Frequently Asked Questions: Diagnosing ADHD

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

What is involved in the diagnosis of ADHD?

The diagnostic process for ADHD should include a thorough physical exam to rule out other conditions.
This should include blood work and vision and hearing tests.

Screening tests, such as TOVA and the Continuous Performance Test are sometimes used to measure attention.

Behavioral assessment is normally completed by the parent and teacher if diagnosis is for a child.
For adults, behavior assessment would be completed by the patient.
This assessment is subjective.

What is the diagnostic criteria for ADHD?

Some (but not all) of the diagnositic criteria for ADHD include:

  • Hyperactivity- fidgeting with hands and feet, difficulty staying still

  • Distraction-becomes easily distracted, inability to stay on task for sustained periods of time

  • Impulsiveness-Has difficulty waiting turn, blurts out answers, or interrupts others while speaking

  • Difficulty following instructions-Impulsivenss, forgetfulness and difficulty staying on task can interfere with an individual's ability to follow through on instructions.

  • Talks excessively-The inability to focus can cause an individual to seem as if they are "babbling about nothing" when actually they are trying to make a point, but have difficulty in focusing in on the conversation and keeping on track.

  • Loses things, Forgetful-Classic symptoms of ADHD, many individuals with ADHD constantly lose track of their homework, their keys, or other items necessary to complete a task.

Are there other conditions that might be confused with ADHD?

There are a number of medical conditions that can share some of the symptoms of ADHD.
It is important to have a thorough medical examination in order to rule out
other conditions to determine if ADHD exists.

Some medical conditions which can share symptoms can include: Autism, Hearing Impairment, Hypothyroidism, Iron-Deficiency Anemia, lead Toxicity, Mental Retardation, Sensory Disorders, Sleep Disorders, Vision Impairment.

Is there a test for ADHD?

At the current time, there is no one test that can determine if an individual has ADHD.
Many of the tests available are behavioral assessments and the results are subjective.
Much research is being done in this field and there is a possibility that within the next few years more research will lead to the ability to better diagnose ADHD.** Who should diagnose ADHD?**

For the diagnosis of ADHD, any number of professionals are able to diagnose.
If additional treatment, such as counseling or medication is needed, referrals may be made to other professionals able to perform that function.

Psychiatrists-can diagnose and prescribe medication. May refer to another professional for counseling.

Psychologist-can diagnose and provide counseling but cannot prescribe medication.

Family Doctor-can diagnose if familiar with ADD. Can prescribe medication but will refer to another specialist for counseling.

Neurologist-can diagnose and prescribe medications. Also can determine if other organic brain disorders are present.
Will refer to another specialist for counseling.

Counselor/Therapist/Licensed Clinical Social Worker-can diagnose ADD, may not have knowledge to diagnose multiple or co-morbid conditions and cannot prescribe medication.

Additional Information:

Diagnosis of ADHD

Diagnosing ADHD in Children

Rating Scales for Diagnosing ADHD

Evaluating Children for ADHD: What to Expect

10 Medical Conditions That Share Symptoms with ADD/ADHD

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.