Should I Get Tested for ADHD?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a condition that affects millions of kids and often persists into adulthood. Approximately 6.7% of adults in the United States experience ADHD symptoms. People with ADHD might have difficulties concentrating, lose things frequently or be forgetful in their daily tasks and activities.
To receive an ADHD diagnosis, you must undergo tests, a thorough medical history and evaluations for conditions commonly diagnosed alongside the disorder. Keep reading to learn more about this condition, including how to get tested for ADHD and the common symptoms and types.
- What Is ADHD?
- What Are the Types & Symptoms
- When Should I Get Tested for ADHD?
- Steps to Get Tested for ADHD
- Receive an ADHD Assessment
What Is ADHD?
ADHD is a condition that affects people’s behavior, often causing symptoms like restlessness, impulsivity and lack of concentration. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about ADHD.
1. What Is the Difference Between ADD and ADHD?
People often mistakenly call ADHD by its former, outdated name, attention deficit disorder. However, the American Psychiatric Association only recognizes ADHD.
People initially used ADD to describe the inattentive type of ADHD, which does not include hyperactivity. Today, doctors or mental health professionals would likely diagnose a client with few symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity as an ADHD client with a predominantly inattentive presentation.
2. What Is the Cause of ADHD?
While the exact cause of ADHD is unknown, research is ongoing. Contributing factors include genetics, the environment or issues with the central nervous system at crucial developmental stages.
Those with immediate family members who have ADHD or another mental health disorder have a higher chance of developing ADHD. Exposure to toxins like lead in the pipes and paint of older buildings could also be a factor. And lastly, premature birth or maternal substance use, like alcohol or cigarettes, during pregnancy can contribute to the likelihood of a person developing ADHD.
3. Is ADHD Hereditary?
Genetic studies have established a strong link between ADHD and heredity. Parents with ADHD have a 74% likelihood of passing the condition to their children. Differences in genes that structure the brain can be heritable, and further studies suggest there may be anywhere from 25 to 45 genes linked to the condition.
4. Is ADHD on the Autism Spectrum?
ADHD is not on the autism spectrum. However, they overlap in several ways, and having one of these conditions increases the chances of having the other.
A few examples of overlapping symptoms between autism spectrum disorder and ADHD include:
- Trouble paying attention
- Social troubles
- Difficulty settling down
- Hyperfocus on specific interests
Because of the shared symptoms between ASD and ADHD, you or a loved one must receive a proper diagnosis to rule out either condition and receive treatment.
5. Is ADHD a Learning Disability?
While ADHD is not a learning disability, it can make learning difficult. For example, it can be challenging for students with ADHD to focus on what a teacher is saying or finish homework.
As a result, ADHD can sometimes qualify as a disability under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act to help students get special education services.
6. Can You Develop ADHD as an Adult?
Technically, you cannot develop ADHD as an adult, as symptoms must be present before age 12 to meet the criteria for an ADHD diagnosis. In other words, if you have ADHD as an adult, you had it as a child. Some individuals are good at compensating for their ADHD symptoms in early childhood and do not experience significant problems until high school, college or in pursuit of their careers.
However, if symptoms were not present in childhood, current symptoms could result from something else, such as anxiety, depression or another mood disorder.
7. Can ADHD Cause Anxiety?
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety are different conditions. However, up to half of the adults with ADHD also have an anxiety disorder. ADHD can also overlap with symptoms of other conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression and oppositional defiant disorder.
If you have co-occurring conditions, they can magnify each other’s symptoms. For instance, anxiety can make it hard for someone with ADHD to focus and follow through on tasks.
What Are the Types of ADHD and Their Symptoms?
Everyone with ADHD is different, and diagnoses and successful treatment methods will vary. The American Psychiatric Association has identified three types of ADHD:
- ADHD-I involves issues regulating attention.
ADHD-H causes impulsive and hyperactive behavior.
- ADHD-C includes inattention and hyperactivity.
It’s helpful to think about the types of ADHD as fluid, since a diagnosis at one point may differ from another time in a person’s life. For example, a child might receive an ADHD-H diagnosis, meet the criteria for ADHD-C in mid-childhood and then have ADHD-I in adulthood.
The following types of ADHD present different symptoms and require specific treatments.
A person with ADHD-Inattentive should have at least six of the following nine symptoms, with few symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive type:
- Inability to pay attention to detail
- Making careless mistakes
- Issues paying attention and keeping on task
- Doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to
- Being easily distracted
- Avoiding tasks that involve effort
- Being forgetful
- Inability to follow or understand instructions
- Losing things that are essential to finish tasks
To have this type, a person has to have at least six of these nine symptoms, and very few of the symptoms of inattentive type:
- Getting up often when seated
- Climbing or running at inappropriate times
- Talking too much
- Talking out of turn or blurting out thoughts
- Having trouble playing quietly
- Constantly being “on the go” and moving around
ADHD-C is the most common type. People with ADHD-Combined have symptoms of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive types. They can receive a diagnosis when they present six out of nine symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity.
When Should I Get Tested for ADHD?
While it’s no cause for alarm to misplace your keys now and then or catch yourself daydreaming at work or school, it can be bothersome when these symptoms persist and disrupt your everyday life. Perhaps you’ve noticed the above symptoms in yourself or your child. At what point should you get tested for ADHD?
Consider the answers to the following questions to determine whether it’s time for an ADHD evaluation. If you find that the answer to most of them is yes, you may want to consider ADHD testing.
