Should You Get Tested for ADHD?

A “quiz” in four portraits

If any (or all) of these portraits feels familiar, then you should consider getting tested for ADHD. Attention disorders manifest in lots of different ways. Even when what’s going on in multiple ADHD brains is similar, it might not look the same on the outside.

Having ADHD doesn’t automatically mean that you will take medication. It does mean that you can figure out the support systems that will work for you, including consistent sleep patterns, high protein diets, regular physical activity, and executive function coaching.

Most importantly, a diagnosis means that you’re entitled to accommodations at school and at work, and these supports can make all the difference. A little extra time to finish a test. Help “chunking” a long-term project or essay into smaller steps. An example of the completed task, so you know what you’re aiming for. A calendar or planner, and someone to help you fill it out. Patience and understanding on those days when you just can’t.

Having a diagnosis also means understanding that your brain just works differently than various social systems expect it to. We are only beginning to recognize and celebrate the benefits of neurodiversity, but it’s clear that many of the world’s most creative and impactful people were able to do what they did because their brains worked differently, too.

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Portrait 1
You were a highly verbal child, always telling long stories packed with details. Perhaps adults frequently asked you to “calm down” or “take a break.” Maybe your friends called you bossy, or you had a hard time maintaining close friendships. While you may have learned to rein it in a little, you still get super excited talking about your interests. You always have a “fun fact” to share. But there’s a voice inside your head reminding you to stop talking or that “nobody cares” what you have to say.


Portrait 2
Teachers have always gotten mad at you for not paying attention or accused you of daydreaming. The truth is, you were paying attention, but something they said was so interesting that your brain followed that little factoid down a rabbit hole and you got lost. Perhaps you take forever to complete homework because you’ll be right in the middle of something and then need to look something up … as soon as you start to Google, your brain is off to the races. You never finish a test.


Portrait 3
Even when you were little, adults loved to talk to you — and you loved to talk to them. You’re full of great ideas, always drawing new monsters or inventing edible glue to keep your sandwiches from falling apart; maybe you write stories or poetry. Everyone has always told you how smart you are or that you’re “an old soul.” In elementary school, you were in the gifted program. But then you get to middle or high school, and suddenly your grades are tanking. Your parents are mad because they think you aren’t trying. Maybe you actually stop trying because it’s not making any difference.


Portrait 4
Everyone knows that you’re kind of a mess. Your room is covered in piles of clothes; your mom gets mad because she has to tell you nine times to take out the trash; you’re always forgetting to turn in your homework. You have a lot of friends, but not a lot of close ones, and you’re late to everything. Your backpack is basically a garbage can, and who knows how long that sandwich has been in the back of your locker? Teachers think that you’re not smart or that you just don’t like school. Sometimes you get in trouble and you have no idea what you did. Recess is your favorite part of the day.

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