How long to get ADHD diagnosis?
August 16, 2013 6:48 AM   Subscribe

I've never had insurance before and am getting it soon. I have seen counselors in the past and have been told that I might have some sort of ADHD and maybe depression. I do have trouble in school, especially in math and science classes. In order for the disability services at my school to provide me services, I need a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist to evaluate me. How long after I sign up for one of these will I start seeing him or her? How many sessions are there usually before they can evaluate me properly? I need to do this in a span of 4 months for spring semesters classes so I can receive accommodations. Is this asking too much? Will it be too quick?

At my old college, I received accommodations from my few sessions with the school Licensed Social Worker, but this college wants a Psychologist or Psychiatrist and to list the number of sessions, how long I have been seen, what is the extent of my problems and all of these other things. Is 4 months enough time for a psychologist to diagnose someone and write a letter explaining my situation to the university? More specifically, at my old college I was granted extended testing time and this is what I am hoping to request at my new college.

posted by eq21 to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No, it is not asking too much too quickly. It depends a little on what kind of provider you see and what their particular policies are, but in general an ADHD diagnosis can be made after taking a careful history, and having you and potentially someone else who knows you fill out some ratings forms about your attention and how it affects your day to day performance. Most psychologists or psychiatrists will be able to make a diagnosis very soon after meeting them. Working with them on medication management and behavioral strategies to address ADHD symptoms will take longer, but the initial diagnosis and recommendation stage should be fairly short.

I would recommend checking with office that handles services for students with disabilities at your school. They may have list of providers available to help you find someone in your community.
posted by goggie at 6:56 AM on August 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I would like to add, that I am not going specifically get any drugs prescribed. I probably could use them, but I have been managing without drugs and the main thing is to get accommodations at my school. I also could benefit from the talking to someone, too, which is why I am going to go.
posted by eq21 at 7:07 AM on August 16, 2013

If you've been seen for ADHD in the last 18-24 months your insurance probably is not going to cover any appointments for it since it is a pre-existing condition. At least not until 1/1/2014 when the prohibition against pre-existing condition exclusions kick in as part of healthcare reform.
posted by COD at 7:09 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

My doctor sent me to a psychiatrist. I started seeing him at the end of August. At the end of my second session (after I had brought back the ratings forms) I had my diagnosis. At that point he would have been able to fill out the form so that I could receive accommodations. I saw him 4 times total, although the last two trips were to deal with medication. I'd say I was done with the whole thing by the end of September.

I don't think 4 months is unreasonable at all. I suspect the limiting factor will be how often and how soon you will be able to see the psychiatrist or psychologist.
posted by sarae at 7:11 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my experience it's an evaluation by a psychologist with testing done that's necessary, but obviously any school could be different. I'm surprised that they want documentation of therapy for ADHD accommodations -- as opposed to a round of testing with a report that talks about exactly what functions you have trouble with at what level of difficulty (usually an extensive test of intellectual functioning plus some other tests that are specific to testing "executive functioning" (e.g. memory, attention, concentration, organization and planning, etc.)

This testing can be done in one or two sessions -- it takes about three or hour hours total. But you have to get it done by somebody who does this -- certain psychologists and not others. Again, just in my experience, a diagnostic letter from a psychiatrist is not sufficient to get accommodations.

I think you should ask further or even quote the official letter from your school stating exactly what they require to give accommodations, so we can see the actual situation you're dealing with and you can make sure to get your evaluation done by the right person in the right way to satisfy your school.
posted by DMelanogaster at 7:15 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

The variable here is what will satisfy your school, not the psychiatrist. Everyone I know met the doctor once, took some assessment tests there or took them home as homework, and had the diagnosis that day or at the following meeting.

Get the paperwork from your school and take it to your first meeting with the psychiatrist. Work with them to try to satisfy whatever requirements the school is dictating. With any luck, the doctor has dealt with students previously and has already been through this.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:21 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: THis is the documentation requirements set forth by the college.

Also, how long to get the initial appointment?
posted by eq21 at 7:22 AM on August 16, 2013

My experience was walking into a psychiatrist's office, scheduling an appointment for the end of the month, and leaving that appointment with a diagnosis and a prescription.

But that's just to get a diagnosis and start treatment. What your school wants is an entirely different question and is largely aimed at people who are coming to school with a diagnosed disability, not people who discover a disability while in school. You'll have to coordinate between the disability services office and your care provider to make that work.
posted by valkyryn at 7:22 AM on August 16, 2013

eq21: Also, how long to get the initial appointment?

