Diagnosis

If you think you or your child may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), speak to a GP.

If you're worried about your child, it may help to speak to their teachers, before seeing a GP, to find out if they have any concerns about your child's behaviour.

The GP cannot formally diagnose ADHD, but they can discuss your concerns with you and refer you for a specialist assessment, if necessary.

When you see a GP, they may ask you:

Next steps

Children and teenagers

If the GP thinks your child may have ADHD, they may first suggest a period of "watchful waiting" – lasting around 10 weeks – to see if your child's symptoms improve, stay the same or get worse.

They may also suggest starting a group-based, ADHD-focused parent training or education programme. Being offered a parent training and education programme does not mean you have been a bad parent – it aims to teach you ways of helping yourself and your child.

See treating ADHD for more information.

If your child's behaviour does not improve, and both you and the GP believe it's affecting their day-to-day life, the GP should refer you and your child to a specialist for a formal assessment.

Adults

For adults with possible ADHD, the GP will assess your symptoms and may refer you for an assessment if:

You may also be referred to a specialist if you had ADHD as a child or young person and your symptoms are now causing moderate or severe functional impairment.

Assessment

You or your child may be referred to 1 of the following types of specialist for a formal assessment:

Who you're referred to depends on your age and what's available in your local area.

There's no simple test to determine whether you or your child has ADHD, but your specialist can make an accurate diagnosis after a detailed assessment. The assessment may include:

Diagnosis in children and teenagers

Diagnosing ADHD in children depends on a set of strict criteria. To be diagnosed with ADHD, your child must have 6 or more symptoms of inattentiveness, or 6 or more symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Read more about the symptoms of ADHD

To be diagnosed with ADHD, your child must also have:

Diagnosis in adults

Diagnosing ADHD in adults is more difficult because there's some disagreement about whether the list of symptoms used to diagnose children and teenagers also applies to adults.

In some cases, an adult may be diagnosed with ADHD if they have 5 or more of the symptoms of inattentiveness, or 5 or more of hyperactivity and impulsiveness, listed in diagnostic criteria for children with ADHD.

As part of your assessment, the specialist will ask about your present symptoms. However, under current diagnostic guidelines, a diagnosis of ADHD in adults cannot be confirmed unless your symptoms have been present from childhood.

If you find it difficult to remember whether you had problems as a child, your specialist may wish to see your old school records, or talk to your parents, teachers or anyone else who knew you well when you were a child.

For an adult to be diagnosed with ADHD, their symptoms should also have a moderate effect on different areas of their life, such as:

If your problems are recent and did not occur regularly in the past, you're not considered to have ADHD. This is because it's currently thought that ADHD cannot develop for the first time in adults.

Page last reviewed: 24 December 2021
Next review due: 21 December 2024