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Q&A: What Happens During an Adult ADHD Evaluation?

Q: I’m 42 and after all this time, I think I’m ready for an ADHD evaluation. But I’m worried about what happens during an evaluation and what I’m supposed to do. I used to think that only kids were checked for ADHD. Can you tell me what I should expect?

-- Man in Nevada

A: Congratulations on taking this step! Making the decision to contact a specialist in ADHD to begin the evaluation process is a significant part of understanding how ADHD affects your life.

Most evaluations will include a patient interview, possible interviews with or questionnaires for friends or family members and a written assessment form, such as the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale, Barkley Adult ADHD Rating Scale-IV or the Connors for adults. There is likely to be a neuropsychological evaluation as part of the assessment.

Before the evaluation, take some time to think about the issues or symptoms you think you’re experiencing. Jot those down, along with the areas of your life where you find yourself struggling. These notes will help you during the interview portion of the evaluation, since very often we forget information we’d like to share with medical professionals during appointments.

If you still have the records, any information related to elementary or high school and college grades can also be helpful to the specialist during the evaluation.

Many times, the evaluator will want to talk with close family members, including a spouse or partner, long-time friends, parents and siblings, or others who knew you as a child or who currently are your friends. Think about which family members and friends know you well and that you feel comfortable asking to talk with the specialist or complete a questionnaire.

During the evaluation, the specialist may ask you about your symptoms, both now and as a young adult or teen. The evaluator may talk with the friends or family members you’ve asked to participate, take a family history, review any documentation you’ve brought, and have you complete the assessment form. This interview is usually followed by additional neurophysiological tests, which are to help identify any additional difficulties you may be experiencing, including learning disabilities or the impact of illnesses or injuries to the brain, or a physical exam that the specialist thinks may be helpful.

The specialist listens to what you’ve shared to identify symptoms of ADHD and other possible co-occurring conditions. The evaluator is looking for other possible explanations besides ADHD for the symptoms you’re experiencing. The specialist wants to make as accurate a diagnosis as possible. If some other condition is responsible for your symptoms, the evaluation can help determine what that is and how best to help you.

Thorough evaluations take a few hours to complete and may require more than one visit to the specialist.

Once the ADHD specialist has completed the evaluation and diagnosis, together, you will discuss the conclusions of the evaluation, address any questions, and explore treatment approaches and next steps for your treatment.

You can learn more about an evaluation for adults at Diagnosis of ADHD.

This article appeared in ADHD Weekly on July 14, 2016.

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