Paying Attention to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder healthcare nt sickcare

How to Test for ADHD? Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity that impair daily functioning. Getting an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment is key to managing ADHD symptoms and living your best life. This article provides an overview of ADHD, including causes, symptoms, diagnosis, tests, and treatment options.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is considered a brain-based disorder that develops in childhood for most people and can persist into adulthood. Scientists believe that genetics likely play a role in ADHD by affecting brain development and functioning in the areas that regulate executive functioning skills. These skills include:

  • Attention
  • Planning
  • Organization
  • Time management
  • Impulse control
  • Regulation of emotions

The exact causes remain unknown but research suggests that genes, cigarette smoking during pregnancy, alcohol use during pregnancy, exposure to environmental toxins like lead, brain trauma, and more may contribute to the development of ADHD.

There are three main presentations of ADHD

  1. Predominantly Inattentive Type: Difficulty paying close attention to details, easily distracted, appears forgetful
  2. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: Fidgety behaviour, excessive talking, interrupting frequently, impulsive decision making
  3. Combined Type: Symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity


ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are two commonly discussed conditions that affect individuals' ability to focus and regulate their attention. Although often used interchangeably, there are some important distinctions between the two.

  • ADD is characterized by difficulties with attention and focus without the presence of hyperactivity or impulsivity. Individuals with ADD may struggle to sustain attention on tasks, follow instructions, or organize their thoughts. They may appear daydreamy or forgetful and have difficulty staying on track.
  • ADHD, on the other hand, encompasses both inattentive symptoms (similar to those seen in ADD) as well as hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. People with ADHD may struggle with restlessness, fidgeting, talking excessively, interrupting others, or acting impulsively without considering the consequences.

It's important to note that both ADD and ADHD can significantly impact an individual's daily functioning and academic performance. Diagnosis is typically made through a comprehensive evaluation conducted by a healthcare professional such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Treatment options for both conditions often involve a combination of medication, therapy (such as behavioral therapy), and lifestyle modifications. These interventions aim to improve focus, attention span, impulse control, time management skills, and overall quality of life for individuals with ADD or ADHD.

If you suspect that you or someone you know may have symptoms consistent with ADD or ADHD, it is recommended to seek professional guidance for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan tailored to individual needs.

How to Test for ADHD?

Getting an accurate ADHD evaluation and diagnosis is important before starting treatment. There is no single test to diagnose ADHD, so a comprehensive assessment is needed. The process typically involves:

  • Detailed history: The doctor or mental health professional will ask questions about symptoms, family history of ADHD, medical history, school/work functioning, etc. Input from parents, teachers, and spouses can help provide an accurate picture.
  • Physical exam: Assesses for other conditions that might have similar symptoms as ADHD like sleep disorders, thyroid problems, substance use, seizures, etc.
  • Psychological testing: Formal assessment for ADHD using validated rating scales and questionnaires. Neuropsychological testing may also evaluate thinking skills and IQ testing.
  • Determine the level of impairment: Assessment of how symptoms specifically impair school, work, social or home life.

Differential diagnosis is also key before confirming an ADHD diagnosis to rule out other potential causes with similar symptoms like anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, substance use disorder etc.

Lab Tests for ADHD

There are currently no definitive laboratory or imaging tests used to diagnose ADHD specifically. Blood tests or brain scans like EEG or MRI are not typically required. They may be done to rule out other medical mimics.

However, lab tests can help identify and manage other health conditions that commonly co-occur with ADHD in some cases:

  1. Thyroid Profile: Since thyroid problems share symptoms with ADHD, T3, T4, TSH levels may be tested.
  2. Complete Blood Count (CBC): CBC evaluates anaemia, infections, and blood cell abnormalities.
  3. Vitamin DLow vitamin D is associated with increased psychiatric disorders like ADHD.
  4. Lead Screen: High lead exposure can cause symptoms mimicking ADHD so blood lead levels may be assessed.

Genetic Testing

ADHD is a highly heritable disorder and genetic testing may be considered to assess risk, especially if family history exists. Specific genes associated include:

  • Dopamine system genes like DRD4, DRD5, DAT1, COMT
  • Serotonin system genes like HTR1B
  • SNAP25 gene

Prenatal alcohol/drug exposure

If exposure occurred during pregnancy, it may have implications for ADHD development risk.

While lab and imaging tests are not required for diagnosis, they do play a vital role in the screening and management of ADHD by providing clues about other potential factors influencing symptoms. Work closely with your doctor to determine what tests are appropriate for your situation.

