UK Children with ADHD Wait Up to Two Years for Diagnosis
Photo by Jesper Sehested (Flickr)
by Patrycja Domeradzka
Studies report that waiting times for children with ADHD are highly inconsistent, ranging from a few weeks to 18 months.
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Given the right treatment, a person with ADHD could thrive in educational or professional settings. However, untreated ADHD severely impacts their ability to function, causing difficulties such as being unable to see tedious tasks through or carry out instructions, with a lack of risk assessment capability or excessive physical movement. Additionally, people with untreated ADHD might struggle in social situations, as well as experience violent mood swings and bouts of anger.
The disorder tends to start presenting in childhood. Untreated mental health conditions can have extremely negative impact on a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. The symptoms can also progress and persist into adulthood. Therefore, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends swift referral to a child mental health specialist. However, that is not typically the case.
A study conducted by ICON Clinical Research have found that British children have to wait 18 months between their first GP visit and an actual diagnosis; the delay is partially due to the fact that children need to attend multiple visits before they receive a referral. In addition, once they do receive it, the waiting time for the appointment can be anywhere from 2 and 55 weeks. A Lifetime Lost, or A Lifetime Saved study reports that 9 in 10 children experiences anxiety or depression during this period. Almost half of them have considered self-harm.
It is quite important to note that diagnosing mental health conditions can be tricky. One cannot have blood work done or perform an X-Ray to diagnose. Misdiagnosis is a real concern that can prevent the patient from receiving an appropriate treatment. The stigma and misconceptions around ADHD are also at fault for delaying that process. All of these aforementioned factors mean that seeking out and receiving help puts a lot of pressure and stress on an already distressed child. This is precisely the reason why the process of diagnosis and creating a treatment plan should be as effective and supportive as possible.