Finding a Doctor to Treat ADHD   Frank Barnhill M.D.

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Contrary to the general public’s beliefs, the large majority of ADHD’ers are treated by primary care physicians, such as family practitioners and pediatricians.  There has been a misconception for years that ADHD had to be treated by a psychiatrist.  Nothing could be further from the truth at this point.  Advances in our knowledge of the disorder and its effects on a person’s success in life have shown ADHD to be a hereditary neurochemical disorder and not just an emotional or psychiatric problem.

Primary care doctors have been receiving fairly detailed training in the diagnosis and treatment of ADHD and are in a unique position to understand most of the family dynamics involved in the social and emotional aspects of the trait.  This understanding allows family doctors to help integrate ADHD care more effectively with other professionals such as schoolteachers, psychologists and counselors.

So, how to you find the perfect doctor to treat ADHD?
  1. Ask parents of other ADHD children or ADHD adults about the doctor they see.  Parents can tell when their child is responding to a particular doctors office visits and treatment.  They can give you a good idea about how a doctor should ask questions and discuss problems with ADHDers and their families.  Beware of referrals to doctors who “can make all the problems go away with a pill”.  By themselves, medications rarely help ADHDers learn to be successful.
  2. Talk to your family doctor or pediatrician about those doctors in your area who are trained in and feel comfortable treating ADHD.  The way a doctor interacts with you and your child during his exam is important, as it forms a basis for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. It is important that your doctor is able to discuss everything openly and in easy to understand terms, with both you and your child during his office visit.  A common complaint from a lot of parents of ADHDers is the last doctor who saw their child never spoke directly to them and seemed to act like a veterinarian and discussed problems only with the parent.  We feel these doctors only have a “passing interest” in ADHD and probably aren’t at ease in treating the disorder.
  3. Contact support groups such as CHADD, for a list of trained and interested doctors in your area.  Not all doctors are motivated to diagnose and treat ADHD because of misconceptions about which age groups really share and can display the trait and a sometimes tendency to still attribute ADHD behavior to poor parenting, discipline and delinquency.
  4. The professionals at your local county or state sponsored mental health department can probably give you a list of doctors and counselors who treat ADHD.  They may even have staff members who routinely evaluate and counsel ADHDers.
  5. Talk to your child’s schoolteacher about doctors of other ADHD kids that seem to be doing well in her classes.  Teachers are usually the first to be able to tell that a kid is responding well to ADHD treatment.  Since ADHD is covered under the disabilities act, federal funding is available for things such as study guides, books on tape or CD, and special educational experiences. 

I’m sure if you ask around your community, you will find other resources such as summer and vacation camps and workshops, parent support groups, and training seminars that you never knew about.  If you come across a good resource, please let the rest of us know.

Dr. Frank

These health tips are offered for your common sense use and are not intended to take the place of a visit to your doctor.  Your use of the materials implies your understanding that nothing herein contained represents individual medical advice.

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