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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
When I was in first grade I was diagnosed with a minor case of ADD. My parents chose not to medicate me and all through school I struggled with reading because I couldn’t focus. In high school I brought up the possibility and my mom suggested looking into getting medication and extra time for tests but I never did.
Now that I’m in college, more and more people have pointed out how easily distracted I am. I cannot sit still, will read something and have no idea what I read because my mind drifts and struggle to focus when I’m having a conversation with a person.
You would think after all of these years I would have learned to live with ADD and not still struggle with the symptoms, but I feel like they have only gotten worse. In order to get medication, will I have to go through all the testing again or can I just show a doctor the paperwork my parents have on file? If I do have to go get tested, what sort of doctor must I see and how much will it usually cost?
What you are calling ADD is officially now called ADHD, inattentive type, but the terminology may change again with DSM-V, which is currently being planned. ADHD-inattentive often has co-occurring reading disorder.
If you have a reading disorder, you might benefit more from directly addressing that than the ADHD, but it is possible that medication could improve your attention enough to help you develop better reading skills --i.e., it might make your reading remediation more efficient and effective.
However, medication should not replace reading remediation if you have a reading disorder. The treatment of adult ADHD not previously treated (and adult reading disorder) varies widely by locality. Student Health Services at your university might be able to help you; they often have a psychiatrist on staff, but any physician with training/experience with ADHD could diagnose ADHD and prescribe medication.
I don't know what tests you are referring to, but the diagnosis of ADHD is made by history and ruling out of other causes of inattention or hyperactivity, such as anxiety or mood disorder, or even such medical problems as thyroid abnormality.
If you have documentation from childhood, it would help to bring it to the evaluation. You should also look into nonmedical interventions, such as organizational skills training, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), meditation, and coaching.
A coach could help you develop good habits, which are good for anyone but essential for someone with ADHD. Once you have a good habit, it will carry you along without having to pay attention to it. So the more good habits you have, the less of a handicap inattentiveness becomes.
You may find mutual support and more information at a local meeting of ChADD (Children and Adults with ADD), named before the term changed to ADHD. You may also find more information in "A Family's Guide to ADHD," Handbooks in Health Care, 3 Terry Dr., Newtown, PA, 2004(www.HHCbooks.com).
Costs are also variable, and it's OK to shop around and ask about cost before an appointment. Possibly you have insurance that would cover all or part of the cost; if you have insurance, you can ask the insurance company for clarification. Keep in mind that coverage may change with the new law likely to be passed.
L Eugene Arnold, MD, MEd
Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University