How is ADHD Treated?

ADHD treatment is tailored to meet the needs of each patient based on symptoms, impairments and comorbid disorders. It often involves:

  1. Behavioural Therapy: Teaches organization, time management and coping skills. Cognitive behavioural therapy aims to modify thoughts and behaviours.
  2. Medications: Stimulants like methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamines (Adderall) are the most common. Non-stimulants may also be tried.
  3. School/Work Accommodations: Customized strategies to help patients reach their potential.
  4. Lifestyle Changes: Regular exercise, nutrient-rich diets, stress reduction, and sleep hygiene to empower healthy living.
  5. Coaching/Training: Specialized ADHD coaches provide accountability, structure and support for achieving goals.

While currently there is no “cure” for ADHD, patients can thrive with the right individualized management plan. Diagnosed early and properly treated, patients have every chance of living happy, healthy and productive lives.

At what age is ADHD usually diagnosed?

ADHD symptoms often arise in early childhood before age 12. However many children with ADHD are not diagnosed until much later. Adults can also be diagnosed with ADHD. There is more awareness now than ever before.

Do you outgrow ADHD?

Up to 80% of children with ADHD continue experiencing symptoms as teenagers. Over 50% have symptoms that persist into adulthood as well. While hyperactivity tends to decline with age, difficulties with organization, planning, and focus often continue lifelong.

Does ADHD affect intelligence?

No, ADHD does not affect overall intelligence or IQ. However, certain aspects like working memory and executive functioning may be impaired which can impact learning and test performance. But overall intellectual capacity remains intact.

Is ADHD considered a learning disability?

No, ADHD is not a learning disability but the attention difficulties common in ADHD can lead to challenges in reading, writing and math which overlap with learning disorders. ADHD negatively impacts school performance so distinguishing it from real learning disabilities is important.

How to Get Your Child Evaluated for ADHD?

If your child is having school difficulties, emotional outbursts, concentration issues or behavioural problems, ADHD may be the reason. Getting a comprehensive assessment is the first step towards getting your kid the right help early on.

  1. Speak to your child’s teacher about their unique difficulties focusing, sitting still, or behaving in class. Oftentimes, they spend hours observing your child and can provide valuable input.
  2. Book an appointment with your paediatrician/family doctor. Share all behavioural concerns you’ve noticed at home. Ask for referrals to child psychologists or specialists.
  3. Have your child evaluated by a specialist like a developmental behavioural paediatrician, child psychiatrist, pediatric neurologist or clinical psychologist. They can do formal ADHD testing using standard rating scales and questionnaires.
  4. Coordinate evaluations with your child’s school. Ask them to fill out behaviour rating forms like the Conners scale or ADHD rating scales to quantify areas of impairment.

Catching ADHD early and starting interventions provides children with the best chance of gaining skills to succeed academically and socially.

How to Implement Lifestyle Changes to Help ADHD?

While medications and therapy help manage ADHD symptoms, making certain lifestyle adjustments empowers patients to reach their full potential.

  1. Exercise regularly as it boosts dopamine, and serotonin and can help ease ADHD symptoms. Aim for 30-60 min daily.
  2. Evaluate nutrition and gut health. Diets higher in protein, fibre, and fatty acids while avoiding food sensitivities can lessen inflammation and promote brain health.
  3. Train the brain. Use apps, games, and puzzles to exercise working memory, concentration and focus.
  4. Use organizational systems like daily planners, reminders, and notes to compensate for executive functioning weaknesses.
  5. Prioritize sleep consistency. Most people with ADHD have sleep issues. Sticking to proper sleep hygiene can enhance attention, mood and learning.

While challenging, incorporating positive lifestyle habits maximizes the benefits of medical treatment. Consult professionals to develop an integrative plan catered to your needs.


ADHD is a common and impairing neurodevelopmental disorder with strong genetic links. Yet, with an accurate diagnosis and customized management plan, patients can thrive personally and professionally. From occurring in childhood to persisting into adulthood, effective medical, behavioural and lifestyle interventions exist to successfully treat ADHD.

Here at healthcare nt sickcare, we not only provide reliable pathology lab tests but also craft personalized health optimization plans for those on their journey to healing and self-empowerment. Work closely with medical professionals to determine the ideal combination of ADHD treatments and lifestyle changes tailored to your unique situation. You deserve to live your best life.

#ADHD #AttentionDeficitHyperactivityDisorder #MentalHealth #Diagnosis #Treatment


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