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The diagnosis of ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is complex, since there are no specific tests to determine its existence , although there are some that can guide us.

And it is that its diagnosis is based solely on the clinic, that is, on the symptomatology (there is no test that “detects” ADHD 100%, as would happen with certain diseases, for example).

In addition, the symptoms of this disorder can be confused with other health problems, such as: vision problems, hearing difficulties, brain injuries or seizures, among others.

Some mood disorders can also be confused with ADHD , mainly anxiety and depression , and even the consumption of some medications can affect and produce symptoms that are related to this disorder. So how is ADHD diagnosed?

“Living with ADHD is like being locked in a room with 100 televisions and 100 radios, all playing. None of them have power buttons, so you can turn them off and the door is locked from the outside.”

-Sarah Young-

ADHD symptoms

In order to have a diagnosis of ADHD, it is necessary to meet the criteria set forth by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) of the American Psychiatric Association.

This manual indicates that the person must meet at least six symptoms if they are under 16 years of age, or five if they are over 17.

These symptoms must indicate inattention and symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity, which must be present for a period of not less than six months, and affect the development of the child’s or adolescent’s daily life.

In addition, the symptoms must occur in various contexts , other pathologies must be ruled out, symptoms must have been presented before the age of 12, and their regular functioning must be affected. Check out more interesting articles on our site Fit Blog.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

As we said in the introduction, there is no psychological test or specific medical analysis to help diagnose ADHD. However, specialists use two types of evaluations to find a diagnosis in these cases:

Application of medical tests

This is done in order to rule out that the problem or difficulties are due to any physiological cause.

For this, a general check-up is carried out, blood pressure control, laboratory tests (urine and blood), the hearing and vision status of the person is checked and, in many cases, an encephalogram is indicated.

Psychological evaluation

The psychologist or psychiatrist in charge of the evaluation will use the interview with the person as a means to gather information that will allow him to understand the case a little better.

You will also use clinical observation in an environment that is as natural as possible, which allows you to obtain more information. In addition, especially in children and adolescents, parents and teachers are also interviewed and/or questionnaires are administered.

“Most teachers and adults could benefit from pretending that every child in their class has ADHD; what is good for kids with ADHD is good for all kids.”

-Dr. Edward M. Hallowell-

The specialist can also apply some psychometric or projective tests that allow him to get to know the child or adolescent a little better. These evaluations are very simple, it is just a matter of filling out some surveys or making some drawings.

Some tests that apply

Examples of these types of tests used to assess ADHD (both attention and hyperactivity) are:

  • EDAH (Assessment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
  • Computerized Magellan Scale of Impulsivity (CMI)
  • Magellan scale of visual attention
  • Test of faces (Test of perception of differences)

Who makes the diagnosis?

The person in charge of making the diagnosis must be a specialist , either mental health (psychologist or psychiatrist) or physical and medical health (neurologists, pediatricians , etc.). Generally, they work together to determine if the child has ADHD.

The first thing the specialist should do is compare what the child or family says is happening with the diagnostic criteria of the DSM-5 (the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual ).

If the established criteria are met, the next thing is to rule out the existence of any other pathologythat could explain the symptoms that are present and inquire about the use of medications that can alter the person’s regular functioning.

Keep in mind…

The people in charge of making an ADHD diagnosis are only health and/or mental health professionals, who are trained to do so.

In addition, these diagnoses are dimensional and can vary, responding to the evolutionary advances of the person .

Psychological tests are of great help and serve to guide professionals, but by themselves they do not represent any type of diagnosis. And likewise, there are no laboratory, medical, or neuroimaging tests that can determine whether or not someone has ADHD.

Evaluation of the person and their environment

The diagnosis requires a comprehensive approach in which medical and psychological evaluations are applied along with interviews with the person in question and their environment, be it family, school, extracurricular activities , etc.

The importance of generating strategies

Having a diagnosis of ADHD is not serious, nor should it be a cause for fear or shame.

It is important to know what is happening to our son and to work together with a specialist to be able to help him generate strategies that allow him to better adapt to the environment and manage his difficulties.

“People with ADHD often have a special sense of life, a way of seeing straight to the heart of matters, while others have to methodically reason their own way.”

-Dr. Edward M. Hallowell-

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