Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, is not just a problem for kids—the symptoms can persist well into adulthood. And more and more adults are affected by it: Between 2008 and 2012, the number of American adults taking medication for ADHD jumped by 53 percent, according to a report from Express Scripts.
In many cases, adult ADHD can be hard to peg down, oftentimes because the symptoms of adult ADHD aren’t as clear as those facing kids. As a result, many adults with the condition miss out on diagnosis—and the treatment they need to keep the difficulty paying attention and impulsivity in the check.
But now, doctors may be able to streamline the diagnosis process: A simple, six-question screening scale may reliably detect ADHD in adults, according to new research in JAMA Psychiatry.
The test, which was created by a World Health Organization advisory group along with two independent board-certified psychiatrists, is based on updated ADHD criteria published in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5. The new criteria are broader than the earlier version, so prior tests based on that may end up missing many adults who actually have ADHD.
The new ADHD screening test includes the six following questions:
1. How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people say to you, even when they are speaking to you directly?
2. How often do you leave your seat in meetings or other situations in which you are expected to remain seated?
3. How often do you have difficulty unwinding and relaxing when you have time to yourself?
4. When you’re in a conversation, how often do you find yourself finishing the sentences of the people you are talking to before they can finish them themselves?
5. How often do you put things off until the last minute?
6. How often do you depend on others to keep your life in order and attend to details?
Possible responses for each include “never,” “rarely,” “sometimes,” “often,” and “very often.” Each “never” response gets a score of 0, while scores for higher responses vary, adding up to a possible maximum of 24. A score of 14 or higher would likely be preferred for screening purposes, the researchers write.
This revised screening tool is important: If it’s used clinically at the primary care level, doctors—whose time with each patient is limited—may be able to quickly screen for ADHD, and then based on the results, possibly send on the patient for further psychological evaluation, or even prescribe meds themselves, NPR reports.
The study also determined that adult ADHD is a bigger problem than experts once thought: About 8 percent of the people tested met the criteria for the disorder, which is nearly double the rate of ADHD prevalence estimated back in 2006.
If you find yourself scoring high on those six questions—or if you fit the bill for these 10 surprising habits that may point to adult ADHD—make an appointment with your doctor. If you do have ADHD, treatment options include medications, counseling, or a combination of both.