How Is It Diagnosed?

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Because symptoms may vary across settings, ADHD can be difficult to diagnose. A diagnosis of ADHD is based on the number, persistence and history of symptomatic behaviors, and the degree to which they impede a child’s performance in more than one setting. Parents or teachers may be the first to notice possible signs of ADHD. Diagnosis of adult ADHD is based on symptoms, impairments and history. Adults with ADHD might experience symptoms such as lack of focus, disorganization, restlessness, difficulty finishing projects and/or losing things. They may also have difficulties at work, at home or with personal relationships. Also, adults diagnosed with ADHD must have had symptoms prior to age 7 that continued for at least six months.

Diagnosis should be made by a professional with training in ADHD or mental disorders.

Physical examinations are given to exclude such things as undetected seizures, temporal lobe seizures and middle ear infections; psychological tests can rule out conditions such as specific learning disabilities, anxiety or affective disorders. Ideally, reviews are made of school records, which include evaluations by teachers and others about a child’s behavior based on rating scales. Parents and others who know the child well may be interviewed. Intelligence and learning tests may be administered. The specialist uses all this information to make a diagnosis of ADHD.

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