House Call: Diagnosing ADHD

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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) occurs in an estimated three to five percent of preschool and school-age children. ADHD is a common behavioral disorder in which those who suffer from it often have difficulty paying attention, remaining still or controlling impulses.  There are three main types of ADHD, including:

  1. ADHD combined type - difficulties with both attention and hyperactivity
  2. ADHD inattentive subtype or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) – difficulties with attention and organization
  3. ADHD hyperactive subtype – difficulties with impulsivity and hyperactivity

Symptoms of ADHD include distractibility, inability to concentrate, trouble sitting still, difficulty listening, following directions and/or finishing a task, difficulties regulating mood, fidgeting, interrupting or blurting out and procrastination. Some symptoms of ADHD, such as impulsivity, hyperactivity and talkativeness, often overlap with other conditions, such as bipolar disorder.  This is why ADHD is commonly misdiagnosed. Diagnosing ADHD involves a detailed process to ensure the patient is receiving a proper diagnosis and treatment. If parents notice symptoms of ADHD in their children, they should discuss these symptoms with the child’s primary care doctor.  If ADHD is suspected, the family is often referred to a behavioral or developmental health specialist. Often, the patient’s parents and school teacher will be asked to fill out a rating scale, which serves as a diagnostic tool to rate the child’s behaviors, before coming to the first appointment. Physical exams are also performed to clear the patient of any hearing, vision or other health conditions that could be causing the symptoms. Parental interviews are conducted at the specialist appointment as well, to discuss family health history and all symptoms present in the patient. Once diagnosed with ADHD, patients will often have basic blood work drawn and an EKG of the heart to provide their physician with a health baseline before they start medication. Fortunately, Cone Health has an exceptional network of behavioral and developmental health professionals dedicated to properly diagnosing and treating patients with ADHD in the community.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Gayle Tadepalli is a board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist at Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital. Dr. Tadepalli is a graduate of Gandhi Medical College.  She completed her residency and fellowship at the University of North Dakota.