ADHD, currently classified as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in the DSM (Diagnositic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), 5th edition, was formerly known as ADD or attention deficit disorder in previous editions of the DSM. ADHD symptoms presently include either inattentive or hyperactive/ impulsive symptoms or both.
ADHD in adults is conceived to have been present in childhood but the symptoms may have become increasingly obvious with more academic or work demands. Hence, there is growing room for an ADHD diagnosis in later life.
ADHD diagnosis may involve different levels of testing. The most basic is the use of ADHD questionnaires based on DSM criteria for diagnosis. While these types of ADHD tests tell us how individuals behave, they don’t inform on the underlying causes or cognitions (thought processing abilities or deficits).
The next level of ADHD testing may involve the use of computerised continuous performance tasks (CPTs) which provide information on individuals’ levels of sustained attention, vigilance, impulsivity, response time variability, ability to detect targets from non- targets, etc. coupled with questionnaires, CPTs give an added layer of understanding and guidance for ADHD treatment.
A further level of ADHD assessment for ADHD diagnosis uses Quantitative Electroencephalography (QEEG) investigation. This easy and non-invasive tool is well supported by scientific evidence (including the FDA or food and drug authority in the U.S). It is highly technical (and therefore prohibitive for most health professionals) and involves the investigation of an individual’s brainwave patterns and function. This provides good results for ADHD treatment and information for the use of ADHD medication or medication-free intervention.
ADHD diagnosis is an evolving science but not sufficiently explored by many medical and health professionals who are inundated and confused by the increasingly complex and technical aspects of ADHD research. The cost of good and thorough ADHD assessment is also a burden for patients. As a result, ADHD diagnosis based on state of the art research and methods is unfortunately not prevalent or available to the general consumer.
Finally, ADHD diagnosis should include broad understanding and exploration of other factors that also cause attention deficits, such as depression or trauma. Therefore, diagnosing and planning treatment for ADHD requires broad investigation of symptoms and cognitions, as well as highly technical and specific knowledge of state-of-the-art interventions.