ADD and ADHD Testing
ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is a term that gets thrown around a lot. While some people are worried about being “over-diagnosed”, others suffer with it as a valid condition and often are in need of treatment and medication.
Do not worry, there are ways to get a proper diagnosis, and in fact, it’s necessary to go through the proper channels if you wantto get prescription treatment from a medical doctor.
What is ADD
There is a lot of confusion about what Attention Deficit Disorder actually is. Some people think that any person who has trouble focusing has it, but that is not necessarily the case. Common symptoms of ADD are as follows:
Disorganization. People with ADD are often messy, don’t know where to find things, and are surrounded by disorganized clutter. Sometimes people say that it’s an “organized mess”—that they can find things despite being messy. A person who is disorganized because of ADD legitimately loses things because they do not maintain even an internal system of organization.
Lack of focus. People who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder are usually not able to focus on a single task for a long period of time. Even when sitting down to do something, their mind will be thinking through many other things. This makes them lose their place or make very slow progress. They may take longer to do things than most people.
Attention Problems. People with Attention Deficit Disorder have a lot of problems paying attention to detail. They may not even think about the finer details of a project, or they may just get bored or impatient with those details. Their work might seem messy, incomplete, or careless because they lack this attention to detail.
Social Awkwardness. People who have problems with Attention Deficit Disorder often appear to be socially awkward. They often don’t listen well to what other people are saying because there’s too much going on in their heads, or they are distracted. They might have trouble staying on topic and will often insert things into a conversation that are not relevant to what people were talking about. Frequently, they don’t follow social rules—interrupting, personal space, etc. are all things that may make them seem socially awkward.
Forgetful.People who suffer Attention Deficit Disorder may often be forgetful of daily duties. They may forget to shower, brush their teeth, or eat if they are not reminded. Appointments, such, as with the doctor or business meetings, can often be forgotten or they will run late to them.
Distractible. People with ADD are often distracted by loud noises or other things that most people may easily ignore. Any change in the environment—something loud, shiny, or quickly moving—can divert their attention from whatever they are doing.
Most people are familiar with the most common treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder—a drug called “Ritalin”. Ritalin is a stimulant, which means that it actually speeds up your body, in a way. This can help you focus and pay attention more.
But Ritalin canbe dangerous too—though side affects areextremely rare, it can cause stroke, heart attack, other mental illnesses, or other heart problems. Therefore, if you are going to take Ritalin, you should be sure you have ADD and that there are no other treatment methods that work for you.
There are some methods of treatment that don’t require medicine, though they may not be effective for some people. Often these are suggested in addition to medicine to make it more effective. They include:
Diet: Eating a high-protein diet full of vitamins and healthy Omega-3 fats can give your body the tools it needs to be healthy. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy. CBT and mindfulness can help you be more aware. This allows you to recognize when you’re losing focus, missing details, or not performing well socially, and help you develop habits to “switch gears” when you recognize that.
Exercise. Exercise can energize your mind and releases endorphins that help you stay focused and on task. It can often clear your mind of any stress or distractions, and helps you process food better.
Brain Training.Some brain training software can improve your symptoms by helping your working memory. This allows you to store more information in your brain until you accomplish a goal. Other programs can help improve impulsivity and attention spans. They look and feel like video games but are actually teaching you to exercise your brain muscle.
Going Outside.Studies have shown that spending time outside can help with symptoms of ADD. Not only does it increase your Vitamin D, but it can help you recover from “attention fatigue” and just brighten up your day in general. How long should you spend outside? At least 20 minutes a day, most studies say.
Even with these methods, many people will still need to be on medication. In order to get medication, you must be prescribed them by a Medical Doctor—typically your general practice physician. In order to make sure you have a proper diagnosis and are needing medication, your Medical Doctor will ask for a referral from your Mental Health Professional.
