Parenting

How is ADHD diagnosed?

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Key Takeaways

  • Healthcare providers who diagnose ADHD are psychiatrists, pediatricians, social workers, or learning disability specialists with knowledge on ADHD.
  • ADHD very rarely develops in adulthood.

Anyone with a list of ADHD symptoms can speculate about the possibility of an ADHD disorder, but only a specialist can clearly determine the cause of the symptoms. Nevertheless, it’s always advisable to take note of alarming signals that may point to ADHD and report them to your general practitioner.

The general practitioner is not the final word on an ADHD diagnosis, but they may be in a good position to offer an unbiased suggestion to your speculation.

Among the issues the general practitioner will raise questions like:

  • When did the symptoms start?
  • When were they first noticed?
  • Is there a family member with ADHD?
  • How often do these symptoms occur?
  • Do symptoms interfere with daily activities?

It is important to be honest about your symptoms as a child because ADHD very rarely develops in adulthood, but usually starts in childhood.

If your general practitioner is convinced you or your child may have ADHD, they should refer you to a specialist who will be able to more accurately provide a diagnosis of the problem. Among the health care providers recommended are psychiatrists, paediatricians, a social worker or learning disability specialist with knowledge on ADHD.

All these specialists take their cues from the American Academy of Pediatrics or the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSMV), which require specific criteria.

For inattention

  • children up to 16 years old must exhibit at least six symptoms
  • for adolescents who are 17 years old or older must exhibit at least five symptoms
  • these symptoms must have been prevalent for more than six months
  • the symptoms must be inappropriate for their development level
  • children up to 16 years old must exhibit at least six symptoms
  • the symptoms must be inappropriate for their development level

For hyperactivity and impulsivity

  • children up to 16 years old must exhibit at least six symptoms
  • for adolescents 17 years old or older must exhibit at least five symptoms
  • these symptoms must have been prevalent for more than six months
  • the symptoms must be inappropriate for their development level
  • several symptoms either in inattentive or hyperactivity and impulsivity categories must be met before the child was 12 years of old
  • several symptoms must be displayed in two or more situations and not just one, for example, home and school
  • the symptoms must be proven to interfere with their social, academic and professional development
  • other mental disorders must be ruled out that may be causing similar symptoms such as anxiety, personality or mood disorders

Diagnosis of ADHD

After a  detailed examination, one of the three diagnose are possible:

  1. Combined presentation: this is where symptoms from all categories were displayed for more than six months
  2. Predominantly inattentive presentation: if only symptoms from the inattentive category were seen for more than six months but none from the other category
  3. Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation: when none of the symptoms from the inattentive category were displayed but several from the hyperactive and impulsive categories were noticed.