Mental Health

How Do I Get My GP to Refer Me for ADHD Assessment?

Struggling to get a referral for ADHD? Discover practical steps to effectively communicate with your GP and secure the assessment you need.

Written by

Jacqui Walker

Published On:

Jan 30, 2024

Couple getting their GDP to refer them for ADHD assessment
Couple getting their GDP to refer them for ADHD assessment
Couple getting their GDP to refer them for ADHD assessment

Struggling to focus, feeling constantly on the edge of your seat, or finding it tough to organise your thoughts? You're not alone. These could be signs of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and you might be considering a referral for an assessment. But how exactly do you get your GP to refer you for ADHD? It's a question many ponder, and rightly so; navigating the healthcare system can sometimes feel like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube blindfolded.

Knowing where to start is half the battle. With ADHD often misunderstood or overlooked in adults, it's important that you're prepared when approaching your GP. Getting a referral isn't just about voicing concerns; it's about being heard and taken seriously. After all, seeking help is a big step towards managing your symptoms and improving your quality of life.

So why is this conversation with your doctor so crucial? Your journey toward diagnosis and management begins here — getting that referral is the all-important first leap forward. Stick around as we chat through some practical steps and tips that'll arm you with confidence for this important talk with your GP. You've got this!

Understanding ADHD

Understanding ADHD

What is ADHD

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, isn't just about children being hyperactive. It's a neurodevelopmental condition that affects both kids and adults. Imagine your brain as a bustling train station where thoughts are passengers. In someone with ADHD, it's as if the trains aren't following the timetable; thoughts arrive and depart unpredictably.

  • Difficulty focusing

  • Impulsiveness

  • Hyperactivity

These are hallmarks of ADHD but don't paint the full picture. Your mind might dart from thought to thought like a butterfly in a garden, making concentration on tasks akin to trying to follow a single raindrop in a storm.

Common Symptoms of ADHD

Recognising the signs of ADHD can be tricky—they often vary and can be confused with other issues.

Here’s what you might notice:


  • Forgetting appointments like they're written in sand at high tide.

  • Losing things as if your pockets have holes.

  • Struggling to follow conversations; it feels like everyone's speaking another language.


  • Feeling like you've got an internal motor that won't switch off.

  • Being unable to sit still during movies—your legs want their own dance party.


  • Blurting out answers before questions are finished—as if you're trying to beat an invisible buzzer.

  • Interrupting others without realising it, almost like there's no filter between your brain and mouth.

Remember, spotting these signs isn’t about self-diagnosing—it’s about understanding when you might need professional guidance. If these symptoms sound familiar and are affecting your day-to-day life, it may be time for a chat with your GP about getting assessed for ADHD.

Recognizing the Need for a Referral

Assessing your Symptoms

If you're wondering whether ADHD might be at play in your life, it's essential to start by assessing your own symptoms. You'll want to look out for patterns that align with common ADHD characteristics—things like difficulty focusing, being easily distracted or forgetful about daily activities.

Here's what you should consider:

  • Inattention: This isn't just about poor concentration; it can manifest as trouble following through on tasks, making careless mistakes, or often losing things necessary for tasks and activities.

  • Hyperactivity: Feeling restless? Always on the go as if driven by a motor? Hyperactivity is more than having high energy levels—it could be incessant talking, fidgeting, or an inability to stay still.

  • Impulsivity: Do you make hasty decisions without considering consequences? Impulsivity might show itself in interrupting conversations or impatience waiting for one's turn.

It's not just about having these traits occasionally—we all do—but if they're persistent and significantly impair your ability to function day-to-day, speaking with your GP may be a wise step.

Impact of ADHD on Daily Life

Living with undiagnosed ADHD isn't merely inconvenient; it can have profound effects on every facet of life. Understanding the impact can help underscore why seeking a referral is important.

Here are areas where ADHD might be taking its toll:

  • Work performance: Struggling to meet deadlines? Maybe you find yourself unable to manage workloads effectively due to disorganization stemming from ADHD.

  • Relationships: Communication breakdowns aren't uncommon when attention drifts. If loved ones frequently express frustration over your perceived lack of attentiveness or forgetfulness, this could signal an issue.

  • Educational Challenges: For students, sustained attention during lectures and homework assignments can feel impossible—a red flag pointing towards ADHD.

Remember that recognition is the first step toward getting help. If any of this resonates with you, note down specific examples before visiting your GP—they'll likely appreciate concrete instances over vague generalizations when considering a referral for further evaluation.

Approaching Your GP

Building a Strong Relationship With Your GP

Establishing a rapport with your general practitioner (GP) is crucial when seeking support for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). You're more likely to receive the care you need if they understand your health history and concerns. Start by scheduling regular appointments and be open about any issues you're experiencing. Consistency is key, as it allows your GP to track changes over time and provides a comprehensive view of your overall well-being.

Here's how you can strengthen this partnership:

  • Always arrive prepared with questions or topics you want to discuss.

  • Be honest about your symptoms and their impact on daily life.

  • Follow through on advice and treatments suggested by your GP.

By doing these things, you build trust that’s essential when requesting further investigation into potential ADHD.

Expressing Your Concerns About ADHD

When it's time to talk about ADHD specifically, clarity in communication is vital. Approach the conversation with confidence; remember, it's okay to advocate for yourself! Give specific examples of how ADHD symptoms are affecting areas of your life such as work, relationships, or education. Mention any strategies you've already tried to manage these challenges.

If possible, refer to:

  • Instances where distraction or forgetfulness has had tangible consequences.

  • Feedback from others who have noticed patterns indicative of ADHD.

  • Situations where impulsivity has led to difficulties.

Articulating these points helps convey the seriousness of what you're dealing with and sets the stage for discussing next steps.

Providing Evidence for Your Request

Backing up your request for an ADHD referral requires gathering some evidence beforehand. Start keeping a journal documenting daily struggles that seem related to what you know of ADHD. This could include missed deadlines due to poor time management or social mishaps stemming from impulsiveness. Family history can also play a part – note if relatives have been diagnosed with ADHD or exhibited similar symptoms.

If applicable, bring academic records which may show consistent remarks from educators regarding attention issues or hyperactivity throughout school years.

Armed with this information, demonstrate how an official assessment could lead not just to peace of mind but also targeted support that could make a significant difference in managing day-to-day tasks and improving quality of life.

Remember that taking initiative shows not only self-awareness but also determination in seeking help which can itself be persuasive in securing that all-important referral from your GP.

The GP's Role in ADHD Diagnosis and Referral

Explaining the Referral Process

When you're concerned about potential ADHD, your first port of call is usually your GP. They play a crucial gatekeeper role in accessing further assessments and treatments. During an initial consultation, you'll need to present your symptoms clearly – think of it as laying out the pieces of a puzzle for your doctor to see the bigger picture.

Your GP will consider whether your symptoms might be due to ADHD or something else entirely. It's not uncommon for certain conditions like anxiety or depression to mimic aspects of ADHD, so they'll want to rule these out. If they suspect ADHD could be the underlying cause, the next step is a referral.

Now, referrals can take different paths:

  • To a specialist – This could be a psychiatrist or paediatrician with experience in diagnosing ADHD.

  • To an NHS Adult ADHD Clinic – For adults seeking diagnosis where such services exist.

  • Community Mental Health Teams (CMHT) – Often involved when other mental health conditions are present alongside suspected ADHD.

Remember that each area may have slightly different pathways and waiting times can vary significantly.

Referral Criteria for ADHD Assessment

Navigating NHS criteria for an ADHD assessment can feel like decoding complex eligibility rules.

Criteria often include but aren't limited to:

  • Persistent and current symptoms of hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and/or inattention

  • Evidence that these behaviours are causing significant impairment in social, academic or occupational functioning

  • Symptoms that have been present since childhood

Let's break this down:

  • Symptoms across multiple settings: You need evidence that your difficulties span various parts of life; at home, work or school.

  • Duration and onset: Typically, symptoms should have been around for at least six months and started before the age of 12.

Here’s what doesn’t usually fly:

"I'm quite forgetful" without examples of how this affects day-to-day life won't suffice; neither will "I'm energetic" without demonstrating true hyperactivity impacting several areas over time.

Be prepared with specifics; diary entries noting daily challenges attributed to potential ADHD traits can bolster your case during the assessment request stage. Your GP needs concrete reasons based on clinical guidelines to refer you effectively.

Armed with understanding and preparation you're setting yourself up for a smoother journey through the referral process. Remember that patience is key here - it’s often not immediate but getting professional help starts with this pivotal step from your GP’s office.

Dealing With Common Challenges

GP's Skepticism About ADHD

You're aware that understanding and recognition of ADHD can vary greatly among GPs. Some may be hesitant to refer patients for an assessment due to a belief that ADHD is overdiagnosed or primarily a childhood condition.

