First off, though, let’s just be real. Self-diagnosis is a tricky thing. It’s hard to be objective, and everyone experiences a dose of “med school syndrome” at times where any disorder we hear about, we find the parts we can relate to. By the same token, though, if you’re like me, self-diagnosis will be an instantaneous revelation, like having your entire childhood and present life summarized in a one page list. To do it the right way, though, you need even more than that. You need to be able to provide substantiating evidence for what you claim, and you need to pay attention to ALL of the criteria, not just the ones that you feel connected to, or that support your hypothesis.
2. Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
4. Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).
5. Often has trouble organizing activities.
6. Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn’t want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
7. Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
8. Is often easily distracted.
9. Is often forgetful in daily activities.
Oh yeah, did you hear that? The next criterion I’ll share is that it has to have been happening since before age seven. This is where a lot of people get some clarification. If, as a child, you were really neat and organized and tidy and always did your homework, and didn’t lose things, then what’s probably happening to you now is not ADHD-I.
This is where I would recommend finding substantiating evidence. A lot of us don’t remember life before age seven. Substantiating evidence could be talking to your parents and getting their assessment of what you were like and whether you fit the criteria. That’s somewhat weak, but it can serve to bolster one’s case. For me, I wanted to be really, really sure I was correct in my diagnosis. So, I actually busted out old report cards and looked at behavior comments. Of course I remember the words teachers said, and the behaviors I exhibited at that age. But there’s now no disputing the very obvious running thread I found, documented year after year, of me having the above symptoms.
Sorry, don’t mean to make this a cliff-hanger, but I’ve gotta run to a meeting, so I’m going to do this in two posts. But, you’ve gotten most of the meat of the DSM diagnosis–definitely enough to sink your teeth into if you suspect you might suffer from ADHD-I. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the remaining criteria, as well as any rule-outs that might apply.
May your day be merry and bright.