Adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) - Diagnosis

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What tests do health-care professionals use to diagnose adult ADHD?

In order to be assigned the diagnosis of ADHD, a child should exhibit six symptoms of inattention or six symptoms of combined hyperactivity and impulsivity, and an older teen or adult need only demonstrate five of each group of symptoms. Symptoms should begin prior to 12 years of age, occur in more than one setting (like home and work), be significant enough to cause difficulties for the person, and not be able to be better explained by another illness. There are three types of ADHD: predominately inattentive presentation, predominately hyperactive/impulsive presentation, and the combined (inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive) presentation.

Many health-care professionals may help determine the diagnosis of ADHD. A professional will likely perform or refer for a thorough medical interview and physical exam as part of the evaluation. Since ADHD can be associated with other mental-health problems like depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and other anxiety disorders, as well as with autism-spectrum disorders, the evaluator will likely screen for signs of those and other forms of mental illness. The signs and symptoms of adult ADHD may also be caused by many medical conditions or can be a side effect of a number of medications. Therefore, blood tests are frequently done as part of the initial assessment. Occasionally, an imaging study like an X-ray or CAT scan may be necessary. As part of the evaluation, the individual may be asked questions from a standardized questionnaire or self-test to assist in determining the diagnosis. Some ADHD symptom checklists for children have been adapted to screen for the condition in adults. Examples of such diagnostic tools include the Conners' Adult ADHD Rating Scale (CAARS) and the Adult Self Report Scale.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: ADHD husband, 55-64 Male (Caregiver) Published: April 01

I am a wife of a husband with ADHD. My life is terrible. I experience anger, judgement, assumption, criticism, impulsiveness and financial burden. We have identical bags, duplicate copies of books, and millions of shoes everywhere. Our house is a mess with my husband's overflowing belongings. I feel like I am trapped in his fantasy. All our kids have ADHD, my 15 years old son talks and behaves like my husband. I want to divorce, but I feel scared and threatened. I wish he would admit to his condition and get the right treatment.

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Comment from: barb dugan, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: May 22

I am 31 and have ADHD. I'm focused with my thoughts. My medicine works, so why am I told that adults who take Adderall are not allowed to also take Ritalin? I've heard it's done and that it can help.

Was this comment helpful?Yes


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