Do I have ADHD?
It’s a question many people are asking themselves these days.
Maybe you’ve long battled decision fatigue, forgetfulness and procrastination. Or maybe social media influencers on TikTok have convinced you that your symptoms are a sign. Perhaps you’ve even taken an online quiz or questionnaire to determine if you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
It’s possible you could have ADHD, but it’s also possible your symptoms could indicate something different. Unfortunately, a five-minute online quiz isn’t going to give you a clear diagnosis.
While there are a gazillion online quizzes, relying solely on them to diagnose ADHD is not recommended— even those certified by reputable organizations.
To unpack the potential harm caused by these online tests, we spoke with Eddie Taylor, PhD, a clinical psychologist with Banner Health. Dr. Taylor shares the limitations of self-diagnosis and provides guidance on seeking proper diagnosis and treatment.
First, what is ADHD?
ADHD is an impairment of the brain’s self-management system.
“ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs levels of attention/focus, organization and impulse control,” Dr. Taylor said. “The impairments include difficulty paying attention to details and/or instructions, following through and/or completing assignments or tasks, difficulty staying seated or being fidgety and difficulty waiting their turn in situations where it is required or expected.”
ADHD is primarily diagnosed during childhood but often continues into adulthood. In adulthood, it can affect an adult’s ability to function in social settings, work settings and learning situations.
What are the risks of self-diagnosing ADHD?
Self-diagnosis can be an important first step in getting help, but it doesn’t mean you can self-treat. While it’s tempting to cut out the “middleman” (i.e., therapists, psychiatrists and other licensed behavioral health specialists), self-diagnosis is a dangerous path to go down.
“People who self-diagnose may seek medications for a misdiagnosed condition or refuse treatment with the belief they have reached a diagnosis,” Dr. Taylor said. “Additionally, they could become convinced with a self-diagnosed condition that they refuse to believe or accept any other diagnosis from a licensed behavioral health specialist. This is known as confirmation bias.”
A detailed psychological assessment can determine whether you have ADHD, a different condition or a combination of ADHD and other conditions. They can be more objective and nuanced when making an assessment.
Why does everyone seem to have ADHD?
We live in a very complex, busy world. Add a global pandemic and widespread trauma, and it’s no wonder many of us identify with ADHD symptoms. It seems like everyone has “a little ADHD nowadays.”
Everyone can indeed be forgetful, scatterbrained or distracted sometimes. However, it’s also true that most do not have ADHD.
For people with ADHD, however, their symptoms aren’t occasional. ADHD is a very real and chronic condition that causes many long-term challenges.
Although greater awareness and diagnosis of ADHD are on the rise, it still only represents a small group of people. According to the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), about 4.4% of adult Americans have ADHD.
ADHD is a complex, multifaceted condition that can affect people in many different ways and have many symptoms that can mimic other conditions. Many things can look like ADHD – such as anxiety or depression. This is why ADHD isn’t so easy to assess and diagnose.
I took an online quiz and it says I have ADHD. Now what?
Before you take an online ADHD diagnosis and run with it, see a licensed professional who can clinically review your symptoms along with other important information so you can adequately confirm whether you have ADHD or another mental health condition.
“Symptoms provide most of the factors of a diagnosis, but clinical and professional observation allows you to be treated and diagnosed based upon several factors including culture, environment and current situation, along with other clinically relevant concerns,” Dr. Taylor said. “The provider will be able to hear your concerns and provide a diagnosis and treatment plan. Thus, addressing any concern, fear or uncertainty that may develop from the information your quiz provided.”
Even if the results of your online ADHD quiz seem accurate, securing a diagnosis should never be left to chance. Self-diagnosis is a suspicion and is not a diagnosis. See a licensed mental health specialist to get a diagnosis and proper treatment.
ADHD can have a profound impact on people living with the condition.
If you suspect you have ADHD or another mental health condition:
Call the Banner Behavioral Health Appointment Line at (800) 254-4357.