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ADHD Center

ADHD Diagnosis

A complete evaluation by a trained professional is the only way to confirm an ADHD diagnosis.  You can start to diagnose ADHD by talking with your pediatrician or family doctor about your concerns. Some general physicians may assess a child or adult themselves, but often they refer you to an appropriate mental health specialist they know and trust. In addition, state and local agencies as well as some of the volunteer organizations can help you identify appropriate specialists.

Ideally, an ADHD diagnosis should be made by a doctor with training in ADHD or in the diagnosis of mental disorders. Child psychiatrists and psychologists, developmental and behavioral pediatricians, or behavioral neurologists are capable of helping make differential diagnosis. Clinical social workers may also have appropriate training in Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Adult ADHD diagnosis
Until recent years, it was believed that children outgrew AD/HD in adolescence. This is because hyperactivity often diminishes during the teen years. However, it is now known that many symptoms continue into adulthood. To be diagnosed with ADHD, an adult must have childhood-onset, persistent, and current symptoms.  For an accurate diagnosis, a history of the patient's childhood behavior and interviews with a life partner, a parent, close friend, or other close associate, will be needed. A physical examination and psychological tests will also be requested.

Child ADHD diagnosis
To assess whether a child has ADHD or not, specialists consider several critical questions.  Then, the pattern of behavior is compared against a set of criteria and characteristics of the disorder (provided by the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders).  Diagnostic questions include:

  • Are ADHD behaviors excessive, long-term, and pervasive?
  • Are ADHD behaviors a continuous problem or a response to a temporary situation?
  • Do the behaviors occur in several settings or only in one specific place like the playground or in the schoolroom?

Current diagnostic criteria indicate that the disorder is marked by long lasting behaviors evident for at least six months, with onset before age seven.  Furthermore, children diagnosed with ADHD must present at least six symptoms that start in the first five or six years of their lives.  To summarize, the diagnostic criteria for ADHD includes:

  1. There must be clear evidence of significant impairment in social, school, or work functioning.
  2. Some symptoms that cause impairment were present before age 7 years.
  3. Some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (at school or work and at home).
  4. The symptoms are not better accounted for by another mental disorder.

Sometimes it can be hard to diagnose a child with ADHD because symptoms may mimic other problems. In fact, it can take months for a doctor or specialist to identify and diagnose ADHD. Specialists must first observe a patient and check for other problems and may want to talk to you, your family, the patient's teachers, and others.

If your child is having trouble at school or at home and has been for a long time, ask your doctor about ADHD.  If the disorder goes undiagnosed or untreated during adulthood, individuals may have trouble at work and in relationships, as well as emotional difficulties such as anxiety and depression.  Treating ADHD can be done through medical or behavioral therapies, or a combination of the two.  Keep reading to learn more about how to treat ADHD.

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