Adult ADHD

Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Adult ADHD diagnosis

There is no single test used to diagnose ADHD in either adults or children. While the criteria for diagnosing ADHD have been clearly delineated, it usually takes multiple meetings with an ADHD expert for an adult to be diagnosed with the condition.

Adult ADHD screening

Receiving a diagnosis13 of ADHD will usually require:

  • A physical exam. This rules out any other physical conditions that may be causing the symptoms of ADHD. Someone who is in chronic low-level pain, for instance, may struggle to focus—even if they are so used to the pain that it has become part of their daily life.
  • An information gathering process. Healthcare providers will ask the patient about their medical history, family medical history, and the history of their symptoms. Most providers will also ask for input from people close to the patient or those who work with the patient. Spouses, parents, children, and others may have to fill out and return questionnaires about the patient’s apparent symptoms or struggles before they can receive a diagnosis.
  • Filling out an ADHD rating scale. The patient may also be asked to fill out an ADHD rating scale about themselves. They may need to include details about their past or current functioning, especially about how they lived and worked when they were children. After all, ADHD actually starts in childhood.
  • Other psychological tests. Providers will want to make sure that any symptoms of ADHD cannot be explained by the presence of other mental illnesses. They may screen for depression, anxiety, and more. While these can be comorbid with adult ADHD, the provider needs to know everything that is going on before making both diagnosis and treatment decisions.
  • Cognitive ability tests. These ensure that a person can evaluate themselves and that their ADHD is not masking struggles with cognitive function. Some of these tests may also measure the extent to which the symptoms of ADHD are impairing cognitive function and processing.

In order to be diagnosed14 with adult ADHD, the patient must show symptoms all the time, throughout at least several aspects of their life. At least some of the symptoms must have been present before age 12, and they must pose significant challenges to the person’s life in at least two major areas. This can include things like marital or relationship strain, job loss, forgetting to pay bills on time, or impulsive spending causing excessive financial stress.

It’s important that patients be as upfront as possible with their providers. When ADHD has caused significant hardship, patients may be tempted to hide the areas most affected by the condition. However, getting the right diagnosis and treatment depends upon being open about all aspects of one’s symptoms and experiences.

Do I have adult ADHD?

If you think15 you might have ADHD, start by looking through a list of symptoms. Determine how many of them align with your everyday feelings and experiences

If you find that you resonate with many of the criteria required to be diagnosed with ADHD, contact your healthcare provider. Let them know that you think you might have the disorder. Most importantly, follow through with your appointments and any follow-up requests that your provider makes.

It may take a couple of months, but finding out whether you have adult ADHD is worth the effort. Once you have the right diagnosis, you can receive the most effective treatment for minimizing the negative impacts ADHD has on your life.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.