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People living with ADHD and their loved ones are relieved to learn this is an identifiable and treatable condition, and grateful to discover that they've done nothing wrong. This condition is not caused by things you do or don't do, eat or don't eat, think or don't think. You are born with it. It's part of your design and makeup. Best of all, God can and does use ADHD in His plan for your life.
Diagnosis and Treatment If you suspect that you or someone you love may have ADHD, I believe it is unwise for you to attempt to make the diagnosis yourself—or, in the case of a child, to allow a teacher to do so—even though there are many self-test questionnaires available. Why? There are many other problems, both psychological and physical, that can cause similar symptoms. Thyroid disorders, for example, can make people hyperactive or sluggish; depression or anxiety can cause a form of distractibility identical to that seen with ADHD.
Additionally, up to three-quarters of people diagnosed with ADHD have other physical, mental or emotional conditions associated with it. Treating ADHD while overlooking these conditions can be dangerous—not to mention that recognizing the other problems may dramatically change the best treatment options for either. Obviously, sorting these out requires experienced professional help.
I recommend that you consult a family physician, pediatrician, mental-health specialist, psychologist, counselor or psychiatrist who specializes in ADHD. Find someone who is aware of the limitations and difficulties of diagnosing ADHD, who knows the criteria for defining the syndrome, who can rule out all other associated conditions, and who can do the appropriate testing and treatment. It may surprise you to learn that most primary care physicians (or even psychologists) are not as experienced diagnosing and treating ADHD as our colleagues who provide this care as part of their everyday practice.
Once the proper diagnosis is made, then treatment options need to be considered. Although there is not enough space to review them in this article, here are the steps I consider most important:
- Seek a second or third opinion to reach peace about the accuracy of your diagnosis.
- Become an ADHD expert. Learn everything you can about the diagnosis and all of the available treatment options. Explore the risks, benefits and costs of each option.
- Consider both behavioral and medication options.
- Don't forget to ask your pastor(s), elders and close friends to pray for you. Sarah finished college despite having ADHD and recently wrote: "I'm settling down nicely into my new job. I love being back in the ministry and (believe it or not) having ADHD has actually been a blessing!
"My work requires me to keep a high level of energy for as long as 10 to 12 hours on some days and...juggle a dozen things at one time. I have already received my first job evaluation and my boss praised me for being 'able to maintain a high level of energy while still remaining organized' and [for] my ability 'to solve problems in unique and different ways.' I'm thankful to the Lord that He has revealed to me [my] uniqueness. What others saw as my weakness was actually my strength."
No matter what "cross" (Luke 14:27, NIV) or "thorn" (2 Cor. 12:7) you've been given, the Word of God states, "'I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jer. 29:11). With proper diagnosis, appropriate treatment and the fullness of the Holy Spirit, people can see their ADHD become part of God's abundant life and prosperous plan for their lives.
Walt Larimore, M.D., is one of America's best-known family physicians. He is the author of Why A.D.H.D. Doesn't Mean Disaster, which he co-wrote with Dennis Swanberg and Diane Passno (Focus on the Family/Tyndale). Visit www.DrWalt.com for more information on this subject and many other health-related topics.
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