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The diagnosis of ADHD is clinical, which means only a professional expert in ADHD can make it. No medical test (either analytical or neuroimaging) or psychological can establish the diagnosis.

Techniques used are questioning patients, in interviews and questionnaires, and direct observation of the child. Also used are neuropsychological cognitive functioning tests; for example, attention and planning capacity and impulsivity.  

Interviews are conducted with both the parents and the child. Current symptoms and how long they have been present are noted; along with past symptoms, development history (age the child began to walk and speak) and pregnancy description.  

Questionnaires are often used to obtain information more systematically. They are filled in by parents, school tutors and by those children over the age of 12 themselves. The best information often comes from teachers, who can compare the child’s behaviour with those of the same age. Young children or adolescents usually have little self-awareness and tend to attribute their difficulties to their own mistakes or conflict with others.

ADHD can be diagnosed at any time in a person's life, but some of the symptoms need to have been present before the age of 12.  

The intensity and severity of these symptoms must be greater than that observed in individuals of the same age and level of development. In addition, the symptoms must persist over time and cannot be due to another disorder or circumstance.

These symptoms must lead to dysfunction in the person's life and be seen in more than one area of the subject’s life.

Substantiated information by:

Marta Garcia Giral
Montse Vila
Rosa Nicolau

Published: 18 February 2022
Updated: 18 February 2022

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