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Adult ADD, ADHD Testing and Diagnosis

Comprehensive adult ADD, ADHD testing and diagnosis information. Tools clinicians use for adult ADHD testing, how adult ADD testing is performed.

Adult ADHD testing and diagnosis begins with the clinician, often a psychiatrist, recording a detailed medical history. The doctor will also ask specific questions about your adult ADHD symptoms, their effect on academic and work performance as well as how they impact your personal relationships (see ADD and Relationships). He may assess your attentiveness, ability to concentrate, level of hyperactivity, and tendency toward impulsive behavior.

Rating Scales Used for Adult ADD Testing

The rating scale in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th Edition (DSM-V) is specifically designed to test for and diagnose ADHD in children, but due to some minor changes and additions, clinicians can use it for adult ADD testing. Rating scales developed for adult ADHD diagnosis include the Wender Utah, Brown, and Conners scales.

Regardless of the scale used, the patient must have a history of ADD-related behaviors from childhood; behaviors consistent with the disorder must appear during childhood (by age 12) for a clinician to give an adult ADHD diagnosis.The DSM-V also adds a requirement that clinicians assess the level of severity of a person's ADHD as one of the following: mild, moderate, or severe.

For those individuals who do not meet the full diagnostic criteria for ADHD, the DSM-V adds these categories: other specified ADHD and unspecified ADHD. Clinicians use the first one when the patient fails to meet full criteria, but present symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment. The second one is used when the doctor chooses not to specify the reason the client did not meet full criteria, making a more specific diagnosis impossible.

Wender Utah Adult ADHD Diagnosis Rating Scale

Simply called the Utah criteria by most clinicians, Wender developed this scale to focus on the specific traits of adult ADHD. The Utah criteria address the emotional nature of the disorder, such as temper flares over minor upsets or irritations. High pressure and intense emotional situations exacerbate these angry outbursts. The ADHD adult frequently cools down quickly, but those to whom the adult directed the anger tend to have a harder time getting past the episode. The scale evaluates five key symptoms: disorganization, low stress tolerance, impulsivity, poor anger management, and effect of the behaviors on those around the patient.

Conners Adult ADHD Diagnosis Rating Scale

This ADHD diagnosis test includes two formats – observer and self-reporting assessments. Clinicians can choose to use a long or short version of the Conners rating scale. The long form consists of 66 items, using nine scales developed to assess a wide range of issues associated with ADHD in adults. These include impulsive tendencies, hyperactivity, self-esteem problems, and memory and attention issues. An inconsistency index included in the long version reveals careless answering patterns. The short version features abbreviated versions of the scales and indices in the long version.

Brown Adult ADD Diagnosis Rating Scale

Developed by Dr. Thomas E. Brown, this adult ADHD testing tool helps to assess the broad range of behaviors and symptoms associated with adult ADD. Clinicians can use the Brown adult ADD scale for assessing individuals aged 18 and above. The scale includes age-based norms and instructions detailing proper use and interpretation of the scales and diagnostic forms.

Adult ADHD Testing and Diagnosis Considerations

These rating scales and diagnostic tools for adult ADHD testing require administration and interpretation by a qualified and experienced health care professional. When used properly, these tools can provide an accurate assessment of adult ADD and help in planning an effective treatment strategy.

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Last Updated: 10 February 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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