How Is ADHD Tested and Diagnosed?

How Is ADHD Tested and Diagnosed?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common psychological disorders in the world. In the United States population alone, ADHD has a prevalence of about 8.7%. Of the total number of people affected by ADHD, 6.1 million of them are children. ADHD at any age can make everyday life difficult. It may affect an individual’s performance at school or work and interfere with their ability to maintain relationships. So how is ADHD tested?

Testing for ADHD

Testing for ADHD and diagnosing the disorder is necessary for clients to gain access to life-changing resources. Diagnosing ADHD often involves a series of psychological tests and other modalities. Learn more about the tests and criteria used to diagnose ADHD in the guide below. 

Psychological Testing

Psychological testing is an integrative process that uses various tests to assess a person’s mental, emotional, and behavioral responses to different circumstances. When evaluating a client, experts use psychological testing to assess the following:

  • How they learn, retain, and access information
  • Indications of learning disabilities
  • Their strengths and how those can be fostered
  • How they view the world and the people around them
  • Any cognitive or academic barriers
  • Emotional, social, or behavioral difficulties
  • Their learning style at school or work
  • How their behavior affects daily functioning

While there are countless uses for psychological testing, one of the most common is ADHD testing. Psychological testing for ADHD combines numerous approaches to determine whether ADHD is the cause of a person’s symptoms. Learn more about each of these psychological tests below.

Diagnostic Interviews

Oftentimes, the best way to learn more about someone is by simply speaking to them. This is why experts use diagnostic interviews to assess both children and adults for ADHD. During a diagnostic interview, the individual is asked a series of questions to gain more information about how they navigate their world. These interviews can showcase a lot about the person’s feelings, social outlook, talents, and challenges.

Discussions with Friends and Family

An important part of the ADHD testing process is interviewing family members, friends, and others who are close to the individual. Sometimes, people are unaware of their own behaviors, so getting another perspective from friends and family members can help professionals form a complete profile. Having plenty of information makes it easier to detect when psychological disorders like ADHD are affecting someone. 

Parents, siblings, and grandparents are often the first to notice potential ADHD symptoms in a child. These loved ones can provide crucial information about how the child behaves in various scenarios, including at school, at work, and at home.

Behavior Rating Scales

To explore the potential presence of ADHD, behavior rating scales are implemented during the psychological testing process. Behavior rating scales are used to assess how a person behaves under specific circumstances. A behavioral rating scale examines all of the following behaviors and more:

  • Inability to follow directions
  • Squirming and fidgeting
  • Talking over others or interrupting
  • Difficulty with organization
  • Inability to stay still or remain quiet
  • Difficulty completing tasks

Experts will evaluate whether the person exhibits any of these behaviors and to what extent. A child or adult who struggles with several of these concerns on a frequent basis is likely to have ADHD.

Criteria for ADHD Diagnosis

In order to receive a diagnosis of ADHD, there are certain criteria that must be met. While not all of these criteria must be met, you must meet most of them in order to be diagnosed with ADHD. The following are the most prominent criteria met by those with ADHD:

Symptoms Before Age 12

ADHD is not an acquired disorder but rather a congenital one. The vast majority of people with ADHD begin exhibiting symptoms in their childhood. To be diagnosed with ADHD, some symptoms should be present before the age of 12. If most of the client’s symptoms have developed later in life, they may be attributed to another disorder or condition.

Presence of Symptoms in Multiple Settings

For those struggling with ADHD, symptoms often present themselves in various areas of everyday life. This may include work, school, relationships, home, and more. When diagnosing ADHD, the examiner will pay attention to how widespread the person’s difficulty is. If symptoms are only experienced in one setting, they may be attributed to something unique to that area rather than ADHD.

Reduced Ability to Function

Untreated ADHD can severely impact an individual’s ability to function at work, school, or in other aspects of their daily life. In order to receive an ADHD diagnosis, most people must show that their inability to focus is a detriment to their ability to function.

Symptoms Not Explained by Other Conditions

As stated before, ADHD symptoms can overlap with other psychological or mental health disorders. In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, a person’s symptoms must not be solely attributed to other disorders. If another condition is present, and that condition can better explain the person’s symptoms, they may not have ADHD.

Receiving an ADHD Diagnosis

Once the appropriate testing has been completed, the information and results are evaluated by experts to determine whether the individual has ADHD. Many of the symptoms of ADHD can overlap with other disorders, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), anxiety, and specific learning disorders. This makes proper evaluation by an expert essential. 

ADHD Testing and Treatment at Blackhawk Family Development Center

If you think you or a loved one is struggling with ADHD, Blackhawk Family Development Center can help. Our team of clinicians uses an integrative approach to diagnose and treat ADHD. We work with children and adults who are coping with ADHD symptoms in their daily life. The goal of our ADHD treatment is to give clients and their loved ones healthy, effective ways to work through the effects of ADHD. This is achieved through customized treatment plans that address each client’s unique needs. Contact us today to learn more.



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