How is ADHD Diagnosed?
Table of Contents:
- An Introduction to ADHD
- Symptoms of ADHD
- Problems Related to ADHD
- Causes of ADHD
- How is ADHD diagnosed?
- Treatment of ADHD
- Additional Treatments for ADHD
- ADHD in Adults
- Getting Help for ADHD
- Future Directions in ADHD
- Resources for ADHD
While the symptoms of attention deficit disorder (ADHD) may appear commonplace in many people’s behavior (as many symptoms for mental disorders are), there are a set of specific diagnostic criteria used by trained mental health professionals to make the diagnosis.
The official diagnostic criteria for ADHD state that the symptoms must occur beyond the extent that is normal for the person’s age, and must occur in a variety of different situations (e.g., not just school). For a diagnosis of ADHD, the symptoms must also have appeared before the age of 7 (for childhood ADHD), and have continued for at least 6 months.
Impairments due to the symptoms of ADHD must also have been observed in at least two different settings, such as at school, at work, in the community, at social events, or at home. For example, a child who is overly active in the playground but has no problems concentrating on their schoolwork may not be appropriate for a diagnosis of ADHD.
So the critical questions to consider before an ADHD diagnosis is made are whether the symptoms are: (a) excessive compared with what would be expected; (b) longer-term rather than in response to a recent change; and (c) pervasive rather than limited to one environment.
ADHD Diagnosed in Children
The signs of possible attention deficit disorder may first be noticed long before the child begins school. Their lack of attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity may be seen when these lose interest in playing a game or watching a TV show, or if the child runs around and seems completely out of control. Parents may feel it is necessary to contact a pediatrician or a child psychologist to undergo an assessment of whether or not their child’s behavior is appropriate for their age. Often they will be reassured that the child is behaving within normal limits and is just unusually exuberant or a little immature for their developmental stage.
Sometimes it’s another adult who first suspects that a child may have attention deficit disorder, such as a babysitter or teacher. Teachers with experience of the disorder are particularly well-placed to identify the symptoms of ADHD, especially as the symptoms are particularly evident in the school environment when teachers have come to know how children “typically” behave. The inattentive form of ADHD may be missed for some time in pupils who are seemingly cooperative.
Once a specialist is consulted, the professional will begin to gather information on the child’s unusual behavior and rule out possible causes other than ADHD, for example: