The Truth About ADHD Diagnosis And Treatment

Denver ADHD Diagnosis and Treatment:  The Truth About ADHD

If you live in the South Denver area and think you or your child may struggle with ADHD, this blog post will help you understand that you don’t have to be hyperactive to have ADHD.

So, what is ADHD anyway? Through the years that I have worked in this profession I have heard so many different opinions on ADHD. Some people think it is not real. They believe that those who say they have ADHD are just using it as an excuse for laziness or misbehavior. I have heard some say that ADHD is real and if you are a parent and don’t medicate a child with ADHD it borders on child abuse (pretty strong words).

Then of course there are others who believe that medication is the worst possible choice. This illustrates exactly what a hot topic ADHD diagnosis and treatment is. So, the question remains, is ADHD real or just an excuse? If ADHD is real, what is it anyway?

As a psychologist, ADHD is diagnosed using diagnostic criteria in the DSM-V. People can receive an ADHD diagnosis of “Predominately Inattentive Presentation”, “Predominately Hyperactive/Impulsive presentation”, or “Combined Presentation”. All of the diagnostic criteria is based on observable behavior. Diagnostic symptoms can be expressed in many different ways.  However, generalizations can be made based on age group and presentation type. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity- Disorder often goes unrecognized when the impulsivity and hyperactivity are not present. People understand the child who has endless energy, runs around constantly, and climbs over the furniture may have ADHD. What many people don’t understand is that there are many people who aren’t hyperactive or impulsive also can have ADHD.

The focus here is one ADHD Predominately Inattentive Presentation. Those whose symptoms are primarily inattentive are often not diagnosed until later in life, if ever yet their symptoms typically have a significant impact on their academic success, family and social relationships, and later on their symptoms impact job success. So, what does this form of ADHD look like?Denver ADHD diagnosis and treatment

In elementary school kids are the day dreamers. The ones who need their names called five times before they respond. These are children who are often mistaken for “lazy”. They can have it together one minute and not the next. Their performance is erratic. At home they may forget to brush their teeth  They may have trouble getting up in the morning, and struggle to follow through on things you ask them to do. Their room many be a mess and they may consistently misplace things.

They may need extra support to get ready for school. They may make careless mistakes in their schoolwork. You may describe them as daydreamers. They often have difficulty either getting started on tasks or completing tasks. Some of them get in trouble in school or don’t seem to “want to put in the effort” on their work. Some have friendship problems and most of them don’t seem to feel very good about themselves.

By high school many of these kids are tired of trying and some start to check out. Many of them own a negative self-image and may experiment with drugs or alcohol.  They tend to be described as chronic underachievers in school. Many start to struggle with anxiety and depression. Through adulthood many of those with ADHD are underemployed and feel as those they can’t reach their full potential. They often have a low self-esteem. People with ADHD do not choose to have these struggles.

There is research that demonstrates that people who have ADHD have different brain wave patterns than those who do not have ADHD.   One typical brain wave pattern is that those with ADHD have a greater ratio of theta (slow brain waves) to beta (faster, focus brain waves) than those without ADHD. ADHD is NOT a character issue, it is a brain difference and it is very real.

Below are the diagnostic criteria for ADHD primarily inattentive type:

A pattern of inattention that interferes with functioning or development.  It is characterized by 6 or more of the following symptoms.  The symptoms need to have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level.  The symptoms negatively impacted social and academic/occupational activities.  For older adolescents and adults at least 5 symptoms are required:

1. Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities (e.g., overlooks or misses details, work is inaccurate).

2. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities (e.g., has difficulty remaining focused during lectures, conversations, or lengthy reading).

3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (e.g., mind seems elsewhere, even in the absence of any obvious distraction.)

4. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., starts tasks but quickly loses focus and is easily distracted).

5. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities (e.g., difficulty managing sequential tasks; difficulty keeping materials and belongings in order; messy, disorganized work; has poor time management; fails to meet deadlines).

6. Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (e.g., school work or homework; for older adolescents and adults, preparing reports, completing forms, reviewing lengthy papers).

7. Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).

8. Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (for older adolescents and adults, may include unrelated thoughts).

9. Is often forgetful in daily activities (e.g., doing chores, running errands; for older adolescents and adults, returning calls, paying bills, keeping appointments).

We often hear parents say “My child can focus great when he/she enjoys the activity, but it is difficult for him/her to do anything when it isn’t interesting.” This quote captures the ADHD primarily inattentive brain. At Mountain Vista Psychology, PLLC we provide ADHD Evaluations for children, teens, and adults. We focus not only on diagnosis, but research based recommendations for treatment moving forward.

If you think an evaluation may be helpful, please call 720-583- 9332.  You can also visit our website at In addition to evaluations for ADHD we offer neurofeedback and counseling support. We would love to answer any questions you may have and support you through the process.

Written By Dr. Steffanie Stecker


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