Can A Blood Test Diagnose ADHD?


"I've read that ADHD is caused by a deficiency of norepinephrine. Can a blood test show such a deficiency and diagnose ADHD?"

Dr. Larry Silver M.D. is the author of two books about parenting ADHD/LD children.

ADDitude Answers

Researchers discovered that ADHD is caused by a deficiency of norepinephrine (or one of its building blocks, dopa or dopamine) through extensive analysis of spinal fluid, blood, and urine. Newer studies have used brain-imaging to clarify this connection.

Because the studies are time-consuming and expensive, they aren't used outside of the research laboratory. To date, we do not have a biological test to diagnose ADHD. Instead, the diagnosis is based on clinical history and observations.

Posted by Larry Silver, M.D.

A Reader Answers

There is no “test” — or 2-hour observation or play time — and, in my experience, it can seem impossible to get any psychiatrist or therapist to commit to any diagnosis. The best bet is to get this list of symptoms [better referred to as character traits] because I am learning it isn’t a disease or a disorder and not that my child is not “normal” — it is just his natural character trait and perspective of the world.

Posted by NCNee4

A Reader Answers

If you're an adult, you may not need any kind of “expensive testing” at all. An in-depth clinical interview is often all it takes to establish the diagnosis.

Posted by BC

A Reader Answers

While testing is not required to diagnose ADHD, if you have a background of various other diagnoses, you can expect a diagnostic interview to be a bit more lengthy. Testing will not tell anyone what diagnosis contributes to your symptoms. If you already have a diagnosis like PTSD, anxiety, or depression, for example, you are likely to look ADHD on any test. I would suggest that rather than getting a diagnosis to get medication, that you work with a holistic practitioner who can also help you address how sleep, diet, and exercise can improve your symptoms.

Posted by Drkwood

A Reader Answers

There is no “test” for ADHD. There are behavior rating scales and can be certain profiles on cognitive ability tests that may be characteristic of those who have been diagnosed with ADHD, but there is no definitive measure like a blood test. Diagnosing ADHD is usually a team effort!

Posted by JRTMom

A Reader Answers

Testing for ADHD in adults is still kind of “iffy” at best. My psychiatrist was also a psychologist and he did not perform the testing immediately. We did a bunch of interviews before the testing was done, so he also had my report of what problems I was having, plus his observations of me; along with my 20+ years of psych records and school records, including the psychologist’s report from fifth grade. We suspected ADHD, but my situation was also complicated by other issues. The testing helped to prove the ADHD.

Posted by Dianne in the Desert

Read the original discussion in the ADDConnect forums.


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Larry Silver, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. He is a former acting director and deputy director of the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as the author of Dr. Larry Silver's Advice to Parents on AD/HD and The Misunderstood Child: Understanding and Coping with Your Child's Learning Disabilities.
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