Adult ADHD Test

Do you think that you may have ADHD? Are you impulsive or hyperactive? Thinking about seeing a doctor or a medical health professional to get tested? If any of your answers were “yes”, you are at the right place. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, better know as ADHD is a mental disorder. It is often distinguished by abnormal levels of impulsivity and hyperactivity. With respect to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, around 3% of Australian adults have ADHD, nevertheless, this may be a rough estimate of a number that could be much larger.

Keep reading to find out if you may be part of the 3%. If you are already sure or feel like you are, the next step would be to consult your general practitioner or a mental health expert and go through an adult ADHD test. This article will guide you through the testing process and provide a run-through of the inner workings of the disorder.

An overview of adult ADHD

Experts in the field previously saw ADHD as an exclusive childhood disorder, however, over the last few decades there has been a lot of evidence to indicate that the disorder persists into adulthood. The most common symptoms associated with the disorder for adults are,

  • Impulsivity
  • Bad time management skills
  • Problems in focusing
  • Frequent low mood
  • High frustration levels
  • Restlessness and excessive activity
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble coping with stress
  • Inability to follow through and complete tasks
  • Trouble multitasking

Many adults with ADHD may not realize they have it. They just know that daily tasks can be challenging. To illustrate, they might miss important work meetings and forget to go through with previously made plans because of an inability to focus and prioritize. Additionally, they might also have angry outbursts when stuck in a queue or traffic.

When to take an ADHD test

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) provides 5 criteria for the diagnosis of adult ADHD. A patient must fit into all the given criteria before a mental health expert or a general practitioner can go through with the diagnosis. Present below is a summary of the criteria,

  1. Having 5 or more persistent symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity over the course of 6 months or more. Moreover, these symptoms must negatively impact social and academic/occupational activities.
  2. Have had several symptoms of ADHD before the age of 12.
  3. Must show several symptoms conjointly at two or more settings such as work or university.
  4. Symptoms interfere with or reduce the patient’s level of social, academic, or occupational functioning.
  5. The symptoms must not occur in the course of a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia and they must not be better explained by another mental disorder.

If you feel like you fit into the listed criteria, it would be a good idea to visit your general practitioner to do an ADHD test. They will then direct you towards a specialized mental health professional if required.

Testing procedure

Should you be worried to get an ADHD test? Not at all! On the other hand, it may be slightly time-consuming. There is no definitive way of testing for ADHD. An ADHD psychological test or assessment session performed by a medical professional qualified in treating and diagnosing the disorder can typically last up to 3 to 8 hours. Sessions mostly consist of a one on one interview and in some cases, this process would require a few appointments to complete. Not to mention, your clinician may request to interview other people as well. Specifically, this would most likely be someone you have a close interpersonal relationship with, such as a partner or family member.

Questionnaires, rating scales, and intellectual screenings are parts of the assessment process. To put into perspective, the clinician may want you to rate your frustration levels on a scale and ask you questions such as, “how often do you get distracted?”. Furthermore, there may be an inspection of your medical history. At this stage, your clinician might also further direct you to get a medical checkup so that they could rule out any biological roots for your symptoms.

A few common rating scales used on adults are,

  • Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS)
  • Conner’s Adult ADHD Rating Scales (CAARS)
  • Barkley Adult ADHD Rating Scale (BAARS)
  • The Brown Attention-Deficit Disorder Scale for adults (BADDS) 

Lastly, your clinician may have to rule out other similar conditions that could have been misidentified as ADHD before a concrete diagnosis is made. For instance, learning disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and bipolar disorder. Consequently, neuropsychological tests and brain scans may be a part of the procedure as well. They are done to look for any abnormalities in your brain functioning which may link to any of the previously mentioned disorders.

Types of diagnostic tests and scans

The neuropsychiatric Electroencephalograph-Based ADHD Assessment Aid (NEBA) is an FDA-approved prescription device that helps in diagnosing ADHD. Simply put, the device uses an electroencephalograph (EEG) to help your clinician interpret your neuropsychiatry. This procedure usually takes between 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

Second, on the list is fMRI or Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. These are quite popular and indicate brain activity/functioning which can be useful in the diagnosis, considering the neurodevelopmental nature of the disorder. Structural and functional abnormalities in the connectivity of brain networks are consistently linked to ADHD. Additionally, people with the disorder can also be identified by MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans according to a study published in Radiology. These scans are the predecessors to the fMRI scans and use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to generate images of the brain. The main difference between the two types of scans is that fMRI generates images of brain functioning whereas MRI generates 3D images of brain structure.

A surprising addition to this list are urine tests. These are often only done on patients who have a history of substance abuse or suspected substance abuse.

Treatment

Your test results come out. You have ADHD. What now? There is nothing to worry about. Having ADHD is not a lifetime of suffering even though there is no actual cure. For some people, symptoms diminish as time goes on and others adapt to and manage their symptoms through treatment.

