BBC Panorama Programme on ADHD
Posted on 30th May 2023 at 15:49
The Panorama Programme on 15th May raised a number of questions:
• Who can diagnose ADHD?
• What should an ADHD assessment include?
• How should questions be asked in an ADHD assessment?
• What counts as an ADHD symptom?
I’m going to explore each of these questions in a separate blog.
Who can diagnose ADHD?
The Panorama programme quoted directly from the National Institute for Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines which state that:
"A diagnosis of ADHD should only be made by a specialist psychiatrist, paediatrician or other appropriately qualified healthcare professional with training and expertise in the diagnosis of ADHD".
An “appropriately qualified healthcare professional” includes, for example, pharmacists, psychologists and mental health nurses. Equally, not all psychiatrists are trained to conduct ADHD assessments. As far as I am aware, basic training for any of these professions would not include training in ADHD assessment. Therefore, all mental health professionals who conduct ADHD assessments need to have done additional, specialist training in ADHD and ADHD assessment and diagnosis.
All professionals who offer ADHD assessments, also need to be competent in gaining a full history of the person which includes information about their childhood, development and their physical and mental health throughout their life. Some professionals, such as psychologists and psychiatrists, will already be trained in how to gain a full history, others will need additional training to meet this requirement.
Another very important part of an assessment, is how to distinguish between different difficulties which a person may be experiencing. Something, such as agitation, might be an ADHD symptom of restlessness, or it might be a sign of anxiety, or of agitated depression or a facet of Bi-Polar Disorder or a trauma symptom or an aspect of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or a symptom of drug misuse. A competent ADHD assessor needs to be able to identify patterns which indicate the presence of different difficulties and disorders. He or she needs to gain information about when problems started, how they developed and to try to understand what the symptoms feel like “from the inside” in order to make sense of the behaviour.
In addition, sometimes a person may have ADHD but they may also have one or more other difficulties, so the assessor must understand how ADHD may present differently if, for example a person is also depressed or if they also have ASD. An assessor therefore needs an in depth knowledge of other mental health and neurodevelopmental conditions in order to be able to distinguish ADHD from other difficulties. Experience of conducting multiple assessments is very important in developing expertise in how different conditions may present and how to ask questions to elicit the necessary information.
Who can diagnose ADHD? A range of healthcare professionals can diagnose, but all of them must be appropriately trained and experienced.
Tagged as: ADHD
Share this post: