How Do I Get Tested for ADHD?

Reviewed on 7/6/2021

There is no single test used to diagnose ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), but several other conditions must first be ruled out and symptoms must have been present for at least six months.
There is no single test used to diagnose ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), but several other conditions must first be ruled out and symptoms must have been present for at least six months. 

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that begins in childhood that is characterized by symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. 

Symptoms of ADHD may continue into adulthood. Most of the time, adults with ADHD were diagnosed as children, and the symptoms persisted into adulthood. Some people are diagnosed as adults, but it is believed they had ADHD as children and symptoms were minor so the diagnosis was missed. 

There is no single test used to diagnose ADHD. Other possible conditions that may cause similar symptoms must first be ruled out, and testing may include a medical exam, along with hearing and vision tests.

The criteria the American Psychiatric Association uses to diagnose ADHD include symptoms that must:

  • Persist for at least six months
  • Be present before the age of 12 years
  • Be present in more than one setting (e.g., school and home)
  • Impair function in academic, social, or occupational activities
  • Be excessive for the age of the child
  • Other mental disorders that could account for the symptoms must be ruled out

What Are Symptoms of ADHD?

It is common for most children to have difficulty focusing and behaving from time to time, but children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) do not grow out of these behaviors, and the symptoms may cause difficulty at school, at home, and with friends.

Symptoms of ADHD include: 

  • Hyperactivity
    • These symptoms are apparent by the time a child is four years old and usually increase over the next three to four years
    • Symptoms may peak in severity when a child is seven to eight years of age, then begin to decline
    • By adolescence, hyperactive symptoms may be less noticeable, although ADHD may still be present
      • Excessive fidgeting or squirming
      • Frequent restlessness 
      • Difficulty staying seated 
      • Excessive talking
      • Problems playing quietly
  • Impulsivity
    • These symptoms are also present by the time a child is four years old, increase during the next three to four years, and peak when a child is seven to eight years old
    • Symptoms of impulsivity almost always occurs with hyperactivity in younger children
      • Disruptive classroom behavior
      • Interrupting others' activities
      • Difficulty waiting turns
      • Blurting out answers too quickly
      • Inability to resist temptation
      • Difficulty getting along with others which can lead to rejection by classmates
      • Unintentional injury
      • Unnecessary risk taking
    • Impulsive symptoms are usually a problem throughout a person’s life
  • Inattention
    • Inattention may become more noticeable when a child is eight to nine years old and is likely to persist through adolescence and sometimes into adulthood
      • Being easily distracted
      • Disorganization
      • Poor follow-through with assignments or tasks
      • Inability to concentrate
      • Lack of attention to detail
      • Underachievement in school
      • Forgetfulness
      • Losing or misplacing things
      • Making careless mistakes
      • Daydreaming

SLIDESHOW

ADHD Symptoms in Children See Slideshow

What Is the Treatment for ADHD?

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is usually treated with a combination of behavior therapy and medication. Medications do not cure ADHD, and behavioral treatments are often needed so a child can learn to follow rules, work well with others, and stay motivated.

Behavioral treatments are generally recommended for preschool-aged children before medications are used. School-aged children with ADHD frequently respond well to stimulant medication plus behavioral treatments and counseling if needed. 

Stimulant medications including methylphenidate (Concerta, Focalin, Metadate, Methylin, Ritalin, Daytrana) and amphetamines (Adderall, Dexedrine, Dextrostat, Vyvanse) are commonly used to treat ADHD. Stimulant medications have a paradoxical effect in children with ADHD, and they do not cause them to become more stimulated, but rather, they work to improve attention, concentration, and self-control. An alternative medication that may be used is atomoxetine (Strattera), a nonstimulant medicine. 

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Reviewed on 7/6/2021
References
https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/index.html

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/symptoms-and-diagnosis-of-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-in-children-beyond-the-basics?search=adhd&source=search_result&selectedTitle=5~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=5

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/treatment-of-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-in-children-beyond-the-basics?search=adhd&topicRef=1210&source=see_link