1. Do I Display at Least a Few Signs of ADHD?
ADHD has three primary symptoms — focus issues, hyperactivity and impulsivity. You or your child might have all three issues simultaneously. Some people might only have problems focusing, while others may only display hyperactivity. The symptoms can fluctuate throughout a person’s life as well.
2. Is My Child’s Behavior Different Compared to Other Kids?
Children can receive an ADHD diagnosis as early as preschool. But children at that age grow and change quickly. As they age, you’ll need to observe how other kids that age behave and ask whether your child’s behavior is different.
3. Am I Struggling at School or Work? How Much?
If you’re finding it hard to focus at work and complete tasks most of the time, this can be a sign of ADHD. Inconsistent job performance and frequently losing or quitting jobs are ways ADHD can affect a person’s life. ADHD symptoms can also contribute to a history of academic or career underachievement in adults.
If you frequently hear from teachers that your child doesn’t listen or talks out of turn, you’ll want to consider this. If the behavior interferes with learning, it can be a significant warning sign. Ask the teacher questions to learn more about your child’s behavior at school.
4. Does My Child Have a Hard Time Socially?
Children with ADHD often struggle with social skills. They may interrupt conversations or tune out when others speak. It can be challenging for them to make and keep friends. The same goes for adults with ADHD, who might experience social rejection or interpersonal relationship problems as a result of their inattention or inability to complete tasks.
5. Is My Behavior Causing Problems at Home?
Children with ADHD often have difficulty managing emotions. They might be angry or moody, which can make family life stressful. At the same time, adults with ADHD frequently feel frustration, impatience or even low self-esteem. A 2020 study found that 50.2% of adults with ADHD had emotional ups and downs, compared to 5% without ADHD.
6. Are Regular Routines a Constant Struggle?
How many daily routines do you or your child struggle with? Does your child find it difficult to get up for school, do chores or finish their homework? If you frequently have trouble completing tasks or paying attention in meetings, these can be red flags. People with ADHD often find it difficult to plan, organize and follow directions.
7. Is Sleep a Problem?
Getting to sleep can be especially difficult for kids with ADHD. They’re often tired throughout the day, which can exacerbate ADHD challenges and make it harder to pay attention. If you find your mind racing when it’s time to wind down and fall asleep, this can be a sign of ADHD. People with ADHD often have issues tuning out interruptions, quieting their minds and relaxing enough to sleep.
8. Do You Have Chronic and Intense Feelings of Frustration, Guilt or Blame?
Adults with ADHD often struggle with low self-esteem and guilt. They usually have difficulties managing their daily responsibilities, planning or completing tasks. These can cause relationship issues and add to their frustrations.
Hyperactive children often get negative feedback. Teachers, family members and even strangers can be critical of their behavior, which can lead to issues with mental health, like depression and anxiety.
Steps to Get Tested for ADHD in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area
While there’s no single medical, physical or genetic test for ADHD, mental health professionals can do a diagnostic evaluation to get the most accurate results. This assessment includes gathering information from several sources, including ADHD symptom checklists, behavior rating scales, your health history and detailed information from family members. Some practitioners also conduct cognitive tests to rule out a possible learning disability.
When you schedule an ADHD diagnostic evaluation with Stanford Couples Counseling, you’ll take an active role in all aspects of the assessment. Professionals will discuss possible meanings of the test results while outlining goals for you and sending results to other experts as appropriate.
How to Get Tested for ADHD
To get diagnosed with ADHD, you’ll need an evaluation from a medical professional. The following are the steps you can typically expect when pursuing an ADHD diagnosis.
- Clinical interview: A well-conducted interview can help determine whether you have ADHD. It will typically inquire about how symptoms affect daily functioning in school or work, activities, self-image and living arrangements. Professionals will also discuss your family history, current moods, comorbid conditions and general health, such as diet and sleep habits.
- Normed rating scales: After a clinical interview, the clinician will likely use a normed ADHD rating scale to gather information from the patient and their parents, teachers or partners who can attest to their behavior and overall well-being. If professionals suspect a learning disorder, they might also administer an IQ or achievement test.
- Physical exam: Sometimes, medical issues like thyroid conditions cause ADHD-like symptoms. A primary care doctor or pediatrician can complete a physical exam to rule out any underlying medical problems. A physical exam can also determine whether a person can safely take ADHD medication.
- Co-occurring condition evaluations: Clinicians should also explore the possibility a person has co-occurring conditions like anxiety, depression or substance use disorder.
Who Diagnoses ADHD?
Only a medical professional such as a pediatrician, psychologist, psychiatrist or an advanced practice registered nurse can diagnose ADHD. However, remember that specific certifications do not automatically make a person experienced in diagnosing ADHD and co-occurring conditions. First, ask your provider if they feel comfortable with diagnosing ADHD and their experience with comorbid conditions. Specialized training is always critical for getting an accurate diagnosis on such a complex issue.
Receive an ADHD Assessment at Stanford Couples Counseling
When you’re experiencing symptoms you believe could be ADHD, a professional diagnosis can help you get the appropriate treatment. At Stanford Couples Counseling, you can receive an ADHD evaluation by Dr. Jennifer Fast online or at any of our three locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Dr. Fast has been a licensed clinical psychologist in Texas since 2018 and a licensed clinical psychologist in Illinois since 2011. She is passionate about helping clients through cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, humanistic and mindfulness modalities. At Stanford Couples Counseling, we can help you address the challenges of ADHD while empowering you every step of the way.