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How to Question a Doctor's Diagnosis of ADD or ADHD

Updated on February 20, 2013

Choose the Right Team for Diagnosis and Treatment

Choose the right people to help you put together the solution to ADD/ADHD Diagnoses and Treatments.
Choose the right people to help you put together the solution to ADD/ADHD Diagnoses and Treatments. | Source

Planning the Evaluation Instrument in the 1980s

© 2011, 2012, 2013; Patty Inglish, MS. All rights reserved.


The first answer to the HubPages Question concerning ADD/ADHD Diagnosis is that yes, some practitioners may diagnose these disorders more readily than others do and some of these diagnoses may be incorrect.

During five years of work in a private psychology practice, I evaluated children and youth for ADD and ADHD before an approved testing instrument was introduced. During another 15 years of work, I had opportunity to provide input into the evaluation of high school youth, college students, and adults for these disorders. Today, we have medical and psychological testing for these disorders, but by the mid-1980s, we still had only 1) a parents' checklist of behaviors, 2) teacher's reports/opinions, and 3) our own observations.

At the same time, Ohio became the first US State to award Social Security Disability for a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD. Unfortunately, this resulted in a few families coaching their children to "act ADD." One mother entered my office and began the interview by stating that her two children in the waiting room were both ADD and "so is the one I am carrying." This was uncanny, since we as a profession had no test for in-vitro determination of ADD.

Another unfortunate event was our discovery that what we first thought to be ADD or ADHD was actually drug abuse in some older youth and adults. Truly, any symptom might fit a number of conditions. This makes it important to see a physician about behaviors in one's child that are disturbing and work together with professionals in order to reach an effective solution or behavior management routine.

Well supervised support groups can also help parents and guardians decide on effective actions, including changing medical practitioners. Not all doctors can treat all patients effectively, so a "best fit" relationship, one that produces results, is needed. Do not settle for less.

Teacher Diagnosis?

In one town where I counseled and coached in the 1990s, teachers were permitted to diagnose children on their own with ADD, even though they did not receive psychological or medical training or certification for this. They were also permitted to raise and lower medication levels on their own. When one teacher diagnosed her whole class of 28 students and precribed increased doses to "keep them quiet", a red flag went up to authorities that this was not an effective or ethical system of treatment. I am still aghast.


When you cannot be a good example, you'll just have to be a horrible warning.


Asking Tough Questions

When a doctor (including psychiatrists) or psychologist diagnoses your child or yourself with ADD or ADHD, ask how he specifically came to that conclusion. What data did he or she use and why does it mean that the diagnosis is correct? Ask to see the test , the results , and the interpretation of the results. Ask how reliable the test is, how often it is correct.

When prescribed medication(s), ask what it does , what side effects it may have, and why it will work . Ask how long you will need to use it - a few months, or your whole life? Please ask all of these questions, because I have recieved prescriptions a few times that would have been fatal had I not asked questions. Asking questions of my doctor, nurse, and pharmacist saved my life as a child and as an adult. If you or your child are taking vitamins or health food supplements, please report them to your practitioner and ask if they will intereact badly with your precriptions. A friend recently died because of such interactions and you certainly do not want to lose your child or your life in this way.

You may want to suggest to your practitioner that you suspect that ADD/ADHD is not the correct diagnosis. Do some research and you might 1) ask him or her what it might be if it were not ADD/ADHD and 2) offer what you think it might be - you might help find a better diagnosis. Then discuss both sides of the issue and listen to your doctor. This is all ethical within the doctor-patient relationship, but it is not ethical or effective to discuss this with non-practioner non-experienced friends and strangers. You might want to share your expereince with your support group, though.

If, in the end, you are uncomfortable with your doctor's final diagnosis, seek a second and third professional opinion. Change practitioners, if necessary.

The research of the last 10-15 years suggests that many mental health conditions are related in one way or another neurologically: ADD, ADHD, Tourettes, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, some of the conditions on the Autism Spectrum, some Drug Abuse symptoms, even a few symptoms of the several Personality Disorders, and others. We may yet find that they are all caused by genetic inheritance and can be cured. Until then, ask questions of practitioners, support group members, national and local ADD associations, and any lecturers on the subject that come to your town; then share your experiences in your support group to help others. Maintain effective communication with your or your child's physician or psychologist and continue to share your information and questions.

In all of these actions and decisions, don't discount the usefulness and power of prayer support and/or positive thought from your local house of faith, a prayer chain, even Facebook prayer partners or other supportive communities. You needn't feel alone.


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    • mariefontaine profile image

      mariefontaine 6 years ago from Indianapolis, Indiana

      I am still stuck on the mother who had already given her unborn child the label of ADD. My son was diagnosed with ADD when he was in first grade. I had a fit and told them there was NO way he would be put on the medications they wanted him on. A psych friend of the family informed me that if he needed it, I would notice a difference in him and if he were sluggish, then his dosage was too high. He told me to be sure that the doc started him off on a low dose. He then informed me that if my son was NOT ADD that the medication would have an opposite effect on him, causing him to become amped up. Thus, the black market for Ritalin, Concerta, etc. on college campuses. It turned out my son did, indeed, need the meds. I noticed that even his handwriting became legible.

    • rockdresses profile image

      rockdresses 6 years ago from Turkey

      Thanks a lot for your sharing! Very useful information!

    • profile image

      ruffridyer 6 years ago from Dayton, ohio

      My wife used to work at the school as an aide. The class had two boys on ritalin. Then a new principal arrived, his son was on ritalin. By the end of the year 32 boys were on this medication. Just a councidence?

    • briharn profile image

      briharn 6 years ago from New Jersey

      Thanks for this article on a much-debated topic. My mother's doctor constantly insisted she have my brother diagnosed with ADD, but my mom felt he was a typical young boy and the doctor was rushing to diagnose such a young child!

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 6 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Patty.

      We sometimes feel that our Doctor knows it all and that whatever he says goes. Whatever the condition whether it's ADD, ADHD or another condition, we need to let our physician know our doubts about the diagnosis.

      Thank you for this great article.

    • joanwz profile image

      Joan Whetzel 6 years ago from Katy, Texas

      THese are very helpful suggestions. Thanks so much for this information.