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Essential ADHD Assessment Tools for Clinical Psychologists: Avoid Misdiagnosis & Ensure Accurate Diagnoses

May 2, 2023 - Reading time: 6 minutes

As a clinical psychologist, it's essential to have various tools to test for adult ADHD.

Here are some of them:

Brown Attention Deficit Disorder Symptom Assessment Scale (BADDS) for Adult

This self-report scale measures symptoms of ADHD in adults through a 40-item questionnaire. It is a comprehensive tool that is most commonly used to gather data in research studies.

CAARS (Conners' Adult ADHD Rating Scales)

This is another self-report form for adults that is typically administered by professionals as it requires specific interpretation and scoring. The CAARS is helpful when considering a diagnosis of ADHD and provides information about the adult's score, how they compare to other adults, and what subscales are elevated. However, it is essential to note that the CAARS report works best when combined with other sources of relevant information. You can order it through the appropriate channels.

Barratt Impulsiveness Scale

The Barratt Impulsiveness Scale is a 30-item self-report scale that measures impulsiveness. You can find a free online version of this scale through the appropriate channels.

Reasons for ADHD Misdiagnosis

One reason for misdiagnosis could be that doctors feel they can accurately diagnose ADHD without following diagnostic guidelines. Another potential cause is that the symptoms of ADHD can mimic other conditions.

ADHD Misdiagnosis and Criteria

To diagnose ADHD, doctors must follow diagnostic guidelines that specify the criteria for every disease. However, some doctors may feel that they can diagnose ADHD accurately without the reference if they have memorised the standards or are experienced in diagnosing the condition. For example, behaviours must occur in two or more settings, such as work and school. Still, a study found that only an estimated 50% of doctors used diagnostic guidelines from at least 2 sources and across 2 settings to make their ADHD diagnosis.

ADHD Misdiagnosis and Age

When children lack challenge or stimulation in the classroom, it can manifest as symptoms of ADHD. In these cases, children may exhibit only a couple of the symptoms associated with the disorder. For example, a child may have trouble paying attention in class because they already understand the material. They may also leave their seat often because they’re bored. As you get older, symptoms of hyperactivity first noted in childhood may manifest differently. The symptoms can present similarly to other conditions like anxiety or depression, making accurate diagnosis difficult.

ADHD Misdiagnosis and Sex

Research shows that many female children with ADHD are likely to remain unidentified and untreated. As a result, ADHD is diagnosed more in men and missed in women.

Conditions Mistaken for ADHD

  • ADHD symptoms can overlap with signs of other disorders and lead to misdiagnosis.

  • Feeling distracted or having trouble concentrating can be a symptom of ADHD and symptoms of depression and anxiety.

  • Restlessness and restlessness can be a way for someone to deal with anxiety rather than not being able to sit still.

Signs of Misdiagnosis

If the prescribed treatment for ADHD is not helping you manage your symptoms, you might have been misdiagnosed. If you try different treatments and still don’t see results, you’ll want to speak with your doctor again.

What to Do

Being your own health advocate can help ensure you get the correct diagnosis, which is critical to receiving effective care.

  • Communicate openly and honestly with your doctor about how you’ve been feeling.

  • Consider bringing a loved one to ensure all the information is communicated accurately on both sides.

  • Learn how to access your medical records to help your understanding. ADHD is a complex condition, and getting a correct diagnosis can be complicated. You can start with a free online diagnosis from


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As part of your screening, we will be testing our patients for: Anxiety Disorder, Autism, Bipolar Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, Insomnia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Schizophrenia and Substance Use Disorder.