How to Engage With Patients About ADHD Self-Diagnosis

There are many who think healthcare is all about diagnosis and treatment. But, being able to talk with patients to uncover hidden symptoms, or uncover if a self-diagnosis is accurate, is vital. The latter has become especially important with the rise of concerns about attention-deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). More and more people are taking to social media, sharing stories and symptoms of their ADHD, causing more patients to give themselves an ADHD self-diagnosis.

Dr. Sasha Hamdani, a psychiatrist and ADHD specialist stated, “A lot of my patients would hold up their phone to the camera and be like, ‘Here’s this video that I saw on TikTok and this is why I have ADHD.’” 

According to Dr. Hamdani, only about 50% of patients who inquire about ADHD actually yield a diagnosis. This means it is up to the healthcare provider to have difficult conversations with patients around the intricacies of diagnosing ADHD, whether or not they have the condition, and what they can do about it. 

So, as a healthcare provider, how are you supposed to approach discussions around ADHD self-diagnosis versus an accurate medical diagnosis in your practice? We consulted the Figure 1 community for their thoughts on the subject. Here is what more than 300 HCPs had to say.

Are ADHD Inquiries Really Rising?

We asked the Figure 1 community if they have seen an increase in ADHD inquiries in their practice over the past few years. Fifty-nine percent of our respondents said yes, they have seen more patient inquiries about ADHD, whereas only 16% said no, and the remaining 25% said it was not applicable to their practice.

Additionally, the majority (63%) of our respondents stated that it is the patient or caregiver of the patient who brings up the topic of assessing the patient for ADHD. Only 15% said that they, as the healthcare provider, are likely to bring up ADHD assessment. That’s a significant number of patients coming to their provider with an ADHD self-diagnosis.

How Often Do You Prescribe?

When we asked our respondents about their prescription habits for their patients with ADHD, there were quite a wide spread of results. Forty percent of respondents said that they prescribe to less than 24% of their patients with ADHD. Twenty-six percent said they prescribe to between 25-49% of patients, 24% said they prescribe to between 50-74% of patients, and the remaining 10% said they prescribe to more than 75% of their patients with ADHD.

These numbers support the results of our previous poll on ADHD medication regulation. After a JAMA study found a significant amount of ADHD prescrip medication abuse among adolescents, the majority (56%) of Figure 1 respondents said yes, there should be more ADHD prescription regulation.

Looking at these trends from our respondents, it seems that most HCPs try to prescribe as little as possible to their patients with ADHD. However, the increase in ADHD inquiries puts HCPs in a tough position. As one respondent said, “A ‘daily pill for life’ should be the last option.” The respondent went on to say that the ideal scenario of taking a multidisciplinary approach “is limited in my state because there are only so many specialists who are overwhelmed with children who need the initial assessment.”

So, HCPs are seeing an increase in demand for assessing and treating ADHD, but due to limited resources, are struggling to provide patients with a diagnosis or the care they need.

One respondent echoed the importance of proper diagnosis and compassionate care by sharing from their own experiences with ADHD. “I wish there was better understanding amongst my peers about how poorly/unmanaged ADHD can precipitate all sorts of health issues. It is so rewarding when I can form rapport and communicate with patients in an accessible way, especially when they confide that they’ve had negative experiences with healthcare providers in the past.”

Published October 16, 2023

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