Why Do People With ADHD Struggle to Get Treatment?

Approximately 1.8 million Canadians live with ADHD, but the majority of them will never receive a diagnosis. Many barriers exist in the Canadian healthcare system that can make it difficult for people with ADHD to receive a diagnosis, from a lack of knowledge to long wait times and exorbitant costs. In this article, we cover the most common barriers to treatment that people with ADHD experience — and introduce a treatment option for ADHD that’s more accessible to Canadians.

Published: October 31, 2023

Table of contents

    Most people with ADHD don’t know they have it

    You can’t seek treatment for something you don’t know you have, and the reality for many people living with ADHD is that they don’t know they have it at all. While over a million Canadians live with ADHD, more than half of all adults with ADHD will never get a diagnosis.

    The symptoms of ADHD first manifest in childhood, but the people who observe you in childhood — parents, teachers, family doctors — aren’t guaranteed to spot childhood ADHD symptoms, allowing it to continue untreated into adulthood. One study found that 80% of elementary school teachers with 15 years of teaching experience believed that ADHD is the result of bad upbringing, which would naturally make them less likely to flag the issue with parents.

    These issues are further complicated by the fact that substantial variation exists between individuals with ADHD, meaning some present with more stereotypical symptoms and others less so. 

    If you’re an adult who believes you have ADHD that was never verified in childhood, one of the best things you can do is to educate yourself on the symptoms of adult ADHD.

    From there, it’s all about finding the appropriate diagnosis and treatment — but the Canadian healthcare system presents many challenges in doing so.

    Getting ADHD treatment from a GP isn’t always possible

    The most common first stop people take to get an ADHD diagnosis is visiting a general practitioner (GP) or family doctor. However, given the complex presentations of ADHD, high rates of comorbidities and the limitations on prescribing stimulant medications – many GPs do not diagnose ADHD or treat it without a pre-existing diagnosis. 

    Because of that, Canadians will often look to public or private treatment options for ADHD outside their GP. But these come with their own challenges related to how long they can take or how much they can cost.

    Public options take too long

    The standard public route to diagnosis is a referral to a psychiatrist from your family doctor or attending GP. Unfortunately, due to shortages in specialized healthcare providers and growing waitlists, most people wait anywhere from 5 to 18 months for their first appointment. 

    A mother of two with symptoms of ADHD talked to the CBC about her experience seeking an ADHD diagnosis through the public healthcare system in British Columbia, only to learn that she might have to wait up to 2 years for a diagnostic assessment.

    For someone who is living with symptoms of ADHD and is serious about starting treatment, this wait can feel like an eternity. If one’s ADHD is causing significant challenges in their personal or professional lives, delays in starting treatment can cause negative consequences of ADHD to accumulate during this time.

    Private clinics are too expensive

    Because getting ADHD treatment through the public healthcare system can take so long, private clinics seem like an appealing alternative. But there are obstacles in taking this path, too.

    The biggest issue is cost: getting an ADHD diagnosis from a private clinic can cost thousands. Most private clinics’ diagnostic assessments start at at least $1,000, and can go up to $2,000 or more. Furthermore, these clinics often only provide an assessment with no follow-up care. 

    Even people with access to other resources can find the costs far too high. A student at Queen’s University sought an ADHD diagnosis through an on-staff psychiatrist, only to receive the following response: “It’s a $2,000 charge to seek a diagnosis, so we can make sure you’re not just looking for medication.”

    For many people, these costs are simply too high. 

    Frida: A more accessible and affordable option for ADHD treatment

    People living with ADHD deserve accessible, affordable and specialized care for their ADHD. We built Frida to directly answer the most common challenges faced by people seeking ADHD treatment.

    • If you live in a province Frida serves (currently Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Saskatchewan), you can access remote ADHD diagnosis and treatment through Frida at home — no traveling necessary.

    • Frida’s clinical team are experts in ADHD. We provide top-quality, non-judgmental ADHD care designed to help you see positive results as soon as possible. 2/3 of Frida patients report a significant improvement in ADHD symptoms within 6 weeks.

    • Frida is much faster than public options and even other private ADHD clinics. If your free 2-minute assessment determines you’re a fit for Frida’s virtual ADHD treatment, you can receive an ADHD diagnosis in under a month.

    • Frida is more affordable than most other private ADHD diagnosis and treatment options. A diagnostic assessment with Frida costs $599, with financial assistance available that can cut that cost in half. Care appointments with an ADHD expert clinician, which help ensure your treatment is effective and support you in seeing sustained improvements, cost $79 each. While these costs are still real, we strive to make Frida the most affordable non-public option for ADHD treatment.

    Think you might have ADHD? Complete our free 2-minute assessment to see how Frida can help.

    Frida Care Team

    We are a group of clinicians, continuous care support, writers, and creators who care deeply about patient care and ADHD. Together, we write content that we hope sheds light on ADHD and the health care space at large. You can reach us at support@talkwithfrida.com if you have any questions!