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Diagnosing Adult ADHD: How to Know if You Have It

There’s no one simple test for ADHD.

Adults can suffer from ADHD for years without knowing it. There’s no one simple test for ADHD, and in adults, the symptoms can be subtle and confusing. A doctor can determine if you have the disorder and help you treat it. ADHD is a disorder characterized by distractibility, impulsive behavior and the inability to remain focused on tasks. 

Common symptoms of ADHD in adults include difficulty focusing on or completing tasks, inability to prioritize, disorganization, chronic boredom, memory problems, volatile moods, restlessness and impulsive.  In order to be diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, you must show persistent symptoms of the disorder since childhood. This is because ADHD does not develop in adulthood, but can go undiagnosed until adulthood.  

Your doctor will ask you to explain how it’s affecting your daily life.  You will fill out a questionnaire to find out if you had symptoms early on in life, and your parents and siblings will be asked to contribute their recollections as well.  You’ll also be asked if anyone in your family has ADHD or exhibited similar symptoms, since it’s believed to be genetic. Job performance reviews will be requested and your job history will be evaluated. Your spouse, partner or friends may also be asked to contribute to the evaluation. You’ll undergo a physical exam to rule out medical or neurological illnesses and psychological tests like an IQ test. Finally, your doctor will look for other psychiatric disorders, or even substance abuse that could be causing your symptoms.  

A diagnosis of ADHD is based on specific guidelines issued by the American Psychiatric Association. Your doctor will consider the number and severity of symptoms, their duration and the degree to which they impair your life. If you’re feeling frustrated or have trouble achieving your goals or maintaining your job or relationships, you may want to ask your doctor about ADHD. Being diagnosed with ADHD isn’t the end of your struggle, it can be the beginning to improving your quality of life.



Holly Atkinson, MD

This video features Holly Atkinson, MD. Dr. Atkinson specializes in internal medicine and is an award-winning medical journalist.

Duration: 3:15. Last Updated On: Nov. 8, 2017, 6:14 p.m.
Reviewed by: Suzanne Friedman, MD, Preeti Parikh, MD, . Review date: Aug. 9, 2014
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