ADHD is normally diagnosed between the ages of three to seven, although in some cases it may not be until much later. It is more commonly diagnosed in boys.
There are several criteria that must be met for a child to be diagnosed with ADHD. Adults are harder to diagnose because there is no definitive set of age-appropriate symptoms.
Your GP will ask:
Your GP will want to know if these symptoms are causing functional impairment. This means whether they are affecting day-to-day life. For example, a child may have functional impairment if:
If you are a parent whose child may have ADHD, you may be offered parent training or an education programme to teach you to use behavioural techniques to help your child.
Alternatively, if your child’s symptoms are causing severe functional impairment, your GP will refer your child to another healthcare professional who will be able to diagnose ADHD.
For adults with ADHD symptoms, your GP will assess your symptoms and may refer you to a specialist if:
You may also be referred to a specialist if you had ADHD as a child or young person and your symptoms are now causing moderate or severe functional impairment.
If your GP suspects that you or your child has ADHD, they may refer you to a specialist such as:
Who you are referred to will depend on your age and what is available in your local area. Your specialist can make an accurate diagnosis after a detailed assessment that may include:
To be diagnosed with ADHD, your child must also have:
Diagnosing ADHD in adults is more difficult because there is no definitive list of symptoms that can be applied to an adult who may have the condition.
If your GP refers you to a specialist, they will ask about your present symptoms. However, under current diagnostic guidelines, a diagnosis of adult ADHD cannot be confirmed unless your symptoms have been present from childhood.
To help your specialist decide on your diagnosis, they may ask about your childhood and whether your symptoms were present then. If you find it difficult to remember, or you were not diagnosed with childhood ADHD, your specialist may wish to see your old school records or talk to your parents, teachers or anyone else who knew you well when you were a child.
For an adult to be diagnosed with ADHD, their symptoms should cause a moderate degree of impairment in different areas of their life. Examples of impairment could be:
If your problems are recent and did not occur regularly in the past, you are not considered as having adult ADHD.