ADHD has many symptoms: impulsiveness, inattention and hyperactivity. These symptoms can cause problems in both social and work environments. It can create difficulties in relationships. But all too often, ADHD is not the only condition. For every three people with ADHD, two are also trying to control another mental health issue [National Resource Center for ADHD], such as bipolar disorder, depression or anxiety.
Having a dual diagnosis makes diagnosis more difficult. Symptoms can overlap; for example, "inability to focus" can be a symptom of ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. Medical professionals need to look not at the individual symptoms, but at the individual as a whole. They need to take family history into account.
Each mental illness has specific diagnostic guidelines in the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual" completed by the American Psychiatric Association. Medical professionals must be diligent in determining what conditions are actually present because coming up with an effective treatment plan is based on having an accurate diagnosis.
Although many people start with their family doctor for a diagnosis of ADHD, when additional conditions are present, a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist should be involved. Treatment works best when all of the professionals work together, as a team, sharing information and working to find what is best for the patient.
When a treatment isn't working and you are not improving as either your, or your doctor, feel you should, it is time to go back and have a new and thorough evaluation to find out if you have an accurate diagnosis.
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