and how careful she needs to be, especially considering the use of stimulants in treatment.
I also will say assessing my childhood was difficult for her because I had some trauma occur around 6–10. She (rightly, I think) decided against interviewing my mom about my childhood because my mom was struggling with addiction (and still is) during that time and was often absent. My dad is dead and my brother is out of my life so she didn’t have another perspective to go on. I also experience anxiety and I know that can present as ADHD, though I’ve done a lot of work on the anxiety and didn’t feel like the things I think might be ADHD improved.
One of the reasons she said I didn’t fit the profile in childhood was because I talked about struggling to learn to read longer than my peers, I eventually ended up really enjoying reading and liked to lose myself in a book. Her statement on that was straight up: “people with ADHD don’t like to read and can’t do so for longer periods” I pushed back on this and asked about hyperfocus and she simply restated it.
We talked about my grades in school, I said that while I often got in trouble with teachers and didn’t understand why, but found I could do pretty well in school without much effort through middle school except in math and science. Her statement regarding that: “People with ADHD don’t get good grades unless they have a parent compensating for them or really enjoy learning.”
I said I got okay grades in high school (I failed a few math and science classes) because my mom excused me for 30-60 absences when I was struggling and then my junior/senior year I was able to take 3 art classes that were self-directed (several at the local college) and pick other classes I was really interested. She said it was unheard of to get that many good grades (I was like a B- average) and had only had one patient with ADHD who got good grades in school because she went to a Montessori school. I asked if it was possible that the unchallenging and unremarkable rural school I went to just wasn’t challenging but she didn’t think that explained my grades.
After I graduated I went to art college and thrived despite procrastination but she said that did make sense since I was interested in it and had a lot of flexibility.
After I described my childhood she said she didn’t see signs I had ADHD before the age of 12 and that’s when the statements she made above were made. I felt like I somehow blew my chance to describe my childhood accurately. I was kind of struggling to organize my thoughts or interpret her questions and told her that but she said I didn’t need to give her more information than I already had.
Another statement she made was when she asked me about caffeine usage and whether I could sleep after I drank caffeine. I said I could when I was younger but now avoid too much during the day. She stated “people with ADHD drink coffee to fall asleep.” I was befuddled by what she meant and when I looked it up later I read that some people with ADHD might find caffeine relaxing instead of stimulating. However, she very clearly said “people with ADHD” and not “some people” which made me feel like she was implying “people who have ADHD, who aren’t you.”
She told me she would call my therapist to discuss before making a diagnosis because she wanted to talk to someone who knew me well in the present, though my therapist has only known my 6 months. After that conversation she called and left me a message saying she was going to diagnose me with ADHD Not Otherwise Specified but really struggled because she didn’t think it was present in my childhood.
I’m left feeling frustrated, like maybe I don’t deserve to say I have ADHD. Her voicemail told me I could see if my doctor would prescribe medication and encouraged me to join a group therapy session and to learn coping skills. I’m open to group therapy, but I have been learning coping skills for years and have read a lot of strategies that don’t seem to help. I meditate, I do yoga regularly, I use the pomodoro method during work, etc.
I’m still feeling unsure of what to do next and I don’t see my therapist for a few weeks and am not sure what to say to my PCP about medication. I’m scared to ask and be denied because the social worker told me her notes to my doctor would say she couldn’t diagnose ADHD during childhood.
Thanks for reading this far. I’d like to hear whether the black and white statements make sense to others, if it’s possible I don’t have ADHD because, well, I fucking love reading and didn’t fail out of school, and…can I ask my doctor for medication without looking like I’m drug seeking? Should I get another opinion from another ADHD specialist? (Not sure if I can afford to do so for awhile.)