One of the first steps in diagnosis is an adult ADHD test.
Many people think ADHD is a childhood disease that kids “outgrow.” Not necessarily so. As many as 60% of children with ADHD go on to manifest ADHD symptoms as adults. Far from being a self-limited condition, adults with ADHD frequently have difficulty with relationships, problems holding down jobs and struggle to achieve their goals. This disorder can negatively impact almost every aspect of a person’s life, destroying careers and disrupting family life. There’s also the challenge of diagnosis. Diagnosing adult ADHD is more challenging than making the diagnosis in children.
Why is ADHD in Adults More Difficult to Diagnose?
To diagnose childhood ADHD, doctors use DSM-IV criteria, defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. DSM-IV recognizes three subtypes of ADHD – an inattentive type, hyperactive-impulsive type and a type that has features of both.
The DSM-IV manual lists certain criteria that must be met to make the diagnosis of ADHD. A person suspected of having this disorder must have at least six of nine symptoms suggestive of hyperactivity-impulsivity or inattentiveness. These symptoms must have been present for at least six months and must impact at least two areas of functioning such a home life, school, social or work life. In addition, the symptoms must date back to childhood, age seven or younger.
Adults manifest symptoms of ADHD that are often different from those in kids. Using DSM-IV criteria as stated in the DSM-IV manual will miss cases of adult ADHD. That’s why a number of newer screening tests have been developed to better identify symptoms of ADHD in adults. Here are the ones most widely used:
Wender Utah Rating Scale (WURS)
For this screening test, an adult is asked 61 questions about their behavior during childhood. For example, were they shy and sensitive as a child or did they daydream a lot? For each question, they assign a value from 0 to 4 corresponding to how pertinent it is to them. There are 25 additional questions pertaining directly to ADHD such as problems with angry outbursts or being nervous and fidgety. This test is reasonably sensitive and has proven useful as a screen for ADHD in adults. You can view a copy of this adult ADHD test by clicking here.
Barkley Adult ADHD Rating Scale-IV (BAARS-IV)
The Barkley Adult ADHD Rating Scale-IV is another screening test based on DSM-IV criteria. It’s sensitive enough to pick up most cases of adult ADHD and is quick to administer. This test consists of a series of question about current symptoms of impairment and childhood symptoms. Unlike the Wender Utah rating scale that’s based exclusively on self-report, there are questions for other family members to answer about the person’s behavior at home, at work or at school. There is a long version of this test that takes about 6 minutes to complete and a shorter screening test that’s about 4 minutes long. This adult ADHD test must be purchased.
Brown ADD Scales (Adult)
The Brown ADD scale is different from the previous two scales in that it looks for problems with “executive functioning.” This includes the ability to organize, plan a project, pay attention to details, multi-task and complete tasks on time. Adults with ADHD typically have problems in these areas. This screening test consists of 40 questions asking the recipient how frequently a particular symptom occurs. Examples would be how often the person forgets things over a 24-hour period, how often they’re overly frustrated etc. This test is based on self-report rather than the observations of other but is still a valid screening test for ADHD in adults. This adult ADHD test must be purchased.
Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS)
This screening test consists of 18 questions looking at how often a recipient has symptoms of inattentiveness (9 questions) or hyperactive/impulsivity symptoms (9 questions). It was developed by the Workgroup on Adult ADHD and several prominent physicians and is a screening test that can be completed in only 5 minutes. For each question, the recipient rates how frequently they have a symptom from 0, which would be never, to 4, corresponding to very often. You can view a copy of this adult adhd test by clicking here. If you are browsing the internet and see a quiz to test for adult ADHD, it is most likely this test.
Copeland Symptom Checklist for Attention Deficit Disorders – Adult Version
The Copeland Symptom Checklist looks at whether a recipient has problems in 8 areas – impulsivity, inattention, emotional problems, problems relating to peers, family-related problems, abnormal activity level, noncompliance and problems with learning and achievement. This scale identifies whether a person has symptoms consistent with adult ADHD and in which areas they have the most problems. It consists of 66 items that the recipient assigns a rating based on how much it pertains to them with “0” being not at all true to “3” being very true. This test must also be purchased.
It’s important to have accurate screening tests for adult ADHD since DSM-IV criteria alone will miss a certain number of cases. That means some adults will go untreated and others will be treated when they actually have some other condition. People don’t always “outgrow” ADHD. Instead, the symptoms change over time. Most commonly, hyperactivity symptoms are replaced with problems with inattentiveness and focus. These newer screening tests are better able to pick up these more subtle symptoms of adult ADHD.