Adult ADHD is diagnosed through the criteria set out in the DSM. But for someone who was not diagnosed in childhood and has compensated their whole life it can be hard to figure out if you have ADHD. These validated medical tools can help.
What Are ADHD Screening Tools for Adults?
Adult ADHD screening tools are self-report scales, and diagnostic interviews that friends and family can help you with.
If you are just looking at the DSM ADHD diagnostic criteria (mainly designed looking at school children) it can be hard to see how the description fits you and your life.
And here is the sad truth: People with ADHD have poor insight regarding their ADHD symptoms. As the expression goes ‘Does a fish know it is wet?’. Apparently not.
But when life gets overwhelming, sometimes it becomes apparent when ways we have found to compensate for our symptoms fall apart.
If you are wondering if you have adult ADHD, here are a number of tools to aid in the diagnosis of adult ADHD.
It might be good to get some people who know you to help fill out the questionnaire as to what they see.
The Best Validated Adult ADHD Screening Tests
Don’t want to read everything? Here is a summary and links to the 3 tools for assessment of Adult ADHD.
They are all medically validated, meaning they are appropriate to bring to a medical appointment to discuss ADHD with your physician.
Quick ‘Do I Have ADHD’ Quiz
There are several quick screening tests for adult ADHD, and while they can be fun and interesting, they are not scientifically validated. You really do need to use a validated assessment if you want to present something to your physician when discussing a possible ADHD diagnosis.
With that being said, you can read this post about a quick 3 question test for adult ADHD that Dr. Dodson (an expert in adult ADHD) uses in his initial assessment.
Dr. Dodson’s questions ask about the internal experience of someone with ADHD: racing thoughts, emotional sensitivity and an internal restlessness. This is quite different from the medical model of ADHD, which focuses more on the ADHD symptoms of impulsivity, inattention and hyperactivity as seen externally.
Dr. Hallowell (co-author of Driven to Distraction, and the more recent ADHD 2.0) also once jokingly diagnosed entrepreneur Will Henshell with ADHD based on 3 questions.
Adult ADHD Includes Emotional Dysregulation
An important fact to understand is that it is known that emotional symptoms are a part of ADHD, but this is not included in the diagnostic criteria in the DSM, and is not understood even by many professionals.
Dr. Dodson (and other ADHD experts) often lecture on how emotional dysregulation is an important part of ADHD (even rejection sensitive dysphoria). In fact it is often described as the most debilitating part of having ADHD.
Because of this I have included a self assessment tool that deals with this, even if it is not specifically designed for ADHD diagnosis.
So, here are the recommended medically validated tests for Adult ADHD:
Adult ADHD Screening Test: Self-Report Scale
The Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale validated scale is used to assess and self report ADHD symptoms. The Adult self-report scale which asks questions like:
- How often are you distracted by activity or noise around you?
- How often do you fidget or squirm with your hands or feet when you have to sit down for a long time?
- How often do you misplace or have difficulty finding things at home or at work?
Here is a link to this tool:
Weiss Functional Impairment Rating Scale
Another self report scale is the Weiss functional impairment rating scale. This scale includes symptoms of emotional dysregulation.
It asks questions about how often you have had certain difficulties because of emotional or behaviour problems. Here are some examples:
- Having problems with spouse/partner
- Makes it hard for the family to have fun together
- Problems working in a team
- Problems getting your work done efficiently
- Excessive or inappropriate use of internet, video games or TV
- Problems getting ready to leave the house
Here is a link to this tool:
Best Adult ADHD Screening Test: DIVA-5
A really amazing tool is the DIVA-5 Diagnostic Interview for Adults. In my opinion this is the best tool for screening of Adult ADHD.
The DIVA was specifically designed to help Adult ADHD patients get proper assessment which has been difficult due to a lack of knowledge and experience of professionals, the myths and stigma around a childhood disorder that is not outgrown, and a fear of treatment with stimulants.
This tool was created by a psychiatrist in Holland who saw the need for a diagnostic tool for adult ADHD and it has been translated into a number of languages.
There is a small charge for this very thorough tool (I’m not kidding, it is 20 pages!) to support the project, particularly all the translations. As I write this post it is 10 euros.
The DIVA-5 questionnaire for Adult ADHD is amazing. With other questionnaires I thought ‘What? No way does that apply to me!’. But with this one, time after time I thought ‘OMG! That’s me!’.
Basically they use real life examples to explain how ADHD symptoms show up for adults. I actually found it pretty eye opening in how I understood ADHD symptoms.
Examples of DIVA-5 questions:
- Quickly distracted by own thoughts or associations
- Difficulty concentrating on a conversation
- Planning too many tasks or non-efficient planning
- Often leaves things behind
- Easily distracted by the conversations of others
- Finding it hard to relax
- Finds it difficult to stop talking
You can download the DIVA-5 Questionnaire in English here, and a number of other languages here. You do have to pay a small fee with paypal for this resource but it really is worth it if you can afford it.
Summary: Best Validated Adult ADHD Assessment Tools
The best adult ADHD assessment tool is the DIVA-5, but it does have a small fee to download (this helps the not-for profit organization pay fees and translate this tool for worldwide use).
If the fee for the DIVA-5 is too much, the Adult ADHD Self Report Scale along with the Weiss Functional Impairment Checklist is a good option.
So there you are, a few tools to help you figure out if you might have ADHD. If you do have ADHD, welcome to the club!
Knowledge is power, read more about VAST (Variable Attention Stimulus Trait), another way of looking at ADHD.