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What Comes After an Adult ADHD Diagnosis?

Psychoeducation is a good starting point for an adult ADHD diagnosis.

Key points

  • Psychoeducation is commonly offered to help shed light on the effects of ADHD and treatment options.
  • A recent review study examined the characteristics of existing psychoeducational programs for adult ADHD.
  • Psychoeducation personalized to the needs of individuals is part of the adult ADHD treatment process.

The title of this post jumps over an important starting point, getting a thorough diagnostic assessment for ADHD. While there are many claims about what ADHD looks like in one’s life based on anecdotal accounts from people claiming to have ADHD on social media, reviews of this content show that most of the claims are not credible.1

Thankfully, there are some solid guidelines to follow to establish a first-time diagnosis of adult ADHD.2 That said, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental syndrome that is very sensitive to context and surroundings. Follow-up studies of children diagnosed with ADHD who were re-assessed every couple of years into their mid-twenties showed a 91 percent persistence over that time.3 However, many of the individuals with persistent ADHD had an up-and-down trajectory, sometimes falling below the strict diagnostic guidelines and then, later, exceeding them again at the next assessment. Let’s be clear, even subthreshold ADHD is a struggle and requires effort to manage.

Alex Green/Pexels
Personalized psychoeducation is an important step after an adult ADHD diagnosis.
Source: Alex Green/Pexels

After an Adult ADHD Diagnosis

Upon learning of their adult ADHD diagnosis, it takes time for people to get their head around it and what it means. Some people respond with a big exhale of relief, smiling that their confounding inconsistency that regularly undermined their potential finally makes sense. Others, react with a similar big exhale followed by tears at lost opportunities and a torrent of thoughts of how life might have been different had they been diagnosed earlier.

The diagnostic evaluation process is an education in ADHD. Completing ADHD symptoms and other inventories gives one a sense of the types of difficulties that represent ADHD and how they overlap with but differ from other explanations. A thorough developmental history and nuanced review of experiences in school, at work, and in relationships and social settings further sheds light on and tethers together seemingly disparate frustrations and problem areas.

Once diagnosed and looking for help, psychoeducation is a common facet of most treatment approaches for adult ADHD. Although it makes sense and can be helpful, the effects of psychoeducation have not been well studied.

Review of Psychoeducation for Adult ADHD

A recent review study targeted the available research on psychoeducation.4 A thorough literature database review yielded 10 peer-reviewed studies of psychoeducation for adults with ADHD, the majority from Europe. Even the definition of psychoeducation was difficult to pinpoint, but it generally clustered around the notion of providing information and insight about adult ADHD and its effects.

The central themes (with varying degrees of emphasis) that emerged from the review were:

Information about the diagnosis

Treatment options

Somatic health and ADHD

The lived experience of adults with ADHD

ADHD and social life

Coping and psychological skills

ADHD and work

One study had an adult with ADHD share their experiences and a couple of studies invited loved ones to sessions. The authors of the review noted limitations in the content areas covered, such as a lack of discussion of gender differences and sexual health. One approach was offered digitally and the rest in group formats.

The Next Step Is Personalized Psychoeducation

ADHD potentially reaches so many elements of adult life that no psychoeducation protocol will likely address all of them. This is where treatment providers and other resources can fill the need.

Part of treatment planning is the personalization of an ADHD diagnosis and what it means in terms of real-world life for adults with ADHD. As noted, ADHD is very context-sensitive. Thus, treatment will focus on settings, relationships, roles, responsibilities, and types of tasks that are relevant to an individual. Pharmacotherapy will focus on symptoms (and thereby functioning) and psychosocial treatments focus on strategies, mindsets, and emotional coping in whatever settings are relevant to individuals. ADHD organizations offer psychoeducation materials on a range of topics as well as connections with experts and adults with ADHD who can share their lived experiences of what has helped.

The main takeaway is that an accurate diagnosis of adult ADHD is the first step; there is more and more personalized help available through all your next steps, too. There is hope and support.


1 Yeung, A. et al. (2022). TikTok and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A cross-sectional study of social media content quality. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 67(12), 899-906. doi: 10.1177/07067437221082854

2 Sibley, M. H. (2021). Empirically-informed guidelines for first-time adult ADHD diagnosis. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology, 43(4), 340-351. doi: 10.1080/13803395.2021.1923665

3 Sibley, M. H. et al. (2021). Variable patterns of remission from ADHD in the Multimodal Treatment Study of ADHD. American Journal of Psychiatry, 179(2), 142-151. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2021.21010032

4 Pedersen, H. et al. (2024). Psychoeducation for adult ADHD: a scoping review about characteristic, patient involvement, and content. BMC Psychiatry, 24:73.

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