Your clinician would most likely discuss treatment options and come up with the best treatment plan for you. When it comes to this, there is no “one size to fit all”. ADHD is a complicated neurobehavioral disorder and adults who have it can often have other coexisting conditions as well. For example, individuals with ADHD have a higher risk of developing substance abuse disorders. Nevertheless, none of these facts should discourage you from getting treatment. There is a wide range of treatment options available to you ranging from medication to therapy and counselling, you just have to find what works best for you. These will not completely cure the disorder, instead, they will help relieve your symptoms.

ADHD medication

A clinician would most likely prescribe stimulants (psychostimulants) for you. These types of medication stimulate the central nervous system by escalating the activity of certain brain chemicals and come in three different forms; short-acting (eg: Adderall), intermediate-acting (eg: Ritalin SR), and long-acting (eg: Adderall XR). Short-acting variants must be taken few times a day whereas long-acting variants must only be taken once a day. After taking these drugs you may feel more alert, attentive, and a boost of energy which in turn can help cut down hyperactivity and impulsivity. Individuals who find it hard to concentrate or pay attention would most likely benefit the most from these drugs.

One problem with stimulant medication is that it isn’t for everybody. They are not recommended for people who have cardiovascular problems, Glaucoma (a condition where the optic nerve gets damaged due to fluid and pressure building up inside the eye), severe anxiety, tics, Tourette’s syndrome, and a history of psychosis. If you are someone with any one of these conditions, you may want to reconsider.

Meanwhile, you may be wondering if these stimulant drugs can become addictive. After all, illegal substances like cocaine and methamphetamine are also stimulants. A 2013 Swedish study tested this. None of the participants showed signs of substance abuse and in fact, it was quite the opposite. The rate of substance abuse of all participants decreased as the duration of medication increased. This means that you don’t have to worry about addiction unless you have a history of drug abuse, in which case you should tell your clinician beforehand.

Psychotherapy and counselling

There are a few types of psychotherapeutic and counselling interventions that are available to you.

  • Behavioural therapy: the goal of this type of therapy is to change negative behavioural patterns into much more positive beneficial ones and is used alongside medication. It is built on the idea that all behaviour is learned and therefore the unhealthy ones can be changed.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): this kind of therapy assists people in figuring out how to distinguish and change dangerous or upsetting ideas that impact their behaviour and feelings. For example, people with ADHD are less likely to stay on a task or complete one because they think that they will never do anything right or that everything has to be perfect. CBT challenges the truth of these cognitions and in turn, brings out behavioural change. Research has demonstrated that CBT is effective in ADHD treatment for adults.
  • Relaxation training and behavioural coaching: forms of counselling that focus on teaching patients stress management techniques, along with strategies for being better organized. These skills can help them reduce stress, anxiety and have more fulfilling relationships and careers.

Alternative treatment options for ADHD

There is a form of treatment that you can do in the comfort of your own home. Practising mindfulness techniques. However, these shouldn’t be a sole treatment option, instead, you must practice these techniques alongside your professional treatment plan. Mindfulness techniques are meditation techniques such as breathing methods and guided imagery. These can help relax your body and mind. When practising, you must put all your thoughts and awareness into what you are feeling at that certain moment without and judgment or interpretation.

How effective are these methods? Let’s look at some research. A study published in Cognitive and Behavioral Practice explains that mindfulness techniques show promising results as a successful ADHD intervention for adults with the disorder. This means that you must definitely try meditating at home!

Why you should get help

ADHD is not a lifelong sentence of suffering. There are so many others like you out there and you should not step back from getting help. It is a well-known fact that adults with ADHD have a high prevalence of attempted suicide. Similarly, many other problems including sleep difficulties, moodiness, irritability, nausea and headaches, are also associated with ADHD. The list goes on.

Here at Epsychistry, we have professionals and resources that can help you if you are an adult suffering from ADHD or know someone who’s suffering from it. Our team of psychiatrists and psychologists is always readily available. All you have to do is reach out to us. You are not alone.

A final note for the Adult ADHD test

To sum up, let’s end things on a positive note. In 2008 a group of researchers examined two communities in Kenya. One of these communities was still nomadic and relied on hunting and gathering while the other had settled into villages and were leading a sedentary lifestyle. Researchers then identified people in both communities who displayed traits of ADHD. Here’s where the story gets interesting. People in the hunter-gatherer community who had ADHD traits were better nourished than their ADHD-less counterparts. This was the opposite for the village community.

What is so positive about this? Well, to put it simply, ADHD may have helped our ancestors, who lived in hunter-gatherer societies survive and even stand out from the others. In fact, it may even have been a superpower to them. On that account, if you have ADHD there is nothing wrong with you. You are a potential hunter-gatherer daredevil!