How Actually is ADHD Diagnosed?

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How is ADHD Diagnosed?

ADHD affects 1 in 10 kids in the United States, with the rates almost twice as high for boys. The actual cause of the condition is not known, but comprehensive testing has been developed to help diagnose those suffering from the condition.

The ADHD Diagnostic Process

Like many other conditions, ADHD involves a variety of symptoms and attributes, making it impossible to diagnose with a simple blood test. Instead, diagnosis requires a group of trained professionals, a variety of criteria, and the observations of parents or other adults.

Before your child is diagnosed with ADHD, he or she will likely meet with more than one professional. There are psychologists, counselors, medical doctors and other specialists in behavioral disorders involved. The process can sometimes be a tough or extensive one, but have patience.

The 6 Types of ADHD

Most attention deficit disorders are of three main categories, but six types have been identified. Children who have ADHD can also have accompanying conditions that make it hard to diagnose without professional intervention. If your child has symptoms of ADHD, the behaviors and challenges will usually begin in early childhood, and must last for at least 6 months before being considered as possibly having ADHD.

There are six types of ADHD. These six categories are further breakdowns of the 3 main types that are most often used at diagnosis. It is not always necessary to categorize a child by the more precise types if they fall into one of the broader categories, which are:

  • ADHD with predominantly hyperactivity/impulsivity
  • ADHD with predominantly inattention
  • ADHD with both

Here are the six, more precise, types:

1.     Classic ADHD – Symptoms include hyperactivity, inattentiveness and impulsiveness.

2.     Inattentive ADHD – This child is specifically affected by a lack of attention. They may seem “spaced out,” but it is not intentional. Sufferers are not organized and are easily distracted.

3.     Overfocused ADHD – This seems to be the opposite of someone who pays no attention at all. They are often argumentative, inflexible when it comes to change, and tend to worry a lot.

4.     Temporal Lobe ADHD – This is ADHD along with symptoms of anxiety. The child may have dark thoughts and be easily irritated by others and situations. Mood swings and aggression are not uncommon.

5.     Limbic ADHD – Depression accompanies this type of ADHD. The child may express negative thoughts and have depressive symptoms like antisocial behavior, lack of energy and inattention.

6.     Ring of Fire ADHD – This type encompasses all of the other five. A child may have symptoms of anxiety, depression, worry or obsessive compulsive behavior, inattention and hyperactivity. This form is quite rare.


During testing, the medical team will use the following criteria to make a determination:

  • Medical physical exam (with overview of symptoms and blood work)
  • An interview with the child
  • School interview with psychologists and counselors
  • Interviews and questionnaires with parents and teachers

All of these tools are used to rule out other causes of your child’s behavior, and to determine if their ADHD has other accompanying conditions, such as depression. While the process may seem overwhelming and prolonged, it is important for your child to be diagnosed properly to get the help and support that they need.