ADD – How Is It Diagnosed?

In this next in a series of articles about ADD we're going to discuss how to diagnose if someone indeed does have Attention Deficit Disorder.

First of all, in order to accurately diagnose ADD you need to see your family doctor. This is not something that you can do on your own no matter how well you think you know the symptoms or even if you have it yourself. As was discussed in the previous article, there are other problems that can have the same symptoms as ADD.

For starters, there is no blood test that can determine if someone has ADD. The truth is, there are no definitive tests for most mental illnesses. So the logical question becomes, how does a medical professional diagnose ADD?

Again, you should begin with your family physician. However, if you don't feel comfortable with him for some reason then you can opt to see a specialist in this area. Ask your doctor for a referral to a specialist.

The first thing that should be done is to have a complete physical examination to rule out any medical causes. There are many medical conditions that are similar to ADD. These include the following: autism, hearing impairment and hypothyroidism.

Having a complete physical exam can rule out these other disorders.

The next thing you should do is a complete family history. The main reason for this is that ADD is inherited so by tracing your family history to see if anyone in your family has had ADD it will show how much of a likelihood that your child has ADD as well. Also any special circumstances in the family history like divorce should be discussed as events of this nature can cause significant changes in the child's behavior that, though appear similar to ADD symptoms, are actually as a result of the change in the family situation.

If the child goes to day care or attends school, questionnaires should be given to the teachers or care givers for them to complete. According to the DSM-IV criteria, symptoms have to be present in at least two settings. The reason for this is that a child may simply just not enjoy one particular setting because of the teacher or maybe even just the surroundings, especially if they are not, in the child's eyes, pleasant. This questionnaire will rule out special circumstances being the cause of the symptoms. For example, if the child is having problems at school but not at home, the cause may be simply a matter of being unable to see or hear well enough in the classroom to be able to do the work. Many times, the cause of ADD-like symptoms is that the child simply needs eye glasses. In fact, that was exactly the case of an associate of mine long before they even knew about ADD. He had trouble concentrating in class only because he couldn't see the board and needed glasses. Therefore this questionnaire is one of the most important parts of this process.

Psychological testing should be done also, such as IQ tests. This will show a correlation between the child's test scores and his ability.

Once the doctor has gathered all this information he will compare the results to the DSM-IV criteria for determining if a child indeed has ADD.

In the next of this series we'll discuss how to treat ADD once it is diagnosed.

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