Psych Central

How is ADHD Diagnosed?

By Ben Martin, Psy.D.

ADHD Diagnosed in Adults

Originally, attention deficit disorder was a strictly childhood disorder diagnosed only in children. Nowadays, experts no longer believe that the symptoms of ADHD disappear in adulthood. Figures suggest that up to two-thirds of children with the disorder will continue to display ADHD behaviors well into adulthood. As the individual grows up, he or she will become more aware of the challenges this brings.

But many adults with ADHD were never diagnosed with a problem in their early years, or were given the wrong diagnosis — such as a learning disability, attitude problem, or personality or character disorder.

Nevertheless, the disorder may be the underlying cause of many personal and work problems including difficult relationships, anger, depression, and alcohol or substance abuse. Once a proper diagnosis is made, the individual can begin to find their own way of coping, even using their excess energy in positive ways.

For adults, ADHD diagnosis involves examining the individual’s past as well as their current difficulties. Family members may be asked to help. The specialist will review and assess their childhood and recollections of behaviors that may fit the ADHD symptoms. Academic and job performance will be evaluated, as will family relationships and the nature and quality of the person’s friendships.

The specialist must be careful to rule out from a ADHD diagnosis adults who believe they have the disorder, but who seemingly had no problems in childhood. These individuals may need advice with their current issues, but the label of ADHD, and its recommended treatment, will probably not be helpful.

The basic symptoms of ADHD are the same for both adults and children. However, adults may also suffer from low self-esteem, an increased sense of frustration, and many problems caused by lack of focus and organisational skills. They may need further assessments to rule out mistaken diagnosis of other conditions, with which they may have been labeled for decades.

Following diagnosis, counseling may be of great help in understanding the impact of ADHD on their life. Certain drug therapies may be very beneficial, such as antidepressants for depression or anxiety.

After Diagnosis

Once a correct diagnosis is made, the child or adult with ADHD can now be given help to manage their condition. For parents of children with ADHD, adults with ADHD, and even the children themselves, diagnosis can be a relief because it helps explain behavior problems which may have occurred for a long time previously.

Now a new journey can begin in which the condition is explored and specific action taken. Educational, medical, and emotional support can be given, such as informing teachers, other staff at school, and other adults who often interact with the child. Lessons may need to be planned differently, and the most effective medication for the individual can be explored.

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Treatment of ADD/ADHD

This article is based upon a brochure published by the National Institute of Mental Health.

 

APA Reference
Martin, B. (2007). How is ADHD Diagnosed?. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/how-is-adhd-diagnosed/0001203
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    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
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