Because of the subjective nature of the diagnosis, there has been a long running debate on the accuracy of the diagnosis as well as whether or not ADHD is over-diagnosed. The main symptoms of ADHD include hyperactivity, impulsiveness and inattention. Because these can be seen in all people from time to time, doctors look, not only at the behavior itself, but also, at the length of time it has been present and whether the behavior is excessive or age-inappropriate. Doctors will also ask about current life situations to determine if symptoms may be a reaction to stress and might be temporary or if the symptoms have been present for a long period of time. In addition, the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) states that symptoms must be present in at least two environments and must impair a person's life in those environments. For example, if someone has problems in school, but not at home or socially, then they would not qualify for a diagnosis of ADHD. In the same respect if a child is overly active at home but behaves well at school, a diagnosis of ADHD would not be appropriate.
The DSM-IV explains the diagnosis of ADHD in detail. It provides symptoms, conditions and other diagnostic criteria. When physicians are knowledgeable about ADHD and understand the criteria explained in the DSM-IV, the accuracy of diagnosis increases.
Physicians should also rule out any other physical or mental illnesses that may be causing symptoms. Some of these include:
- Learning Disabilities
- Vision or Hearing problems
- Anxiety or Depression
- Lead Poisoning
Completing a thorough evaluation, including behavioral questionnaires, can make a diagnosis of ADHD very accurate.
See All of This Series:
Is ADHD Overdiagnosed?
Can ADHD Be Accurately Diagnosed?
Are We Overmedicating Our Children?
Pharmaceutical Companies Making a Profit on ADHD
Do Parents Seek a Diagnosis of ADHD instead of Disciplining Children?
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