Most people who hear about the symptoms of ADD syndrome respond by commenting, "Oh, I have those problems too. Doesn't everybody?" This reaction is understandable because symptoms in this syndrome occur from time to time in all children, adolescents, and adults, especially when they are overtired or stressed. The difference between persons legitimately diagnosed as having ADHD and those who do not warrant this diagnosis is essentially one of degree. How severely are these problems interfering with their lives? And are they impaired just briefly once in a while or consistently over an extended time?
There is no single measure, no blood test or brain scan, no rating scale or computer task that can make or rule out an ADHD diagnosis. The most effective instrument for assessing ADHD is an intensive interview conducted by a clinician who understands what ADHD looks like, and who can differentiate ADHD from other disorders that may cause similar problems. In this chapter I explain some things I try to keep in mind when doing an assessment, and I describe tools and specific questions useful in trying to determine when a diagnosis of ADHD is appropriate.
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