ADHD: How To Diagnose In Adults

If you’ve had a history of forgetting things, have problems managing daily tasks, or experience great difficulty maintaining your focus, you may be suffering from ADHD without knowing it.

You might think these shortcomings are just behavioural issues but there may be more to it. The symptoms can affect your career and personal life. For most sufferers, it feels like being in prison – you can’t do what you want. Proper diagnosis of ADHD is the first step to finding freedom.

It’s not enough that you or someone else “thinks” you have the condition. You should consult a doctor such as a Psychiatrist or a clinically-trained professional who can run various diagnostic tests to know with greater certainty if you have it. Keep in mind that a person could manifest the symptoms of ADHD but may not actually have it.

These tests could include the use of behaviour rating scales, a run-through the checklist of usual symptoms, and standard information gathering from family, friends, and associates who know the person very well.

A Psychiatrist who is trained in treating ADHD patients is familiar with the guidelines stabled by the APA or American Psychiatric Association. These guidelines are outlined in the manual, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.

adhd consultant meeting

The 3 Presentations of ADHD: Which One Are You?

According to the manual, there are 3 kinds of presentations for this problem. These presentations are identified as hyper-impulsive, predominantly inattentive, and combined and exhibit their symptoms as follows:

As for those who fall under the combined presentation, they manifest symptoms from both the hyper-impulsive and predominantly inattentive.

A Psychiatrist or clinician trained in the treatment of ADHD will analyze the symptoms and assess their level of severity. Specifically, the clinician would want to see how the symptoms have affected the individual’s quality of life.

For example:

Is it possible for the person to exhibit the symptoms identified with the 3 presentations and not have ADHD? Yes. This is why the clinician should corroborate his/her efforts with a person or persons close with the individual.

A very important detail to consider is when the symptoms appeared to have started. Most studies indicate that in order to confirm the existence of the medical condition, the symptoms should have been present since the time the individual was 12 years old.

Get a Proper Diagnosis for ADHD

doctor with adhd patient

You might come across websites that offer self-diagnosis tools for ADHD. It should be pointed out that these tests are not standardized. Therefore, these Internet-based self-diagnosis “tools” are not dependable.

Your best option for an accurate diagnosis is by consulting with a Psychiatrist or a clinician who is trained or certified in dealing with people afflicted with ADHD. Before hiring the services of a person who claims to be an expert in the area, find out more about his/her background and experience.

If the person is not willing to disclose the necessary qualifications or certifications, then you should view his/her lack of cooperation as a red flag.

If you have a family or personal doctor, he/she could recommend a trained professional for you. You can also get recommendations from your local hospital, clinic, or from the Psychology department in your nearest university.

Take the time to look for a focus or support group for people with ADHD. Visit them and talk to their counsellors and get recommendations. Of course, the Internet can still be of help. Search for websites that list down agencies or individuals that provide assistance to people with ADHD.

How to Prepare for ADHD Evaluation

doctor with stethoscope

As we discussed earlier, if you have exhibited any of the symptoms listed in the 3 presentations of ADHD, you should consider the possibility of being afflicted with the disorder. Your attention should shift toward getting ready for the evaluation under a trained professional.

Before heading off to your doctor’s appointment, find out if you can bring clues that can help confirm the existence of ADHD. The best clues come from your past. For example, your school grades will help establish if you had a history of academic difficulties.

If you have records of your previous job interviews that include notations from the Hiring Manager, these could prove to be helpful to the clinician. Bring these noteworthy documents with you when you visit the doctor.

Your doctor may also ask you to fill out a questionnaire before the evaluation. Likewise, the doctor may require you to ask a close family member or friend to answer a similar questionnaire. The doctor will use the questionnaire as another diagnostic tool to determine if you have ADHD.

The Diagnostic Interview

The diagnostic interview is one of the most effective ways of evaluating whether a person has ADHD or not. It consists of a series of standardized but comprehensive questions that cover different areas of the person’s life.

The interview is not limited to the set of questions. The interviewer which is usually the clinician will ask follow-up questions whenever necessary to arrive at a clearer understanding of the person’s condition.

The interviewer may ask questions about specific behaviours. These may include the use of drugs and/or alcohol, pre-existing health conditions, and a history of problems going back to early education.

They diagnostic interview may also require the involvement of a family member or a close friend. In the case of married couples, the spouse is usually invited to the interview. The clinician would want to know if the symptoms have played a role in the occurrence of problems affecting their relationship.

The responses will be collated and closely reviewed to ascertain if they qualify under the criteria for ADHD. The clinician will also attempt to determine if the symptoms have had negative effects on the person’s life.

The clinician will also find out if there are other psychiatric disorders present in addition. This type of situation is not uncommon at all. In fact, it is very rare that the symptoms persist only because of ADHD. The existence of other psychiatric conditions can mislead a diagnosis of ADHD as a prevalent cause.


Other forms of diagnostic testing may include the use of standardized rating scales. These scales are designed based on the answers given by ADHD patients to a standardized questionnaire.

It is also possible that the doctor may ask the individual to undergo medical testing. The purpose is to rule the existence of a medical condition as the reason for ADHD. These conditions include seizures or thyroid problems.

The bottom-line is if you want to know for sure whether you have it or not, the best option is to seek professional help or consultation.