Advantages and Disadvantages of an ADHD or Autism Diagnosis

Deciding whether to go ahead and get a formal professional diagnosis or not can be a difficult decision for some people. Here we outline some general advantages and disadvantages to help support your decision making.

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Advantages

Self-acceptance: getting a formal diagnosis can help people to understand themselves better. It may help someone understand why they do what they do. It may help them have greater awareness of their strengths, weaknesses and problems they may encounter. If you’re more aware of issues and difficulties, then it can help you to deal with those difficulties and find helpful strategies. You may re-evaluate your life with this new knowledge – “ahhh, that’s why I did/do that!”

Everyone is unique, including people who are autistic or who have ADHD. Understanding your unique strengths and needs can be helpful for anybody.

A formal diagnosis can increase access to help and support. This maybe through formal avenues such as EHCP’s or through workplace schemes and benefits. In schools and universities, it may mean someone becomes entitled to certain accommodations that can support their learning and ability to sit exams.

Formal diagnosis can also be very validating and support people to feel understood and lessen any self-blame. It can bring people certainty and confidence.

We know that neurodivergence can be linked to mental health difficulties. Often due to self-blame and trauma through unmet needs and difficult social and sensory experiences. A diagnosis increases self-understanding and can reduce insecurities. Through getting the correct support and adjustments peoples wellbeing can be supported and enhanced.

Many couples and families struggle with misunderstanding, miscommunication, confusion and other problems. Understanding when a family member is autistic or has ADHD can help improve the difficulties that build up within families and couples.

When people receive a diagnosis, this can help them to access and connect with other people who experience similar things. Understanding that you are not alone, and that others experience similar things can be very helpful. Feeling connected to a ‘community’ helps to improve mental wellbeing and reduce isolation.

“Self-awareness impacts masking on a fundamental and deep level, because being aware about yourself, your strengths and limitations allows you to create strategies that you can use, instead of masking and mimicking a neurotypicals behaviour. Self-awareness allows you to be more yourself than ever before, although it takes some time to actually achieve. However, once you’ve achieved a certain level of self-awareness, things become a little bit easier afterwards.” – THE ASIAN ASPERGIR

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Disadvantages

In some circumstances it may be mandatory for you to disclose your medical records which would include a formal diagnosis. There are a few careers when Autism and ADHD is taken into account and these include the armed forces. Whilst it may not preclude you from joining you would need further assessment and ultimately it could exclude you. For autism it is on an individual basis and for ADHD you need to be 3 years without symptoms and medication free.

Private ADHD and Autism assessment are expensive and NHS assessments often have a long waitlist.

Unfortunately, there is still stigma attached to Autism and ADHD. Whilst there has been a huge movement within the neurodivergent community to help support and educate people there is still some way to go. Some people remain ignorant, and discrimination is still possible.

Autism and ADHD assessments can take time and can be stressful for the person involved. They are often multilevel assessments and can involve various steps, some of which may feel uncomfortable.

Whilst a diagnosis may open up some sources of support it does not necessarily mean that a person will receive much more than before they were officially diagnosed. It can be dependent on what is available locally and access may still require further steps and evaluations.

A person may feel anger at the fact that they were missed for so long, that nobody else realised they were autistic or had ADHD and that they had struggling with sensory and social experiences. This can be a difficult experience post diagnosis.

There is always a risk that the diagnosis is incorrect, whether the result is that one does or doesn’t have ADHD or Autism. Regardless of training and experience, personal feelings, attitudes, and experience factor into the decision-making process of an assessment. We may like to think the Assessments are not devoid of personal influence or error. 

If you do not receive confirmation of the diagnosis that you have been seeking this can be very challenging and upsetting for some people. You must consider how you will feel if you or your child does not receive a diagnosis.

Sometimes people’s sense of identity is affected negatively by a formal diagnosis of autism or ADHD. Depression, confusion, loss of self-confidence, shame, anger, and feelings of failure are only some of the reactions that can occur. For most people these are really typical and understandable feelings and will hopefully ease with help, support and positive awareness and acceptance.