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Navigating the Medical Process With ADHD

One of the biggest struggles that I see in my clients is figuring out how to even get a diagnosis or treatment for ADHD. There are so many hurdles that many face, like a lack of insurance or the stigma around Adult ADHD. To make matters worse, ADHD often goes unrecognized or is mistaken for other conditions in adults. Studies show that up to 75% of adult men with ADHD are incorrectly diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder, while women are more likely to be told they have anxiety when, in fact, they have ADHD. That's why it's so important to advocate for yourself and find healthcare providers who really understand ADHD. 

The Role of Self-Diagnosis and Official Diagnosis

If you’re at the beginning of learning, you may have read a lot about ADHD. If you suspect that you have ADHD but haven't yet received an official diagnosis, self-diagnosis can be a helpful starting point. It allows you to begin researching and implementing strategies that may improve your life. This is a good place to sit down with someone and really look at the most obvious signs of ADHD and see how it applies to you and your life.However, the goal should be to eventually get diagnosed officially. An official diagnosis opens up access to medications and therapy that can be game-changers in managing ADHD. Plus, it provides validation and a sense of community, knowing that you're not alone in your struggles. 

Communicating with ADHD-Informed Psychiatrists

So, once we are fairly certain that we live with ADHD, how do we navigate the medical system? Once we have gone through our symptoms and compiled them. Now we have to do your best to convey these to ADHD-informed psychiatrists. These professionals have specific training and experience in diagnosing and treating ADHD, so they're more likely to provide an accurate assessment. However, even the best psychiatrist in the world is only going to be able to diagnose based on what symptoms that you tell them that you deal with. One of the biggest reasons why people with ADHD get diagnosed is because of our memory issues and lack of organization. By spending time putting everything that we can down, we arm them with an accurate understanding of what we deal with. Also, it’s important to not  be afraid to ask questions and advocate for getting tested. It's your right to receive a thorough evaluation. A diagnosis is also important because we also often deal with comorbidities such as Autism, PTSD, depression and other mental health issues, and all of these require various different treatments.

The Importance of ADHD and Trauma-Informed Therapists

In addition to working with an ADHD-informed psychiatrist, it's crucial to find a therapist who understands both ADHD and trauma. Research shows that people with ADHD are 3 to 4 times more likely to have experienced trauma, which can further complicate symptoms and treatment. A therapist who is well-versed in both ADHD and trauma can help you work through any underlying issues with trauma and emotional regulation, while also providing strategies to manage ADHD symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes to Manage ADHD

But what if we do not have the resources to get the treatment that we need? While getting an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment is essential, if we do not have access to this yet, not all is lost. There are also many lifestyle changes that can help manage ADHD symptoms:

  1. Getting good rest: Prioritizing sleep and aiming for 7 hours per night can improve focus, mood, and overall functioning. On top of this, creating a better work-life balance is important, 1 hour a day, and 1 day a week where we can just relax and have fun is just as important as good sleep. 

  2. Exercise: Physical activity is the second-best treatment for ADHD after medication. Regular exercise boosts dopamine levels, which can improve attention and reduce impulsivity.

  3. Therapy: Even without an official diagnosis, we can still find therapists who understand ADHD and Trauma. Working with a therapist can help you develop coping strategies, improve self-esteem, and navigate relationships.

  4. Eating better: A balanced diet with plenty of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates can provide steady energy and support brain function.

  5. Stress reduction and simplification: Learning to eliminate unnecessary stressors and simplify your life can free up mental energy for the things that matter most.

  6. Organization and executive skills training: Developing strategies specifically designed for the ADHD brain, such as breaking tasks into smaller steps and using visual aids, can make a huge difference in daily functioning.

Remember, navigating the medical process and implementing lifestyle changes can be overwhelming, especially when you're already struggling with ADHD symptoms. Be patient with yourself and don't hesitate to reach out for support. Working with a coach who understands ADHD can provide guidance and accountability as you work towards getting an accurate diagnosis and creating a treatment plan that works for you.

As an ADHD coach, I offer short-term support to help clients navigate these challenges. Whether it's helping you prepare for conversations with healthcare providers, identifying lifestyle changes to prioritize, or providing accountability as you implement new strategies, I'm here to support you every step of the way. My goal is to empower you with the tools and knowledge you need to advocate for yourself and create a roadmap for success. Together, we can work towards getting you the proper diagnosis and treatment while also implementing practical changes to improve your daily life. Remember, seeking support is a sign of strength, and you don't have to navigate this journey alone.

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