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Published: March 11, 2018
Eric Mason

Diagnosing ADHD

Diagnosing ADHD

Due to the many factors, such as mental disorders with overlapping symptoms (discussed above), co-occurring mental disorders, cultural norms (discussed below), and the subjective nature of diagnosing ADHD, reaching an accurate ADHD diagnosis can be tricky (and often controversial). As such, mental health professionals have developed a number of diagnostic assessments and tools to assist clinicians with making an accurate and more objective diagnosis.

Indeed, without such assessments and tools, an ADHD diagnosis is reached rather subjectively; that is, mental health professionals must rely solely on their professional opinions to determine if an individual meets diagnostic criteria as laid out by the DSM-5. These assessment instruments may reduce some of controversy associated with the legitimacy of an ADHD diagnosis, as they serve to limit the fallibility often attributed to clinicians by those skeptical of the existence of ADHD. In other words, skeptics may not believe the professional opinion of mental health professionals in regards to diagnosing ADHD.

Assessments instruments used for ADHD come in several different forms. For example, they may consist of  simple “pencil and paper” checklists based on the diagnostic criteria of the DSM-5 (which are often self-administered), simple ADHD rating scales (in which perceived symptoms of ADHD are rated according to severity), complex multi-rater scales (which have more in-depth questions and rely on multiple sources, in addition to the individual suspected of having ADHD, such as parents, teachers, friends, or others familiar with the individual), semi-structured diagnostic interviews (which are typically administered by a qualified mental health professional), and CPTs or continuous performance tests (usually computer based tests which measure an individual’s ability to sustain focus over time).Research has found that CPTs are valid and reliable as a corroborative test for ADHD. Studies have shown that a CPT called the TOVA resulted in false negatives 10% - 15% of the time and false positives 13% - 30% of the time (Nass, 2006). Co-occurring disorders may result in more false positives and false negatives (Nass, 2006). Furthermore, CPTs are regarded as more cultural neutral, since they are language free and do not rely on perceptions which may be culturally influenced.

The present study will utilize a complex multi-rater scale, the Conners 3, and a continuous performance test called the TOVA to measure ADHD symptoms, as well as a simple rating scale to rate perceptions of ADHD and attitudes towards ADHD.

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