Detecting Attention Deficits
Attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is increasingly being acknowledged as the cause of problems with school, work, and relationships. Although many people speculate that it is overdiagnosed, it can just as easily go unrecognized. ADD is often difficult to detect in a one-on-one, novel situation in which people are motivated. Therefore, rating scales of how people operate in different settings are better indicators of problems than psychological tests. Six or more items marked “O” in the left column suggest ADD; six or more items in the right column suggests ADHD; and six plus items in each column suggest a combination of both.
ADD/ADHD Rating Scale
Directions: Mark items with an A (always) or O (often) to show rate of occurrence.
(Scale adapted from criteria for ADHD with permission from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition. Copyright 1994, American Psychiatric Association.)
In addition to rating scales, it is important to take a careful history. Family, friends, relatives, and school records are good sources of information. Mark all items that apply:
DETECTING ATTENTION PROBLEMS IN ADULTS
Difficulties with hyperactivity and attention used to be considered a disorder of childhood. It was believed that as young peoples’ brains matured, they grew out of it. More current estimates suggest that 30% to 70% of children with ADD will continue to have problems as adults. It may be that high numbers of adults have ADD, but they developed coping strategies to manage symptoms and even use them to their advantage. Researchers at the University of Utah2 suggest the following standards for adult ADD:
Core Measures (all three must be present)
Additional Measures (two out of five must be present)
Some writers are concerned that the Utah criteria fail to detect ADD without hyperactivity in adults. Although the ADD/ADHD Rating Scale and the Utah measures can identify problems, the following themes paint a clearer picture of the kind of difficulties adults with attention deficits can have:
Core Measures (both items must be present)
Additional Measures (nine or more items must be marked)
See Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Adults by Paul Wender (Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 241–243 for full description of criteria. Also see Driven to Distraction by Edward Hallowell and John Rately (Simon & Schuster, 1994). Starred items may indicate ADHD rather than ADD.