The essence of the symptoms of adult attention deficit disorder is development of inappropriate levels of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. You cannot expect any laboratory or centers of image testing to indicate with reasonable reliability whether such symptoms are that of ADD or not. The only way a doctor can diagnose ADD is by eliminating other behavioral disorders. The most difficult part of this elimination is the similarity of symptoms of other disorders that co-exist or cause ADD like symptoms. As such, the specialists have to rely mostly on clinical judgment.
As in the case of any other ailment, diagnosing is the primary step before going in for adult ADD medication. Diagnosis can help in providing direction by which you can change your attitudes and move away from perceiving yourself as indolent or unmotivated. It actually proves to be a relief of sorts, if it is established that the symptoms that you are observing like difficulty in time management, organization, and communication are due to some brain impairment and not otherwise.
There is always another danger present in the shape of pressures from friends, relatives, and others. Most people rush for adult ADD medication due to these pressures. It is not fraught from danger to do so since the problem could stem from being a slow learner and have nothing to do with adult attention deficit disorder.
Diagnosis of ADD primarily involves observing behavioral symptoms but this needs to be done by a trained eye since adults with these symptoms are known to be unable to report symptoms accurately. As such it is imperative that the guidelines for diagnosing adult ADD are adhered to by the clinician. Such guidelines include analytic study, family and medical history, study of standardized behavior rating scales including those specific to ADD and the numerous psychological tests to measure IQ and social and emotional adaptations.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 2000 (DSM-IV), is the official standard generally used but that too has been debated by eminent professionals. It is simply a list of symptoms of a continuous trait and does not constitute fully, the symptoms of adult attention deficit disorder.
For effective diagnosis, it should be kept in mind that the symptoms of adult attention deficit disorder should not only be present for at least six months but also known to have detrimental impact on the individual’s life, and must manifest in all environments, such as home, office, and social settings.
Adult ADD mostly manifests in the form of impairment of executive functioning. This is because it is only after attaining maturity that deficits relating to executive functioning surface and get noticed.
The prominent clusters of symptoms, normally reported by adults may be summed as having problems with:
- Organizing work, setting priorities and activating tasks
- Maintaining alertness, effort, speed, and motives
- Staying focused and attentive particularly while reading
- Memory retrieval, which is retaining memory while doing something else.
After the co-existing symptoms of other disorders have been eliminated, one needs to look for some recommendations from acquaintances and friends to choose a specialist. Also, in case health insurance covers ADD, it is mandatory that a certified specialist be chosen along with other requirements of health cover, because some insurance companies typify the kind of specialist they want an evaluation from.
To sum up, although a clinical evaluation is mandatory in diagnosing adult ADD, only clinical judgment can establish it. It should be noted that self-referral and self-reporting by adults is always more helpful to the doctor than information provided by family members.