Here's how you might handle this challenge:

  • Educate yourself about ADHD symptoms, treatments, and the impact on adults.

  • Prepare for your appointment by gathering any evidence of how ADHD affects your daily life.

  • If you feel comfortable, share personal stories highlighting the struggles you've faced that may be attributable to undiagnosed ADHD.

Remember, it's not uncommon for patients to need more than one appointment before getting a referral, so persistence is key.

Navigating the NHS system

The NHS pathway for an ADHD diagnosis can often seem labyrinthine.

Your journey will likely involve multiple steps:

  1. Primary care consultation.

  2. Referral to an NHS specialist or clinic.

  3. Diagnostic assessment.

You might encounter long waiting lists at various stages. Use these tips to navigate the system efficiently:

  • After seeing your GP, follow up regularly on your referral status.

  • Don't hesitate to ask questions if anything is unclear about your next steps.

  • Consider joining support groups; they often have members who've navigated the process and can offer advice.

Advocating for Yourself

Advocating for oneself within healthcare settings can sometimes be daunting but it's essential when seeking help with potential ADHD:

  • Keep track of all interactions with healthcare professionals including dates and advice given.

  • If facing resistance or delays, politely yet firmly remind your GP of the negative impact undiagnosed ADHD has on your life.

  • Know that it’s okay to seek a second opinion if necessary.

Empower yourself by knowing that as a patient within the NHS, you have rights including respect, consent, and informed choice regarding your treatment options.

Seeking Private Assessment Options

Private Clinics Specializing in ADHD

Exploring the avenue of private healthcare can lead you to clinics that focus specifically on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). These establishments often boast a team of specialists, including psychiatrists and psychologists, who have dedicated their practice to understanding and treating ADHD. You'll find they offer comprehensive assessments tailored to pinpoint your unique needs. It's not uncommon for these clinics to provide a swifter pathway to diagnosis compared to the NHS due to shorter waiting lists. When seeking out a private clinic:

  • Research their reputation and patient reviews.

  • Verify the credentials and experience of their staff.

  • Ensure they offer aftercare support post-diagnosis.

Private consultations may also present an opportunity for more flexible scheduling around your commitments, allowing you to arrange appointments that suit your lifestyle.

Pros and Cons of Private Assessments

Weighing up the advantages and disadvantages is key when considering a private ADHD assessment. Here are some factors you should consider:


  • Quicker Access: Typically, you'll face shorter wait times for an appointment.

  • Specialist Care: Access to professionals with extensive experience in ADHD.

  • Convenience: Ability to schedule appointments that fit around your personal timetable.


  • Cost: Private assessments can be costly, and prices vary widely between clinics.

  • Insurance Coverage: Not all insurance plans cover private ADHD assessments – check yours beforehand.

  • Continuity of Care: If transitioning back into NHS care post-diagnosis, ensure there's clear communication between your private clinician and GP.

Remember that while cost is an important consideration, timely access to treatment could have significant benefits for managing symptoms. It's essential that whatever route you choose aligns with both your health needs and financial situation. Before making any decisions:

  • Discuss potential costs upfront with the clinic.

  • Ask about payment plans or financial assistance if necessary.

  • Consider whether follow-up care will incur additional fees.

By doing thorough research and weighing up all aspects of private vs public healthcare routes for an ADHD assessment, you'll be able to make an informed decision that best supports your well-being.


Securing a GP referral for ADHD assessment can feel like navigating a complex maze. Understanding the process is key. You're not alone if you've found it challenging to communicate your concerns or convince your GP of the need for a referral.

Let's break down the essentials: Start with documenting your symptoms, which helps in painting a clear picture of how they impact your daily life. Remember, this isn't about convincing anyone that you're struggling but rather providing an honest account of your experiences.

In situations where you meet resistance or lack of understanding from your GP, remember that second opinions are valid options. Sometimes another professional's perspective can make all the difference.

As for incorporating these practices into securing that crucial referral, start by creating a symptom diary well before your appointment. This prep work demonstrates commitment and self-awareness which GPs appreciate.

Lastly, remember that seeking help is commendable and taking charge of your mental health shows incredible strength. With clear communication and persistence, you’ll stand the best chance at getting the support you deserve so take courage as you embark on this journey towards better understanding yourself and finding strategies to manage ADHD effectively.