There's no single test to diagnose ADHD. Instead, doctors rely on several things, including:
- Interviews with the parents, relatives, teachers, or other adults
- Personally watching the child or adult
- Questionnaires or rating scales that measure symptoms of ADHD
- Psychological tests
The doctor needs to see how much a person’s symptoms are affecting his daily moods, behavior, productivity, and lifestyle habits. And he needs to rule out other conditions.
With children, the doctor will talk with the parents about ADHD symptoms they have seen. The doctor will want to know what age the behaviors began and where and when the child shows symptoms. The doctor may ask for a behavior report from the child's teacher, report cards, and samples of schoolwork.
With adults, the doctor may want to talk with a spouse or other family members. He'll want to find out if they had symptoms in childhood. Knowing if an adult had ADHD behavior as a child is important for making a diagnosis.
To rule out other conditions, a doctor may ask for tests, including:
What Doctors Look For
To diagnose ADHD, doctors most often use guidelines established by the American Psychiatric Association. The group has identified 3 types of the disorder:
1. Inattentive Type: A person must have at least 6 out of these 9 symptoms, and few symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive type:
- Doesn't pay attention to detail or makes careless mistakes
- Doesn't stay on task
- Doesn’t listen
- Doesn’t follow instructions or finish schoolwork or chores
- Trouble organizing tasks or activities
- Avoids or dislikes doing things that take effort or concentration
- Loses things
- Easily distracted
2. Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: A person must have at least 6 out these 9 symptoms, and few symptoms of inattentive type:
- Fidgets or squirms a lot
- Gets up from his seat a lot
- Runs or climbs at inappropriate times
- Has trouble playing quietly
- Always “on the go” as if “driven by a motor"
- Talks excessively
- Blurts an answer before the question has been completed
- Trouble waiting his turn
- Interrupts others