Diagnosing Adult ADHD

Diagnosing Adult ADHD
There are several steps in the diagnosis of ADHD in adults – which has similarities, but, also differences compared to ADHD in children. Mostly, it depends on asking clients to answer a list of standard questions about certain specifics of daily functioning at school, work, play and socially – from childhood to the present. It’s also important to rule out possible physical conditions, which would be exposed by the client’s report of medical and mental health history and regular physical exams, preferably one within the last year. Sometimes, it’s also helpful to have a person familiar with a client answer some of the same questions from the standardized questionnaires to explore others’ experience with the client.

While all ADHD behaviors are human behaviors, and, therefore, most people have done one or more of them from time to time, it is the behavioral patterns and frequency as well as the level of frustration resulting from those behaviors that point to Adult ADHD. Deep frustration over repeated and undesirable behaviors is often felt by the client, as well as by people who spend time with him or her. It must also be said, however, that sometimes, the person with ADHD is perfectly satisfied with him or herself, and it’s the people, who spend time in his or her company, that “can’t take it anymore.”

Perhaps it’s said that Adult ADHD is difficult to diagnose because ADHD doesn’t manifest itself in everyone the same way. It may appear somewhat differently in women and men. And, there are usually overlapping behaviors that are a part of other diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder and autism spectrum disorder. To be sure, the Adult ADHD diagnostician needs a comprehensive understanding of the basic and relatively exclusive behaviors of Adult ADHD, so that it can be differentiated from other conditions or found to be co-existent with one or more.

By the way, Adult ADHD is not limited to Americans. It is ubiquitous. Indeed, The World Health Organization has a standardized screening questionnaire for Adult ADHD. It’s called the Self-Report Scale (ASRS) Screener. The instrument helps a person recognize the signs and symptoms of some aspects of adult ADHD. It is comprised of 6 questions that are ranked on a scale of 0 to 4. If you have at least 4 of these 6 symptoms in a significant amount, the guidelines say that you may have ADHD; and it suggests that a formal diagnosis be accomplished.

Here are the ASRS questions about Adult ADHD.

Do you…

  1. Often have difficulty concentrating on what people say to you, even when they are speaking to you directly?
    Never Rarely Sometimes Often Very Often
  2. Often have to leave your seat in meetings or other situations in which you are expected to remain seated?
    Never Rarely Sometimes Often Very Often
  3. Often have difficulty unwinding and relaxing when you have time to yourself?
    Never Rarely Sometimes Often Very Often
  4. Often find yourself finishing the sentence of the people you are taking to before they can finish it themselves?
    Never Rarely Sometimes Often Very Often
  5. Often put things off until the last minute?
    Never Rarely Sometimes Often Very Often
  6. Often depend on others to keep your life in order and attend to details?
    Never Rarely Sometimes Often Very Often

According to the scoring instructions, add the number of times you select an answer in bold type. If you chose Four (4) or more, your symptoms may be consistent with Adult ADHD. It may be beneficial for you to be formally evaluated.

Another list of common Adult ADHD behaviors follows. By the way, a person does not have to have all of the listed behaviors to have ADHD. People may be mostly hyperactive or mostly inattentive or experience a combination of both, at varying levels of severity.

The first group of questions was developed from features described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders IV and V (DSM). The DSM is the diagnostic “bible” for mental health practitioners. Unfortunately, the DSM has not yet listed trouble with controlling emotion as one of the typical features of Adult ADHD.

Adult ADHD Features from DSM-IV,V

Do you:

1. Often fail to give close attention to details or make mistakes in schoolwork, at work or during other activities?

2. Often have difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities?

3. Often do not seem to listen when spoken to directly?

4. Often show poor follow-through on instructions or fail to finish daily tasks or duties in the workplace?

5. Often have difficulty organizing tasks and activities?

6. Often avoid, dislike or feel reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort?

7. Often lose things necessary for tasks or activities?

8. Often become distracted by extraneous stimuli?

9. Often forget returning calls, paying bills, keeping appointments?

10. Often fidget with or tap your hands or feet or squirm in your seat?

11. Often leave your seat in situations when remaining seated is expected?

12. Often feel restless?

13. Often find yourself unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly?

14. Often feel “on the go” as if driven by a motor?

15. Often talk excessively?

16. Often complete other people’s sentences and have difficulty waiting your turn in conversation?

17. Often have difficulty waiting your turn?

18. Often interrupt or intrude on others?

The following additional features of Adult ADHD are described in various studies on ADHD in adults.

Do you:

1. Have a short temper.

2. Have a “busy” brain.

3. Procrastinate or put off doing things until the last minute.

4. Change plans at the last minute on whim or last minute impulse.

5. Experience frustration easily.

6. Have trouble staying alert or awake in boring situations.

7. Get bored easily.

8. Have difficulty saying what you want to say.

9. Have difficulty getting to the point of an explanation as quickly as others.

10. Have poor or sloppy handwriting.

11. Have difficulty managing money or credit cards.

12. Tend to daydream when you should be concentrating.

13. Have trouble planning ahead or preparing for upcoming events.

14. Seem to be less able to recall events from your childhood compared to others.

If you recognize yourself or someone close to you in these questions, please avail yourself of or tell that person about the possibility of a professional evaluation for Adult ADHD and subsequent treatment. Most people living with the demands of modern society do not enjoy untreated ADHD.

I’d like to help you. Anyhow, I’m going to keep on talking about Adult ADHD on my blog in hopes that it will help someone.