Choosing an ADHD Specialist | Psych Central

Finding the right specialist can be an important part of managing ADHD. You might be wondering where to start.

Living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can feel overwhelming at times. If you, your child, or a loved one are experiencing symptoms that you feel might require management, it could be time to reach out for help.

Neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD can be complex. That’s why specialists exist, with specific expertise and experience to help you find solutions.

Stigma can stop some people from seeking an ADHD diagnosis or treatment. But what matters most is that you or your child with ADHD get the care you deserve.

ADHD is treatable, and the first step is often knowing when it’s time to begin a treatment plan.

Most people experience forgetfulness from time to time. Many children go through phases where they’re impulsive and energetic.

But how can you tell if you or your child might need to see an ADHD specialist?

If the ADHD symptoms you or your child experience are ongoing and bothersome, it might be time to seek expert input.

Maybe you have a diagnosis already but haven’t tried treatment yet. Or maybe you have, but your strategies haven’t helped enough. You might need a different approach or a new specialist.

ADHD isn’t something that goes away on its own. It’s not something you can ignore or save for a more convenient time.

Untreated ADHD can interfere with daily life and make it harder to reach your goals. It can impact school, work, and relationships. For some people, untreated ADHD can even lead to issues like substance use disorder (SUD).

However, ADHD is treatable, and an ADHD specialist is a good place to start.

There’s a wide variety of specialist options to choose from. You might have more than one involved in your care.

primary care doctor

Some primary care doctors have experience in diagnosing ADHD. And if they don’t, they can refer you to a clinician who can.

Before diagnosing ADHD, a doctor may choose to first rule out other possible medical causes for your symptoms.

pediatrician

A pediatrician can usually diagnose ADHD in children and may prescribe medication as treatment in some cases.

Many pediatricians can also offer helpful tips in managing symptoms in areas like:

neurologist

Neurologists don’t conduct testing to diagnose ADHD, but they can help rule out other possible symptom causes, such as seizure disorder.

Psychiatrist

Most psychiatrists have the training to treat ADHD and can prescribe medication.

They typically also have the expertise to identify other conditions that can occur with ADHD, like depression and anxiety.

psychologist

Psychologists can diagnose ADHD and provide treatment like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Some states allow psychologists to prescribe medications. In others, they can consult with your primary care doctor, who can prescribe medication if required.

Psychotherapist

Like psychologists, psychotherapists can offer talk therapy options for ADHD, like CBT. Some psychotherapists offer both group and private sessions.

social worker

A social worker can address the entire family to help ease the impacts of ADHD. They can also offer moral support and suggestions for treatment options.

nurse practitioner

Known for spending more time with you and offering more frequent follow-ups, nurse practitioners are usually equipped to handle mental health care.

Some specialize in ADHD and may be able to prescribe medication.

Physician Assistant

Like nurse practitioners, physician assistants can prescribe medication and specialize in ADHD.

They sometimes work in larger, multi-physician settings or smaller, independent practices.

behavioral therapist

Behavioral therapy teaches people living with ADHD how to replace unwanted behaviors with positive ones.

Some people use behavioral therapy instead of medication, while others prefer both treatments together.

occupational therapist

You might think of an occupational therapist as someone who treats physical ailments. But they can also help people living with ADHD by teaching them organizational skills.

The best place to start is often with a primary care doctor. If they have experience with ADHD, they may be able to assess and diagnose you or your child. If not, they can offer a recommendation or referral to a provider who can.

You can also get a recommendation from someone you know. If you have a friend, family member, or co-worker who’s shared information about their ADHD experience, they might be able to refer you to their ADHD specialist.

Networking with parents at your child’s school is another way to find information. There might be another parent who’s met an ADHD specialist who could help your child.

Online research is another option. ADHD organizations like CHADD and ADDA are valuable sources of information and research. CHADD has a professional directory and an ADHD centers directory that might provide you with helpful leads.

You can also find support groups online. Whether you participate virtually, or find an in-person group near you, they can be a source of information about ADHD specialists and services.

If you’re still unsuccessful, you could try calling your local hospital to see if they have leads that might help.

It’s OK to try more than one clinician if the first one you meet doesn’t seem right for you or your child. You should be able to communicate effectively with your specialist, so it’s important that you find someone who’s the right fit.

ADHD is complex and can feel overwhelming to those living with it.

But with the right treatment plan, ADHD symptoms are treatable in both adults and children. An ADHD specialist can help you find the best treatment plan.

ADHD is lifelong, but a skilled specialist can help you minimize the impact of the symptoms you or your child may be experiencing.

The easiest place to begin is with a primary care doctor, who can get you started with a referral. It’s important to find an ADHD specialist who’s the right fit, so you may have to expand your search.

You can explore many resources, including networking with the people in your life. Sometimes word of mouth and personal referrals are helpful information sources.

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