How Is ADHD Diagnosed?

There is no simple test for ADHD. However, there is a standardized way that ADHD is diagnosed. To be diagnosed with ADHD, a person must have all of the following:

  • At least 6 inattentive and/or 6 hyperactive/impulsive symptoms for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities (for people aged 17 and older, only 5 symptoms must be present)
  • Several symptoms present before age 12
  • Several symptoms in at least 2 settings (such as home, school, or work)
  • Symptoms that clearly interfere with or reduce the quality of social, academic, or occupational functioning
  • Symptoms that are not better explained by another cause
These are not the only factors that may be used to diagnose ADHD. Diagnosis should be based on a complete history and evaluation by a health care professional. Please see the symptoms of ADHD for more information on diagnosis. And remember, only a trained health care professional can accurately diagnose ADHD.

To determine if you have ADHD, a health care professional may:

  • Ask about your symptoms (current and past), including severity, duration, and how they affect your life, school, or work performance.
  • Ask your spouse/partner or family members about your current and past symptoms.
  • Review your school records to find out about symptoms you may have had as a child.
  • Ask if you have a family history of ADHD or other psychiatric conditions.
  • Ask if you have a history of mental health problems (eg, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder) to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.
  • Perform a physical exam and ask about general health status to rule out other possible medical causes for your symptoms.