How ADD/ADHD is Diagnosed
Evaluating ADHD in children or adults can be difficult as there is no set test. ADHD is typically diagnosed after a person has shown some or all symptoms of ADHD regularly for more than six months. Symptoms must be present in more than one setting and have been present since the age of 12. There are three subtypes of ADHD a patient can be diagnosed with, depending on the number and type of symptoms they exhibit. Subtypes include:
- Primarily Inattentive
- Primarily Hyperactive
- And Combined
Diagnosing ADHD in Children
ADHD is most frequently diagnosed in children with the help of healthcare providers such as pediatricians, psychiatrists and child psychologists. When evaluating a child, they use the standards set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics or the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). The diagnosis involves information gathering from several different sources. The sources can include caregivers, parents and schools. Symptoms that suggest a child may have ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity. While many children exhibit these symptoms, a healthcare provider will take into account how the child’s behavior compares with that of other children in their age group. To properly diagnose a child with ADHD, rather than just relying on behavioral indicators alone, healthcare providers will receive a full physical exam. This should include a vision and hearing screening. Some providers will use the Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment Aid (NEBA) System, a noninvasive scan that measures theta and beta brain waves, that was recently approved by the FDA to aid in the diagnosis of ADHD. The theta to beta ratio has been shown to be higher in children and teens with ADHD than their neurotypical counterparts. The scan is approved for children aged six to 17 years. In addition to the physical exam, the healthcare provider will put together a complete medical history to screen for other conditions that may affect the child’s behavior. Certain life changes and other conditions can mimic ADHD and cause symptoms of ADHD to appear in children. Among those conditions can include:
- Recent major life changes, such as a move or a divorce
- Undetected seizures
- Sleep problems
- and Thyroid problems
Diagnosing ADHD in Adults
ADHD is harder to diagnose in adults. Frequently, a parent or guardian will recognize the symptoms of ADHD in themselves when a child has been diagnosed first. Or, they may seek treatment for conditions linked to ADHD, such as anxiety, and find their symptoms are related to ADHD. Adults may exhibit the same inattention and impulsiveness as children, but have other problems as well. These problems can include chronic lateness and forgetfulness, low self-esteem, anxiety, poor organizational skills, a short temper, restlessness, employment problems and more. If the source of these difficulties is not found and managed, they can cause emotional, social and academic problems in adults. In order to diagnose an adult with ADHD, the adult must also have persistent symptoms that date back to childhood. A medical history will be taken, just as with children, and the healthcare provider may choose to interview the adult patient’s life partner, parents, close friends or other close associates. Neurological testing and psychological testing may also be ordered to rule out other issues. Neurological testing can offer greater insight into strengths and weaknesses while identifying an conditions that have developed alongside ADHD. For adults, it’s especially important to see a psychiatrist or someone else who understands the idiosyncrasies that come with ADHD. Primary care physicians are not trained to understand ADHD in-depth and it’s overlapping conditions. They also aren’t trained to perform the kind of evaluation and adult ADHD sufferer needs. It can take several hours of talking and testing to diagnose someone with ADHD. A psychiatrist will be able to separate ADHD symptoms and the symptoms of any coexisting conditions such as learning disabilities or autism spectrum disorder, ASD.
How We Can Help You?
Best Day Psychiatry and Counseling is here to help you have a better day and find a better way. We treat a wide range of psychiatric conditions for both children and adults. Contact us today, we’re ready to help: