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How to Get Tested for ADHD: What to Expect and Prepare for

Navigate the complexities of ADHD testing with confidence. With a focus on accuracy and understanding, we provide a detailed roadmap for those seeking definitive answers about ADHD.
Written by
Jenna Neilsen
Clinical Social Work/Therapist, MSW, LCSW

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting millions nationwide. According to a national survey of parents, approximately 6 million children between the ages of 3 and 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD. This accounts for 9.8% of the total population of children in the years 2016-2019. 

However, numerous scientists argue that there is a significant underdiagnosis of ADHD among adults, with psychiatrists diagnosing and treating fewer than 20% of adults with the condition. Several factors contribute to this situation. Firstly, the diagnostic criteria for ADHD outlined in the DSM-V primarily focus on children, which may overlook symptoms in adults. Moreover, adults with ADHD frequently experience comorbid psychiatric disorders that can obscure the manifestation of ADHD symptoms.

If you're wondering how to get tested for ADHD and suspect that you may be one of the many undiagnosed individuals, there are tools available for you to seek answers about your symptoms. In this article, we will explore the steps you can take to undergo testing and determine whether you have ADHD or another underlying condition.

Types of ADHD Testing

Individuals can complete various tests to confirm or rule out an ADHD diagnosis, though these may vary by provider. Here are some of the most common types of ADHD tests:

1. Psychological Testing

Psychological testing is the most common type of ADHD test. It involves assessing a person's behavior and cognitive abilities by administering standardized tests and questionnaires.

 A psychologist or psychiatrist may administer these tests. The results are usually given to the patient's primary care physician for review and discussion.

2. Neuropsychological Testing

Neuropsychological testing evaluates brain function as it relates to learning disabilities, attention disorders, and other mental health concerns, including depression or anxiety disorders.

These tests include various forms of memory testing, problem-solving skills, and attention span capacity. Results from these tests help determine if there is any cognitive impairment related to ADHD symptoms or if other conditions need further evaluation or treatment options explored.

3. Educational Testing

ADHD affects many aspects of a person's life, including academic performance and relationships with family members, friends, and teachers. Therefore, educational testing is an essential step parents take to determine whether a child has symptoms of ADHD.

Educational testing is done with standardized tests or assessments that measure academic achievement, IQ, and cognitive ability. Teachers can also use this information to help identify students who need additional academic support.

4. Medical Testing

If individuals have additional health issues, such as anxiety or depression, it may be necessary for them to undergo testing by a medical professional. A doctor may also recommend medical testing if the patient is not responding well to medication or behavioral therapy alone or if they have multiple issues impacting daily functioning.

Preparing for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Testing Or a Psychological Diagnostic Assessment

Preparation for ADHD testing involves the following steps:

1. Gathering Information

Gather any relevant and required information and documents to prepare for ADHD testing and prove your case. Be prepared to answer questions from your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing.

Then, gather relevant medical records. Your doctor will want to review any important information to help with your diagnosis and treatment. It's also a good idea to present your doctor with any information about other health conditions that may affect how well you respond to prescribed ADHD treatment.

2. Speak to Your Doctor

It is vital that you speak with your doctor about any concerns you have about ADHD testing or evaluation. They’ll provide you with an objective opinion on whether ADHD testing is worth your time and money. 

Your doctor can also tell you how to prepare for testing and what to expect during the evaluation process. Suppose you're undergoing additional medical tests, such as blood tests or brain scans; it may be helpful for your doctor to coordinate these tests with your ADHD evaluation so they can all be performed simultaneously. This will save time and prevent you and your family members from experiencing any unnecessary stress.

3. Make a List of ADHD Symptoms

Another vital thing to do before taking any test is to make a list of six or more symptoms that commonly coincide with ADHD. Answering questions about the symptoms you are experiencing is very common practice in ADHD tests.

It can be helpful to prepare a timeline of when you remember the symptoms of ADHD beginning. Some common questions to assist you with this are: 1) Did I constantly get told to sit still when in school? 2) Did I miss deadlines for assignments? 3) Did I interrupt the teacher or classmates often? 4) Did I have poor grades due to lack of focus? The more familiar you are with these symptoms, the better prepared you will be during the test.

4. Prepare for the Testing Environment or the Psychological Diagnosis Assessment

The environment you test in can affect your results significantly. Therefore, creating a calm and distraction-free environment before your test or assessment day is in your best interest.

Ensure there will be no potential interruptions or noise distractions during your test or assessment and that the lighting is appropriate for your needs.

What to Expect During Your ADHD Test

The first step in diagnosing ADHD involves an evaluation by a qualified professional. The assessment should include the following:

1. Questions about Medical History

For any child experiencing behavioral problems, obtaining a comprehensive medical history is crucial. Allergies and other illnesses can contribute to certain behavioral issues for adults and kids alike. A comprehensive exam can also detect physical causes for behavior problems like vision or hearing.

2. Cognitive Tests

Cognitive tests are computer-based assessments measuring attention and concentration. These exams determine how quickly you can respond to stimuli, how many errors you make while performing certain tasks, and your ability to filter out distractions.

The results of these tests give a clear picture of your executive functioning skills (skills responsible for planning, organization, self-control, and time management).

3. Physical Exam

A physical exam is often a component of an ADHD evaluation. The doctor will want to rule out any underlying medical conditions contributing to symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity. For instance, your doctor may conduct evaluations for vision problems, hearing impairment, and sleep apnea. Your doctor may also examine a patient’s muscle tone and strength, as well as their posture and gait.

4. Questionnaires 

Several standardized questionnaires help provide information about the symptoms of ADHD. These questionnaires are used with other diagnostic and statistical manual tools to determine if you have ADHD or another condition that causes similar symptoms.

After ADHD Testing

After you’ve been tested for ADHD, there are several things you can expect:

1. Follow-up Appointment

After the screening appointment, you'll meet again with your doctor to review the results of the tests and discuss treatment options. Once you decide on a treatment plan, your doctor will also review any potential side effects from prescribed medication and lifestyle changes you should expect during treatment.

2. Treatment Options

ADHD treatment plans vary depending on the person and the type and severity of the disorder. Available treatments could include medication, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and educational interventions.

3. Support and Resources

People with ADHD can turn to support groups, online resources, and mental health professionals, among other resources, to manage their symptoms and live healthy and happy lives.

Final Thoughts 

A full ADHD assessment often includes a physical exam, a psychological evaluation, and a look at the patient's medical history. It’s important as well to be aware of the pros and cons of ADHD testing, such as the possibility of misdiagnosis, overdiagnosis, and discrimination or stigma. But an easier way of managing your day-to-day experiences is out there.

Working with a reliable service like ADHDAdvisor.org can provide you with a licensed professional who understands your individual needs, can accurately diagnose ADHD, and develop an appropriate treatment plan for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you still have questions about how to get tested for ADHD or the overall process to expect, read through some of the most common questions people ask.

How do I check myself for ADHD?

Online quizzes can help you determine if you may have ADHD. However, these quizzes are not a substitute for a professional diagnosis and should not be used to self-diagnose. It is important to speak to a qualified healthcare professional to receive an accurate diagnosis.

Is ADHD a mental illness or a coping mechanism?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a group of mental disorders that include having trouble paying attention, being overly active, and acting on impulses. ADHD may also present differently for different people. It is not a coping mechanism for dealing with other issues.

What can be mistaken as ADHD?

ADHD can be mistaken for other conditions, including anxiety, depression, and learning disabilities. To avoid making assumptions, it is important to get help from a licensed mental health professional.

How accurate are online ADHD quizzes?

Online tests are not a substitute for a professional diagnosis and should not be used to self-diagnose. Speak to a qualified healthcare professional if you have any concerns about your ADHD symptoms.

Can ADHD develop in adults, or is it only a childhood condition?

ADHD can develop in adults, but it tends to be diagnosed more commonly in children. Therefore, performing ADHD tests for older people is also essential to determining why one seems to be suffering from ADHD. Adult ADHD tests also minimize the consumption of other medicines that can harm their immune system in the long run.

What are some common misconceptions about ADHD?

People often misunderstand ADHD, believing it is caused by poor parenting, is not a real disorder, or can be cured with medication.

What are some treatment options for ADHD?

Treatment options for ADHD include behavior therapy (for instance, parent training), medication, education services, psychological counseling, and skills training. Stimulant drugs like Ritalin, Concerta, Daytrana, Focalin, Quillichew, Quillivant, and amphetamines are also often given to people with ADHD but do not work for everyone. 

Can ADHD be mistaken for other conditions?

Yes. ADHD can be confused with other conditions that have some of the same symptoms, like anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and learning disabilities. However, a proper diagnosis is necessary to identify the condition accurately.

How does ADHD affect daily life and relationships?

ADHD can affect many areas of life, including relationships, work, school, and other activities. People with ADHD may have difficulty paying attention and following instructions. They may also have trouble organizing tasks and controlling emotions. These difficulties can lead to problems with relationships, work, school, or other activities.

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