Really really varies, but if you live in an urban area, I suspect you would be able to see someone within a week or so. If your insurance is one that is not commonly accepted, you may have a longer wait. Is there a psychiatrist at your school's Student Health Services?
posted by Rock Steady at 7:28 AM on August 16, 2013

Ah, reading the link you provided, the school is specifically asking for an evaluation that uses testing in addition to a diganostic interview. This is going to be a longer appointment or a couple of appointments, but is still doable within your timeframe. I would recommend looking for a neuropsychologist or educational psychologist near you who has expertise in doing this testing. This link from CHADD can help get you started finding someone close to you, but the Office of Students with Disabilities should also have some referral information. It is very possible that there is a clniic on campus that could provide the evaluation.
posted by goggie at 7:58 AM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

+2cents: diagnosis and prescription within 20 mins at first visit.
posted by blue_wardrobe at 9:33 AM on August 16, 2013

How I got mine was that my school had a psych clinic, and as part of being clinical practice and participating in a study on diagnostic techniques for ADD/ADHD. Your school may have similar services — because mine was the school clinic and I was uninsured, it cost me $5 for the initial visit, and $30 for all the paperwork and junk.
posted by klangklangston at 10:00 AM on August 16, 2013

Just to add my experience, which was lengthy:

My psychologist and my regular doctor both referred me to the local psychology testing facility at the large state university (which is in the town where I live) for standardized clinical testing for ADHD. Neither my psychologist nor my regular GP would diagnose me. The clinical testing seemed to be my only option; your choices may be wider. I was 33 at the time, and was not the drug-seeking type.

I had to wait three months for the appointment. Before the appointment, I received a packet of paperwork. Some of it I filled out, and some of it had to be filled out by other people. These were mostly either essay questions or multiple choice surveys. I brought these with me to the appointment.

The appointment took most of a day. It involved several segments of testing (IQ test, focus test) and a lengthy interview.

It took two weeks for a report to be available, and I had to make another appointment to get the report and discuss the results. The report was several pages long and involved my results to all of these tests, plus a long narrative written about me in a very dry, clinical way.

In the end, I was diagnosed with ADHD, and I have the report to prove it.

I am happy that it was this long and involved because it has allowed me to take it seriously as a diagnosis, and not just one of my schemes for getting out of something.
posted by aabbbiee at 1:45 PM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

The standard advice is to go to a professional, tell them the symptoms you are having, previous diagnoses or suspicions, and ask them for their advice.

You wouldn't go to a plumber and tell them that you have a hair clog; you'd go and tell them that your sink won't drain, and the last time it was a hair clog. Same thing with doctors.

The timing depends on the professional. Some practioners are comfortable diagnosing "off the cuff" just with an interview, and others prefer to use diagnostic testing. Neither approach is better or worse. I'd personally pass some of the diagnostic tests, because I love taking tests and can summon the adrenalin to pass the test. But in day to day stuff, I am undeniably ADHD.
posted by gjc at 11:48 PM on August 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

" I'd personally pass some of the diagnostic tests, because I love taking tests and can summon the adrenalin to pass the test. But in day to day stuff, I am undeniably ADHD."

Heh. Me too. Where they get me is on the length of attention to number strings, and on the impulse control keyboard testing. The latter was absolutely terrifying, knowing that I could consciously know a thing and still not prevent making the wrong move. The rest of the testing was pretty sweet, though — word games and timed logic puzzles?

Which fit with the pattern of great scores, terrible grades that I'd dealt with all my life.
posted by klangklangston at 1:21 AM on August 17, 2013

Best answer: Everyone who is responding without having read the document that the O.P. provided, please, could you just not? You're not helping.

This is why I wanted to see that document. It says exactly what I thought it would say. They want a "battery" (see that up there?) A "battery" is short for "a battery of psychological tests." They (like every other college I've ever heard of) want the full complement of psychological tests, with scores, explanations, diagnoses including "ruling out" why it is NOT something other than ADHD, and everything else on that pdf.

As I said, it'll take about 4 hours. Some psychologists do this in one session, some do it in two sessions. Depending on who you get, it could take weeks to get an appointment, and it could take more weeks after you're testing for the report to be written and sent out. Whether or not you have time to do this for spring semester depends mostly on when you get that insurance in place. Also be apprised that your insurance may or may not cover all of these aspects of psychological services. You should ASK the insurance company what they cover. Keep in mind that if you have, say, a $1000 deductible for mental health services and the psychologist charges $1000 (I am in NYC and the charge for this type of testing costs at least that; in some places like N.Y.U. Medical Center it costs *$3000*, yes that's not a typo) then you are going to have to pay the entire cost out of pocket even though you have insurance. You should start calling psychologist now, find out who does this testing, what is the cost, do they ACCEPT insurance, etc. Do your groundwork A.S.A.P. and be prepared to pay at least your copay.

The most important thing for you to do is: as soon as you get your insurance, call the behavioral health part and ask them for recommendations for a psychologist who *does psychological testing.* They may be confused and they might steer you wrong (they may not know that not every psychologist does psychological testing) and you may have to call everyone on a list of psychologists in your area and ask them if they do a FULL psychological assessment to be used to get accommodations for college because you think you have ADHD.

(I am not your psychologist but I am a psychologist and I know what I'm talking about.) Memail me during this process if you like
posted by DMelanogaster at 5:43 AM on August 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

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