Diagnosing Attention Deficit Disorder has come along way over the years, and sometimes can take only one session. While various Mental Health Professionals can use different tests, one of the most popular is the QIK test. This is a series of visual images that flash in front of you, to measure your impulsivity and attention.
How does it work?
While various Mental Health Professionals can use different tests, one of the most popular is the QIK test. This is a series of visual images that flash in front of you, to measure your impulsivity and attention. It is almost like a video game, and in fact you will probably hold a “video game controller” type device in order to test it. How does it work?
Flashing Images: You will be asked to watch a screen, and an image will flash in front of you every two seconds. You will be asked to press a button if the picture is a “target”, andavoid pressing the button if the picture is a “fake”.
If you think of it as a video game, it will be less intimidating. You take the device in both hands and can use your thumbs to press the buttons. If you think the image is “correct” you push the button. If you think the image is “fake” you don’t push it. It will try to trick you, but that’s part of the fun. Just try to do your best with it and even try to have fun!
Targets: By measuring how many targets you correctly push, the test is able to show how much attention you have. These are called “omissions” because it measures how many targets you “miss”. Basically, if you miss a target, it shows that your attention is being lost. The whole test takes about 21 minutes, so it does take a significant amount of attention to focus on for that amount of time.
Most adults won’t make this mistake too many times, so the test is purposefully boring and repetitive to try and make you get bored. Try not to over think and just focus as much as possible. If your mind begins to wander after 15 minutes or so that’s normal. At that point, the test is almost done!
Fakes: Your ability to correctly and quickly identify fakes measures your “impulsivity”. These are called “commissions” because if you end up clicking them, you have “committed” an error. The basic idea is if you’re impulsive, you’ll press the button without waiting for your mind to decide if it’s fake or not.
Again, you may over think these or notice a “pattern” or large concentration of fakes. It is important to just focus on each individual flashing target without thinking about the overall pattern. Even so, it is perfectly normal to experience a little bit of performance anxiety during this. The best thing you can do is just do your best!
Analyze: After your test, the mental health professional will look at your results. If they’re in a range the isn’t “normal” (that is higher or lower than about two-thirds of people), they’ll have a better idea about how to help you.
There are a few different areas this test can measure, and while you may be “normal” in some, you may need help in other areas. It can help you understand how you react under both high and low stress, as well as how quickly you react to things, and how able you are to pay attention. It is good to understand these things about yourself not only so they can be treated, but so you can better know your strengths and weaknesses.
As you can see, the test is relatively quick and completely free of pain. Do the best you can do and there is no “wrong” way complete the test. Even if you are found to be out of the normal range, it gives your doctors the tools they need to help you! After you take this test and your mental health professional diagnoses you, you will be able to get the best medicine from your medical doctor.
You may be wondering how a test like this can help diagnose you. You may wonder if it’s reliable, or you may not want a machine to put you inside a “box” or give you a “label”.
First, the test is compstatistically reliable. This means that it’s been tested over and over again and has been shown to consistently give close results. This means that the same person can take the test many times and usually receive roughly the same outcome. You’ll always measure as being normal in the same things, and “not normal” in the same things. This is good because it means we don’t have to worry about the test being wrong.
Secondly, the test is “valid” which means it measures what it’s suppose to. It doesn’t measure your ability to see in the dark, to tell a good joke, or to run really fast. It says it measures your attention, reactions, and impulsivity, and that’s exactly what it does!
Finally, though may be a lot of arguments or caution about “labels” and being “diagnosed” with something, it’s often the only way to get help. Being formally diagnosed with ADD/ADHD can enable you to get the help you need from various professionals.
While you may have the condition even without the label, there’s no way to be officially recognized without the diagnosis. In some ways, the diagnosis keeps you safe—it allows doctors who prescribe ADHD medication to confirm that you get the medication because you need it, not for other not-so-good reasons. It’s Okay to be diagnosed with a condition!
Call Dr. Clare Albright, Psy.D., CA Psychologist License PSY11660 at (949) 454-0996 at http://DrCAlbright.com