Your ADHD Questions Answered!

Dr. Kensington Answers Readers' Questions About ADHD


I receive many ADHD questions via email, phone calls, etc. To best help my readers, I thought it would be helpful to create a growing compendium of some of the most common questions about ADHD.

Common ADHD Questions

I think my son may have ADHD. How do I know for sure?

A doctor who specializes in diagnostic ADHD testing would need to conduct a complete assessment to gather more information, but there are a couple of steps you can take right now for a quick answer to your question.

First, take this  diagnostic ADHD Self Test. They are the same ADHD questions asked during an ADHD assessment in a doctor's office. Also, check out this list of ADHD symptoms and see if they apply to your son.

If these tests are positive, you should seek a second opinion from a mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist) in your area that is experienced in assessing ADHD. Also, you may wish to work in conjunction with your school if they are mandating an ADHD assessment; they often referrals to local ADHD service providers.

My son was diagnosed with ADHD, but he is not hyperactive. Can a person have ADHD and not be hyperactive?

Yes, hyperactive-impulsive is only one of the three major ADHD subtypes, and is actually the least common. The other major subtypes are inattentive and combined type (wich is inattentive plus hyperactive-impulsive). Combined type is the most common. (For more info, read this article about the different ADHD types.)

My husband was recently diagnosed with ADHD. It is possible to be diagnosed with ADHD as an adult?

Yes, adults can be diagnosed with ADHD, as long as symptoms began in childhood. Many adults who grew up prior to today's sophisticated and accurate ADHD assessments often "fell through the cracks" and were not properly diagnosed or treated.

My hyperactive 5-year-old son is out of control. His energy level is too much for me most of the time, and nothing I have tried has helped him calm down. His ADHD questions my sanity. Help!

Speaking as a mother of a son with ADHD, I understand your frustration. Help is here: I wrote the guide How To Calm Hyperactive Children specially for parents in our situation. Remember: it's only temporary, and don't forget to engage in self-care during your weaker moments.

The school wants my son to be tested for ADHD, but I think he is behaving just like a normal active boy and I am not even convinced that ADHD is a real disorder. Any thoughts?

A diagnosis of ADHD is only given after many specific diagnostic criteria are met. An ADHD diagnosis is not given to children who are merely highly active (see Diagnosing ADHD). The school will likely refer you for an assessment to gather more information; it's common.

As for whether ADHD is a real disorder or not, you may be interested to know that brain scans of individuals with ADHD are different from folks who do not have ADHD.

Specifically, the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for executive functioning (concentration, project planning, etc.) is smaller and less active compared to folks without ADHD.

This makes sense given how one of the main diagnostic features of ADHD involves deficits in executive functioning. (For additional information on the topic of ADHD brains, check out the work of brain researcher Dr. Daniel Amen.)

With that in mind, and the experiences I've had with my son who suffers from ADHD, it is my opinion that ADHD is as real as cancer or diabetes.

Why do they prescribe stimulants like Ritalin for children who are already hyperactive? That does not seem to make sense.

I know it must sound odd to prescribe stimulants for hyperactive children, but stimulants actually have an opposite effect on those who suffer from ADHD.

Can you treat ADHD without stimulant medications such as Ritalin? I grew concerned when I read that stimulants such as Ritalin can be addictive, and lose their effectiveness over time. Is this true? If so, are there any safe yet effective alternatives to drugs such as Ritalin? What is your opinion of natural ADHD remedies?

Yes, there can be some serious drawbacks to stimulants, as you mentioned. They have side effects, they can be addictive, and they can lose their effectiveness as the body develops tolerance.

In my clinical and personal experience helping my son who suffers from ADHD , I have witnessed success with these ADD Natural Remedies. They have no side effects compared to stimulant-based based ADHD meds such as Ritalin, and I've witnessed their effectiveness as a sole treatment or in combination with other ADHD treatments.

They seem to work best for those with mild to moderate ADHD, but I've seen them reduce even severe ADHD symptoms.

Because medications affect everyone differently, they may not work for everyone. Like all ADHD medications, there is often some tweaking involved in order to find the most effective ones for a particular individual. Of course, you are always advised to discuss these ADHD questions with your treating doctor.

My son w/ ADHD is struggling in school, but I don't think the school is doing enough to help him. What type of school services are available?

Your son may be eligible for educational and therapeutic support services. While each state is different, they all have some form of educational and therapeutic supports. The most common of these plans are a 504 for ADHD and an Individual Education Plan/Program (IEP for ADHD).

Can I receive disability for my ADHD?

Yes, but benefits are given on a case-specific basis and benefits vary by state. Specific conditions must be met, and it can be a bureaucratic process. It is more difficult to get disability today compared to a few years ago, especially for ADHD. For more information, read Disability for ADHD.

Have your own ADHD question? Contact us via the contact form at the bottom of the navigation bar to your left, and we will try to answer your ADHD question in a timely fashion.

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