How is ADHD Officially Diagnosed?

Both children and adults can experience the symptoms and signs of ADHD for years without getting an official diagnosis. Sometimes, people never get the diagnosis they need, and in turn don’t get the treatment they need. This isn’t only a problem for the person with the disorder. It can also create issues in their personal and professional lives, affecting the people around them.

The best thing you can do if you have children is to learn the symptoms of ADHD early on. Yes, it’s fair to say that some children can have trouble with attention or ‘sitting still’ for long periods of time. But, there is a difference between ADHD behaviors and normal childhood behaviors. If you’re an adult who experiences these problems, it’s worth it to get an official diagnosis from your doctor.

So, how is ADHD diagnosed professionally?

Symptoms That Go Beyond ‘Average’
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder must be diagnosed by a medical professional. There is a set of criteria mental health specialists use and look for when it comes to ADHD patients, so they are treated with the right kind of care.

One of the biggest factors that allow doctors to give a proper diagnosis is looking at the symptoms themselves. If a person shows behaviors that are not considered normal or appropriate for their age, and these behaviors are consistent in different situations, an official diagnosis may be given. The symptoms must also be present for at least six months.

It’s important for doctors to be able to see that the symptoms of ADHD are present in a person in different situations. With children, for example, an official diagnosis may only be given if they exhibit the same symptoms in school as they do at home.

How Do I Know If I Should Get Evaluated for ADHD?

If you’re an adult who has experienced common ADHD symptoms since childhood, getting a full evaluation may help to give you peace of mind. However, one of the main reasons people go for an evaluation in the first place is because the behaviors from the disorder are disrupting their daily lives in some way.
Some problems to look out for include:

Losing jobs frequently (or quitting)
Poor work performance
Academic underachievement (or history of underachievement in the past)
Forgetting important dates or information
Chronic stress and worry
Relationship issues

As you can see, these are real-life situations that can be caused by this mental disorder. If you regularly experience any of these issues, getting a full evaluation may be necessary in order to start on a treatment plan. Keep in mind that there is no ‘one test’ for ADHD. It is considered to be a diagnostic evaluation and must be done by a qualified medical professional.
Different practitioners may have slightly different methods for their evaluation techniques. But, most evaluations will combine questions about family history with symptom checklists, behavioral rating scales, and tests of cognitive ability.

Whether you have shown signs of ADHD for years and are ready to determine if you have the disorder, or you’re worried your child may already have it, getting a true diagnosis is the best thing you can do. You don’t have to live with the signs of this disorder forever, and neither does your child. Help is available once the condition has been fully determined.

Marcy M. Caldwell, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment and assessment of adult ADHD Psychologist Philadelphia.