Problems Diagnosing ADHD

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Even though the prevalence of ADHD continues to grow, the task of diagnosing this behavioral disorder remains difficult. If you suspect that your child may suffer from this impulsivity-related malady, don't expect the diagnosis to be speedy. Instead, prepare yourself for navigating a potentially complicated series of observations and data collections on the road to obtaining the answer you seek about your child's behavior.

Even though the prevalence of ADHD continues to grow, the task of diagnosing this behavioral disorder remains difficult. If you suspect that your child may suffer from this impulsivity-related malady, don't expect the diagnosis to be speedy. Instead, prepare yourself for navigating a potentially complicated series of observations and data collections on the road to obtaining the answer you seek about your child's behavior.

Diagnosis Process

Because ADHD is behavioral in nature, the process of diagnosing this disorder consists primarily of observation. To diagnose a patient with ADHD, a doctor must find that the patient has exhibited at least six recognized symptoms of the disorder for more than six months in more than one setting. To determine if a child has exhibited these symptoms, doctors must obtain information from parents, caregivers and educators who work with the child on a regular basis.

No Single Test

One of the main challenges standing in the way of obtaining an ADHD diagnosis is that there is no single test for this disorder. As WebMD reports, this lack of a single test can lead to differences in the specifics of how ADHD is diagnosed. While there are guidelines for diagnosis, because there is no set test, physicians can manipulate these guidelines, impacting the resulting diagnosis.

Data Collection Difficulties

To determine if an individual suffers from ADHD, a physician must depend upon data collected from both parents and other caregivers. Because this information is coming from human sources, it is always subject to being misreported because each individual interprets behaviors differently. What you might see as a lack of impulse control, his teacher may feel is simply the result of a child being defiant. An individual's personal interpretation of the reason behind a child's actions may impact the data he provides, leading do a different diagnosis.

Inability to Quantify

Many of the things that must be present for an individual to be diagnosed with ADHD are not easily quantifiable. To provide the necessary information to doctors regarding the child's behavior, the observer must make a judgment call on how severe the behavior in question is to assign that behavior a numerical score. Small differences in the scores assigned could lead to a big difference in terms of ADHD diagnosis.

Age-Related Challenges

The American Academy of Pediatrics is the medical governing body responsible for outlining ADHD diagnosis standards. The standards outlined by this group are intended to be used for diagnosis of ADHD in children between the ages of six and 12. There are no standards for diagnosis of children below this age range as children 5 and younger are generally thought to still be developing their basic impulsivity and, as such, commonly exhibit behaviors that could qualify as symptoms on an intermittent basis. Because there is no diagnostic tool for children under the age of 6, many children who likely suffer from this disorder must wait for diagnosis, leading to years of missed treatment opportunity.

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