What’s The Most Accurate Test For Adult ADHD?

ADHD Testing
An adult taking a standardized screening that tests for ADHD.

The tests used to diagnose ADHD vary, and it’s important to see an expert in ADHD treatment to get an accurate assessment.

Albert Hernandez

July 26, 2022
 Medically Reviewed by Tanya Hernandez, PMHNP-BC
Updated on: October 20, 2022
  6 min read

July 26, 2022
 Medically Reviewed by Tanya Hernandez, PMHNP-BC
Updated on: October 20, 2022
  6 min read


You’ve talked to your cousin in El Paso who was diagnosed with Adult Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Maybe you’ve watched a YouTube video or a TikTok about living with ADHD and thought, “Hey, that sounds like me!” You’re seriously considering whether or not you’d like to seek treatment for the symptoms that have interfered with your work or school life for years. But you might be wondering how adult ADHD is even diagnosed.

When I’ve had new patients from El Paso, TX, or other areas around New Mexico seeking treatment for what they think might be ADHD, they’ve sometimes asked me, “How can you really tell I have ADHD?” or “Is there a test for ADHD? If so, how accurate is it?”

As is the case for other behavioral health disorders, such as depression or generalized anxiety disorder, there is no universal test to diagnose adult ADHD. There is no one x-ray, MRI, or lab test that will definitively let your provider know that you have adult ADHD. Instead, expert providers must look at a patient’s symptoms and how these symptoms are interfering with his or her life. If patients demonstrate problems with focus and/or have hyperactivity, providers will delve deeper to determine if the patient has the condition of ADHD.

There are specific assessment tools that can aid in this diagnosis. Because of the specialized skill set that an ADHD expert brings, I encourage adults who think they may have ADHD to seek screening at an ADHD treatment center, rather than from a general practitioner.

"When you see a provider who specializes in diagnosing and treating adult ADHD, you are more likely to receive the most accurate diagnosis and treatment."

Symptoms of ADHD

Why do adults seek testing to see if they have ADHD? It’s usually because of

  • Procrastination/being unable to start a complex task
  • Distractibility
  • Talking too much or talking over people at work
  • Losing important items
  • Spacing out on completing necessary tasks, like paying bills
  • Being fidgety or restless

As people notice that these behaviors are causing problems with their relationships, their job, or their school performance, they might seek an assessment to try to figure out what’s going on. Finding a provider who offers ADHD screening is often their first step.

T.O.V.A. versus ASRS-v1.1

Two commonly-used tools in the diagnosis of adult ADHD are the T.O.V.A and the ASRS-v1.1. The T.O.V.A is an electronic screening test that patients take on a computer. During the test, the patient being screened will use a handheld switch to respond to images or sounds being presented. The tests are long and pretty boring, which helps assess a patient’s attention and responsiveness. The speed and accuracy with which the person responds to these stimuli are compared to many other subjects who have taken the test. The patient’s comparative results to others with typical attention responses are reviewed by the behavioral health expert the patient is working with.

Positive test results for Adult ADHD that were administered through TOVA.

The ASRS-v1.1 is a questionnaire that asks patients about their behaviors and feelings in various situations, such as work, home, and social situations. The questions are designed to help patients describe ADHD symptoms identified in the DSM-IV-TR, a manual used by behavioral health experts. If patients recognize and express that they experience some of these symptoms “Sometimes,” “Often,” or “Very Often,” the provider evaluating them will know to follow up and ask more questions about their potential ADHD symptoms.

T.O.V.A and ASRS-v1.1 are assessment tools that can help an expert provider determine if a patient has attention issues and possibly a diagnosable disorder. One tool is not better than another; different providers may choose different ways to assess their patients. At Upper Valley Behavioral Health, we have chosen to use the ASRS-v1.1. After the patient has completed this questionnaire, we then utilize our extensive clinical skills to determine proper diagnosis and treatment.

Seeing an ADHD Expert

Individual providers or organizations will choose different assessment methods for diagnosing their patients’ behavioral health conditions.

More important than the specific diagnostic test used is the level of expertise that your provider brings.

If you suspect that you have ADHD, it’s best to seek out an expert ADHD treatment center. Sometimes primary care physicians (PCPs) or other providers who don’t routinely provide ADHD treatment can misdiagnose ADHD as anxiety. Other times, providers may mistakenly diagnose a patient as having ADHD when that patient is actually experiencing symptoms of bipolar disorder. Patient waiting to speak with their mental health expert to discover the results of an ADHD test.

The consequences of receiving the treatment for the incorrect diagnosis can be anywhere from unpleasant to severe. For example, a patient who doesn’t truly have an anxiety disorder but instead has ADHD will not get full symptom relief from a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). In a different scenario, a person who has bipolar disorder but is misdiagnosed as having ADHD may be started on stimulant medication. Patients with bipolar disorder who are prescribed stimulants have an increased risk of manic episodes. To ensure that you are seeing a provider with sufficient ADHD diagnosis and treatment knowledge, one ADHD expert recommends that you see a provider with “at least 50-100” active ADHD patients. UVBH has an active treatment roster of over 500 patients with ADHD, so our patients can be assured that we are experts in ADHD treatment.

As you check out potential providers to treat your ADHD symptoms, it’s a great idea to ask questions. How many patients with ADHD do they currently treat? What diagnostic methods do they use to determine what your disorder is and what your treatment plan should be? At Upper Valley Behavioral Health, we are confident in our expertise and are eager to be an effective ADHD provider for you. If you have any questions, feel free to call us at 1-800-675-6030. If you live in El Paso, Albuquerque, or one of our other areas of service, fill out our application for treatment today.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not replace instructions from your licensed prescriber. Please consult your healthcare provider for guidance on your specific medication regimen.

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