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My ADHD Diagnosis Is Just as Valid, Even When I Diagnosed Myself

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For some unknown reason, when I grew up, a lot of the medical, forensic, and crime TV shows had storylines about “unofficial” mental health and a lot of hypochondriac plot devices. Was that everyone, or was that just me? Either way, I think it stuck with me for a very long time, which is why for a long time, I had a really hard time accepting the fact that that I have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And for a very very long time, I was made to believe that doctors know best, doctors couldn’t be wrong, and until you get that official “yes” from a doctor, then it must definitely of course be a firm “no.”

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I have since learned that this is clearly not the case and we need to advocate for ourselves and our health because the medical system is far from perfect. Which is why I have diagnosed myself with ADHD.

But Erica, you can’t just… diagnose… yourself! You’re not a doctor!

I’m well aware, thank you. But in this instance, I do believe that I can and that I am accurate. I don’t want to say that it is in the same vein of self-diagnosing a cold or fever, but … yeah, it’s along the same vein.

Firstly, there is a lot of stigma and incorrect information floating around about adult ADHD. And I say “adult ADHD” because ADHD is often looked for in children and if you don’t have a diagnosis as a child, any adult ADHD symptoms are often disregarded or inaccurately attributed to something else. Like laziness (cue eye roll).

There are also lots of, once again, inaccurate stereotypes about what ADHD looks like, particularly in adults. And adult women. And BIPOC adult women. This is very similar to the stereotypes that, for the most part, used to center around depression and anxiety. While it has since gotten better for those two conditions, the same recognition for ADHD is still unclear.

Lastly, it is expensive. Like, real expensive. When I spoke about getting a diagnosis with my therapist, who is not an expert in ADHD, she had recommended a few clinics that do specialize in diagnosing ADHD. Great — why don’t you just do that, Erica? Well firstly, it’s thousands of dollars. Like, multiple months’ worth of rent. And requires full days of being at the clinic, which means days off from work. It’s not covered by insurance. And, it also doesn’t guarantee a diagnosis or treatment plan either. And even if it does end with a conclusive diagnosis, a treatment plan is separate. And of course, charged separately as well.

So before you judge a self-diagnosis, whether it’s someone else or even yourself, please remember that the barriers to health are very real. The financial barriers are very real. The fact that women, especially BIPOC women, are rarely taken seriously is yet another hurdle that we need to consider.

All of this is to say: a self-diagnosis is a real diagnosis. If you are able to, I support your decision to seek a medical professional for a diagnosis and guidance. But if you’re like me and you can not, I see you. Your diagnosis is valid. Your experience is valid. And we will get through it together.

Photo by Kaung Htet on Unsplash

Originally published: October 7, 2021
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