Direct experience with adult ADHD diagnostic tests
February 29, 2004 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have experience with tests required for a diagnosis of ADHD in adults? [MI]

I'm interested in how different the testing procedure for attention deficit disorder in adults is from the ones used to diagnose children. Is it a multi-part test? Does anyone have personal experience with ADD as an adult?
I'm planning a discussion with my doctor, and want to know what I might be getting into.
posted by nprigoda to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm working on becoming a school psychologist. One of my primary job duties will be helping students with ADHD get services at school.

That being said, I don't have much experience with any ADHD tests. Because it is primarily a medical diagnosis.

There aren't any real tests for ADHD. It's not like you can get a blood test and they "find" ADHD in there. That makes ADHD really hard to diagnose.

My personal opinion (people who are looking at hiring me, please don't hold this against me) is that you should be given a small amount of appropriate medication as a test. If you respond by getting MORE hyper, then you don't have ADHD. If you respond by getting a little less hyper or maintain your level of excitement, then you should keep trying the medication until you find something good.

For children, we use a couple of rating scales, where we ask people who are familiar with the child to report about activities the child performs. But the real diagnosis comes from the medical doctor. I don't think that they really have a test that they give you either, though. I think they just ask you questions that aren't very standardized.
posted by ajpresto at 12:30 PM on February 29, 2004

nprigoda, i was diagnosed with adhd as an adult, with my counselor and medical doctor working in concert. my counselor was suspicious that i had adhd (due to my very high anxiety levels and general fidgety nature) and i discussed that with my medical doctor. i was then prescribed paxil controlled release, which i have been taking for just over a year. if you have any specific questions, please drop me an email -- it is in my profile.

i can tell you that my diagnosis really made a difference in my quality of life, almost immeasurably.

posted by sugarfish at 2:36 PM on February 29, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses!
ajpresto: I understood that there were a series of tests that could be performed to determine if there was an attention deficit, (ie. performing complex tasks with a time limit). This is from a child psychology text, and I realize that the theory presented is probably different from reality. I have experienced the proceedure for diagnosing depression (the infamous questionnaire... very easy for someone who is convinced they are depressed to figure out) and was sort of hoping that ADHD might be different.
And finally, can anyone recommend any books (a cognitive behaviour therapy based book would be ideal) for adults dealing with the condition? Thanks again!
posted by nprigoda at 3:02 PM on February 29, 2004

The book that I've enjoyed -- as someone living with a partner with ADD/ADHD -- is called Driven to Distraction. It's written by a psychologist who discusses many case studies of patients he has treated who have a wide range of different issues living as adults with ADD. He discusses specific techniques and doesn't go into a lot of self-help stuff. It's chatty but not preachy. You also might want to check out CHADD which is a non-profit that deals with adults and kids with ADD/ADHD. They have a fact sheet that outlines the sort of questions you have. From what I hear, and what Greg tells me, the ADD/ADHD diagnosis is much more a series of behavioral observations and questions about routine, questions of partners and etc. than something like the "are you depressed?" or "are you an alcoholic?" questionnaires.
posted by jessamyn at 6:08 PM on February 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

When I was tested for ADD, I had to come in for two several-hour appointments with a psychologist. Before I showed up I had to fill out a standard personality inventory and a few checklist-type tests about my patterns of concentration.

The psychologist talked to me about my home and school life growing up and now (I'm in grad school.) She gave me extensive IQ tests and achievement tests, I guess to rule out other problems that might mimic ADD. She also called my parents to find out what I was like as a child.

I've tried both Concerta (extended-release Ritalin) and Adderall. I think Concerta is also more effective for me, but it also makes my heart rate go up more than I would like. Haven't tried Strattera (the new non-stimulant.)

If you do go on one of the stimulants, be prepared for draconian regulations that can sometimes make it hard to get your medication (you need a written prescription every time and in some states you have to show a driver's license), since Ritalin and Adderall are Schedule II narcotics. Some insurance companies are also skeptical about covering them for adults. If they work, though, life can get much, much better.
posted by transona5 at 11:01 PM on February 29, 2004

I was diagnosed with ADHD in 2nd grade, in '85ish, before it was over-diagnosed. I've had so much testing through my life, culminating in a final test right before college, to prove that i had a LD. so, a couple of points.
There are psych style tests, but yes, ajpresto is correct, the easiest way to determine is to give a small amount of a treatment drug, and watch. The thing to remember, is that Ritalin, and most of the other treatments are stimulants, and, if you do not have ADHD, you will actually get more hyper, if you do have ADHD, it will be noticeable, even in a small amount.
The book, Driven to Distraction is pretty good, but a couple of caveats: The book presents a view where people with ADHD should be excused behaviors, or inability to concentrate, because its just so hard. If you are not carefully, you'll end up feeling sorry for yourself, and ineffective. Also, when i saw the authors give a presentation, they could not decide whether a structured environment was good for someone with ADHD, as they each argued one way, using the military as an example. Not a flaw with tech book, per ce, but it does reflect on the authors.

like transona5 said, i also recommend recommend using pharmaceutical remedies, as its certainly possible not to have the willpower to try to improve yourself without them. ADHD is like having an extra obstacle between you and what you want/should do, as you need to not just try to do something, but try to try to do something, and that can be really hard.

Good Luck.
posted by Davidicus at 4:44 AM on March 1, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all the information.
transona5: Your info on the meetings with doctors was just what I was looking for. I'm going to ask my psychologist to schedule the appointments.
jessamyn: The link was very helpful.
posted by nprigoda at 5:37 AM on March 1, 2004

Here's a link

The owner of the site writes books on a variety of topics, but mostly on ADHD. He got into the subject when his son was diagnosed. He has a VERY positive attitude about ADHD, and has it himself.

Folks with ADHD are "hunters" living amongst a bunch of "farmers". Mr. Hartmann hates the idea of ADD being a "disorder". His philosophy is it is very much a strength. My opinion is that he is right.

ADD'ers have strengths to go with our weaknesses. If you learn to understand those strengths, you can seriously work wonders!

The problem isn't yours. The problem is everyone that expects you to act like a "farmer".
posted by Goofyy at 8:07 AM on March 1, 2004 [1 favorite]

While we're talking about this, is there any reliable non-pharmaceutical help for ADD? My partner has very good reasons for making meds the absolute last resort. She's taking fish oil and has had observable, if not life-changing, improvements. Anything else she should try? (We're in the UK, if that makes any difference.)
posted by Tholian at 10:44 AM on March 1, 2004

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