How does a doctor diagnose ADHD?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine

Unfortunately, ADHD cannot be diagnosed with a simple blood test or x-ray. Instead, doctors and mental health professionals look at what the presenting symptoms or complaints are, if they could be caused by something other than ADHD, and if they are seriously impacting your ability to function. This thorough investigation usually includes interviewing family members, teachers, psychologists, and using a variety of medical tests, such as a hearing test.

To accurately diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a doctor, social worker, or psychologist must perform a number of medical and behavioral assessments. Many tests are required because ADHD is a complex disorder caused by several factors. Also, some other mental disorders share similar symptoms to ADHD and must be ruled out.

To diagnose ADHD, the following evaluations must take place:

- review of academic or work performance
- evaluation of mental health and behavior
- interviews of family members, friends, teachers, or coworkers
- medical tests, including blood work and a physical exam

Rating scales are helpful in determining whether an individual's symptoms meet the criteria for ADHD. These rating scales serve as a checklist for the most common symptoms of ADHD, helping the clinician to quickly evaluate the level of disability that ADHD is causing.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Current psychiatric guidelines require that children satisfy strict criteria before qualifying for a diagnosis. Children must have disruptive or inattentive symptoms for at least six months and show them in at least two settings (home and school). Parents and teachers must also fill out a behavioral checklist that allows them to chronicle the child’s emotional and behavioral problems.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.