Depiction of ADHD brain drawn on a chalkboard

Although there’s no cure for ADHD, treatment may help alleviate its symptoms, allowing individuals to function normally. ADHD testing is beneficial in diagnosing the condition and determining appropriate treatment.

The process typically involves an initial evaluation, information gathering, behavioral and cognitive assessments, and medical and psychological evaluations.

Here’s an in-depth look at the testing process:


Initial Evaluation

Initial Evaluation for ADHD

You can initiate the ADHD testing process if you suspect you or your child have ADHD by visiting a therapist. Your therapist will ask about your symptoms and compare them to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) presentation criteria.

This is a diagnostic standard developed to enhance proper ADHD diagnosis. According to the DSM-5, people with ADHD show symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that prevent normal functioning and development.

Symptoms of inattention include being easily distracted, having trouble organizing tasks, making careless mistakes in school or at work, forgetting tasks and activities, avoiding tasks that require a lot of mental effort, and not listening, even when spoken to directly.

Hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms include difficulty remaining seated, fidgeting, talking excessively, being unable to wait their turn in conversations, blurting out answers before listening to questions and being on the move often.

A therapist may proceed to a full evaluation of ADHD if a child 16 years or younger displays six or more symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity and impulsivity. For adolescents aged 17 and older or adults, an extensive evaluation will typically start when they present five or more symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Information Gathering

Boy combs through water gathering letters to form words

A therapist typically collects information from multiple sources to better understand an individual’s symptoms.

When testing for ADHD in children and teens, therapists consult teachers, parents, or caregivers because they may have more insight into the symptoms. For adults, they typically engage spouses or partners to understand their clients better.

Therapists may ask these parties to explain the symptoms they observe in their loved ones, how long they last, whether environmental triggers bring them on, and whether they impact their routines or affect age-appropriate functioning. The parties may also be asked to fill out the Conners Rating Scale.

This scale looks for symptoms related to their behavior, work, and school. It determines how symptoms affect individuals’ relationships, academics, and work and home life.

Behavioral and Cognitive Assessments

A therapist may also conduct behavioral and cognitive assessments to understand the symptoms further. This is beneficial in determining the most appropriate treatment plans. A behavioral evaluation may involve observing an individual in various settings, such as home and school.

Through this assessment, a therapist can gather information on one’s social interactions, behavior, and functioning across different contexts. They may observe symptoms likely to show up in social interactions, like not listening and interrupting others when talking.

A therapist may also administer cognitive tests to assess working memory, sustained attention, and cognitive flexibility. They can ask for school records to review one’s cognitive abilities. Cognitive tests can help identify one’s strengths and weaknesses and help guide treatment planning.

Medical and Psychological Evaluations

Medical and Psychological Evaluations for ADHD

A therapist may order or perform medical and psychological conditions to rule out other conditions that may be contributing to an individual’s symptoms.

Medical evaluations may be necessary if a therapist suspects conditions like restless legs syndrome, low blood sugar, and sleep disorders. These conditions can present some ADHD-like symptoms.

They may also be necessary in substance abuse cases. Alcohol and drug abuse can cause ADHD-like symptoms such as inattentiveness and disorganization.

A therapist may also conduct a psychological evaluation to assess one’s emotional well-being and identify potential comorbid conditions. ADHD shares some common symptoms with conditions like bipolar disorder and autism outbursts.

Talkativeness and restlessness can be present in ADHD and bipolar disorder, while social development problems and hyperactivity can be shared in autism and ADHD.

A thorough psychological evaluation can help determine whether one has ADHD or other conditions to choose the most appropriate treatment.

If an assessment reveals ADHD and a co-occurring disorder like anxiety, a mental health professional may recommend non-stimulant medications instead of stimulants to prevent worsening anxiety symptoms.

Undergo ADHD Testing Today

ADHD Testing

Undergo ADHD testing if you suspect you or your child have ADHD for effective treatment. While different therapists follow varying steps when testing for ADHD, you’ll likely go through the steps discussed here.

The assessment process aims to prevent ADHD misdiagnosis and facilitate proper treatment. Proper treatment can improve your quality of life by alleviating symptoms that prevent normal functioning.