How do you know if someone has ADHD? How do doctors determine whether or not someone has ADHD? You might already be familiar with ADHD as a neurodevelopmental disorder that causes people to have a hard time sitting still or staying focused. 

People that have ADHD can belong to three subtypes: hyperactive-impulsive, inattentive, or combined. The people that belong to each subtype have their respective common experiences, but many have their own unique set of symptoms. 

ADHD can be diagnosed in children after they are 4 years old. Most people are diagnosed as kids. Doctors and psychologists can give an evaluation to children that seem to have the classic symptoms. Lots of times, parents bring their children for a check-up because of:

  • Difficulties in school
  • Issues with making friends
  • Having trouble with group activities or team sports

ADHD Tests: Getting to Know ADHD 

ADHD is diagnosed clinically. This means that a diagnosis relies on the judgment and experience of clinicians, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals. Since there are no reliable medical tests that definitively determine ADHD, it is confirmed by applying the established criteria. 

This does not make it any less accurate. Although ADHD can be challenging to diagnose, especially in older children or adolescents, many other conditions are diagnosed clinically as well. What’s really important about the whole process is to rule out other conditions that might be affecting a child’s behaviour, so that they can be treated properly.

Evaluating a child for ADHD includes the standard tests that doctors give to almost all their patients:

  • Obtaining medical history
  • Interviewing about family and social histories
  • Performing a physical exam

What is included when testing for ADHD is more psychosocial and behavioural assessments:

  • Performing a behaviour assessment
  • Probing into behaviour history
  • Using behaviour-rating or ADHD rating scales (administering questionnaires)
  • Evaluating educational performance and history
  • Checking for other disorders (anxiety, depression, etc.)
  • Psychometric tests

Your doctor or psychologist might also prescribe these other optional tests, if they see a need:

  • Speech and language assessment
  • Other mental health evaluations
  • Blood tests
  • Thyroid hormone levels
  • Genetic testing
  • Neurology consultation

It will ultimately come down to the judgment of your doctor or psychologist. All of these tests are meant to help them reach the best conclusion informed by the most evidence. 

Frequently Asked Questions about ADHD Diagnosis and ADHD Tests

Can you self-test ADHD?

An ADHD diagnosis cannot be made at home. However, there are screening tests that adults can use on themselves or that parents can use on their children. These are usually questionnaires that can tell you if you or your child are showing signs and symptoms of ADHD. 

These are not meant to be diagnostic. A significant result in these tests should prompt you to book a consultation with your GP for you or your child. One example for adults is the Adult Self-Report Scale (ASRS) Screener from the WHO. 

Is ADHD a disability?

It was recognized as a disability by the 1992 Disability Discrimination Act. However, you cannot get NDIS support for ADHD in Australia as it can be effectively managed and treated with therapy and medication. This remains to be a subject of controversy in some circles. 

Although it is technically a disorder, ADHD Support Australia encourages a more positive view on ADHD, especially since a great many people with ADHD live essentially normal lives. An empowering stance while recommending that support remain accessible seems to be the dominant perspective. 

Can you develop ADHD?

The short answer is no – technically, you cannot suddenly develop ADHD as an adult. ADHD symptoms must be present before the age of 12, according to the DSM-V criteria. However, this has been a topic of debate in recent years, as “late-onset ADHD” in older adolescents has been observed. 

However, as an adult, it is extremely unlikely that you will suddenly experience ADHD symptoms, since it is a neurodevelopmental disorder. If you feel like you are experiencing something of concern, it is best to consult your doctor or psychologist. 

Going for a consult 

Some parents are hesitant to bring their children to see a doctor about possible ADHD. Some are worried that an ADHD diagnosis will put their child at a disadvantage later in life. However, we encourage anyone that feels their child might be showing symptoms to see their GP. 

ADHD tests are there to determine if your child may need help. If it turns out that they do need a little assistance, then it is actually much better to start early. Many people with ADHD go on to live very normal lives. There are quite a few doctors, lawyers, and actors that have ADHD, but for many, it is not even noticeable.