Do you or your child have ADHD? Here’s the NHS test as Brits waiting two years for diagnosis

ADHD diagnoses are on the rise.

Yet, it can still be hard for people to know if they are among the 2.2million people in Britain with the behavioural condition.


For decades, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been stereotypically associated with the naughty 10-year-old boy who can’t sit still in class.

But now, it is understood to be far more complex.

Struggling to finish tasks, misplacing things and driving dangerously are just some of the many signs NHS doctors look out for when assessing suspected patients.

New reports have revealed that increased awareness of the condition has left people in the UK waiting up to two years for an assessment.

The behavioural condition can be categorised into two types of problems – inattentiveness and hyperactivity.

While most people show symptoms of both, this isn’t always true.

In adults, hyperactivity is less common, and symptoms are more subtle, making them tougher to identify.

The ADHD test

While there is no straightforward test for ADHD, NHS psychiatrists do use an assessment tool to help diagnose the condition.

To receive a diagnosis, children must have at least six ‘typical’ symptoms of either the inattentive or hyperactive form of the condition, the NHS says on its website.

These symptoms must have started showing before the age of 12 and have been ongoing for at least six months.

Adults must only have five of the listed signs to receive a diagnosis.

For both adults and children, the supposed ADHD symptoms must have made their lives considerably more challenging.

Interviews with friends, family, and teachers of the suspected patient could also be conducted to gauge the severity of symptoms.

A physical examination, which can help rule out other possible causes for the symptoms, will also be done.

Symptoms in children and teenagers

The symptoms of ADHD in children and teenagers are well-defined, and they’re usually noticeable before the age of six.

Inattentiveness (difficulty concentrating and focusing)

The main signs of inattentiveness are:

Having a short attention span and being easily distracted

Making careless mistakes – for example, in schoolwork

Appearing forgetful or losing things

Being unable to stick to tasks that are tedious or time-consuming

Appearing to be unable to listen to or carry out instructions

Constantly changing activity or task

Having difficulty organising tasks

Hyperactivity and impulsiveness

The main signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness are:

Being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings

Constantly fidgeting

Being unable to concentrate on tasks

Excessive physical movement

Excessive talking

Being unable to wait their turn

Acting without thinking

Interrupting conversations

Little or no sense of danger

Symptoms in adults

In adults, the symptoms of ADHD are more difficult to define.

This is largely due to a lack of research into adults with ADHD and the fact symptoms tend to become far more subtle as people get older.

Some specialists have suggested the following as a list of symptoms associated with ADHD in adults:

Carelessness and lack of attention to detail

Continually starting new tasks before finishing old ones

Poor organisational skills

Inability to focus or prioritise

Continually losing or misplacing things


Restlessness and edginess

Difficulty keeping quiet and speaking out of turn

Blurting out responses and often interrupting others

Mood swings, irritability and a quick temper

Inability to deal with stress

Extreme impatience

Taking risks in activities, often with little or no regard for personal safety or the safety of others – for example, driving dangerously

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a behavioural condition defined by inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

It affects around five per cent of children in the US. Some 3.6 per cent of boys and 0.85 per cent of girls suffer in the UK. 

Symptoms typically appear at an early age and become more noticeable as a child grows

Most cases are diagnosed between six and 12 years old. Adults can also suffer, but there is less research into this.

ADHD’s exact cause is unclear but is thought to involve genetic mutations that affect a person’s brain function and structure.

Premature babies and those with epilepsy or brain damage are more at risk. 

ADHD is also linked to anxiety, depression, insomnia, Tourette’s and epilepsy.  

There is no cure. 

A combination of medication and therapy is usually recommended to relieve symptoms and make day-to-day life easier. 

Long waits for assessments

A report by the Nuffield Trust said 24 per cent of patients referred for ADHD in England had to wait one to two years for an assessment.

The think tank’s report also revealed a 51 per cent increase in prescriptions for ADHD medication.

Thea Stein, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said: “The extraordinary, unpredicted and unprecedented rise in demand” has “completely overtaken the NHS’s capacity”.

“It is frankly impossible to imagine how the system can grow fast enough to fulfil this demand,” she said.

“We shouldn’t underestimate what this means for children in particular: many schools expect an assessment and formal diagnosis to access support – and children and their families suffer whilst they wait.”

What should you do if you think you have ADHD?

First, visit your GP

They will refer you to a specialist for an assessment. 

You can also speak to your child’s teacher or the school’s special education needs coordinator (SENCO).

However, waiting lists are lengthy on the NHS and, in many cases, getting worse.

Many opt for a private assessment, but many private clinics also have long waiting lists. 

If you do choose to go private, make sure you choose a reputable clinic, as you may want to get back into the NHS to be prescribed your medication.

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