Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) | Diagnosis & Tests


What should I do if I think my child has ADHD?

Talk with your child's doctor. A diagnosis of ADHD can be made only by getting information about your child's behavior from several people who know your child. Your doctor will ask you questions and may want to get information from your child's teachers or anyone else who is familiar with your child's behavior. Your doctor may have forms or checklists that you and your child's teacher can fill out. This will help you and your doctor compare your child's behavior with other children's behavior.

Your doctor will probably want to test your child’s vision and hearing if these tests haven't been done recently.

Your doctor may recommend trying medicine to see if it helps control your child's hyperactive behavior. A trial of medicine alone cannot be the basis for diagnosing ADHD. However, it can be an important part of evaluating your child if ADHD is suspected.

It might be hard for your doctor to tell if your child has ADHD. Many children who have ADHD aren't hyperactive in the doctor's office. For this reason, your doctor may want your child to see someone who specializes in helping children who have behavior problems, such as a psychologist.

How is ADHD diagnosed?

Many people try to diagnose themselves by using a quiz or a checklist they find in a magazine or see on TV. While these lists can be helpful, it's best to see your doctor if you think you have ADHD. Your doctor may ask you questions like the following:

  • Do you have problems with paying attention and being hyperactive? Have you had these problems since you were a child?
  • Do you have a hard time keeping your temper or staying in a good mood?
  • Do you have problems staying organized or being on time?
  • Do these problems happen to you both at work and at home?
  • Do family members and friends see that you have problems in these areas?
  • Do you have any physical or mental health problems that might affect your behavior? (Your doctor may give you a physical exam and do tests to see if you have any medical problems with symptoms that are like ADHD.)

Your doctor might ask you questions about your past, your life now and your relationships. You may be asked to write down your answers on a form.

If I don't have ADHD, what could be making me feel this way?

A person can be jittery or distracted for many reasons. The following are some of the other problems your doctor may consider when he or she makes a diagnosis:

  • Depression or mood problems
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Side effects of prescription and over-the-counter medicines, or herbal medicines
  • Thyroid problems or other hormone problems
  • Alcoholism or substance abuse
  • Exposure to lead


Diagnosis and Management of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in Adults by Robert E. Post, MD, MS, and Stuart L. Kurlansik, PhD (American Family Physician May 01, 2012,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/14
Created: 04/97