Is there a test that can diagnose ADHD unequivocally?

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine
Currently, we do not have one test available to diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Instead, doctors and mental health professionals use a variety of tests to diagnose ADHD. The tests and tools used in the ADHD diagnosis process include:
  • medical and physical exams, to rule out coexisting conditions
  • ADHD symptom checklists
  • questionnaires about the person's moods and emotions
  • intelligence and achievement tests
  • interviews with family members, friends, and other significant adults in the person's life
  • behavioral observations, performed in a variety of settings
When seeking an ADHD diagnosis, you may choose to first visit a physician, like a pediatrician or psychiatrist. The doctor may be able to perform all of the above tests or may refer you to someone else. Mental health practitioners, including psychologists, licensed social workers, counselors, and family therapists, often specialize in diagnosing ADHD. However, these specialists will not be able to perform any medical testing and will focus more on the checklists, questionnaires, interviews, and observations.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Unfortunately, diagnosing ADHD is not as simple as diagnosing something like a heart attack or chicken pox. There is no single test that can be used to diagnose ADHD.
Deborah Davis
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
There is no single medical, physical, or other test for diagnosing ADD/ADHD.  To determine if you or you child has ADD/ADHD, a doctor or other health professional will need to be involved, and you can expect him or her to use a number of different tools:  a checklist of symptoms, answers to questions about past and present problems, or a medical exam to rule out other causes for symptoms.  Keep in mind that the symptoms of ADD/ADHD, such as concentration problems and hyperactivity, can be confused with other disorders and medical problems.  Just because it looks like ADD/ADHD doesn't mean it is, so getting a thorough assessment and diagnosis is important.

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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.