Can a Neurologist Diagnose ADHD?

Any physician who has continued their education in ADHD and mental health can treat patients with ADHD. Several specialists can diagnose ADHD.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be diagnosed by psychologists, psychiatrists, pediatricians, family doctors, and nurse practitioners. Master-level counselors and social workers may assist in the evaluation process but typically do not make the diagnosis.

However, this often leads to confusion regarding the type of medical practitioner to approach for diagnosing ADHD. Each of these specialists has its strong points and drawbacks to consider.

Diagnosing ADHD

ADHD cannot be diagnosed through a physical exam, such as an x-ray or blood test. It requires a standard diagnostic procedure performed by a certified healthcare professional.

During the diagnosis, the medical professionals will enquire about you and your child to determine if the signs meet the criteria for ADD.

These criteria are given in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the official diagnostic guide used in the United States.

Irrespective of the specific definition of ADHD, whether inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive or combined, several conditions need to be met to diagnose ADHD. These include:

  • Certain symptoms present before the child reaches age 12
  • Symptoms present in multiple settings (school, home, work, etc.)
  • Symptoms interfere with or reduce daily functioning
  • Another mental disorder must not better explain symptoms

The diagnosis of Inattentive type ADHD for children up to 16 years of age involves checking for six or more symptoms of inattention.

For adults and adolescents aged 17 and older, at least five symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity are required for an ADHD diagnosis. These symptoms, if present for at least six months, can suggest the presence of ADHD.

Some common symptoms that are checked for inattentive type ADHD include:

  • Difficulty staying focused on specific tasks or activities
  • Making careless mistakes and disregarding details more often
  • Seemingly unable to listen when spoken to
  • Problems with organizing
  • Failing to complete tasks or follow instructions properly
  • Avoiding or disliking, long-term tasks
  • Losing important items often (keys, wallets, school materials, etc.)
  • Frequently forgetful
  • Easily distracted

The diagnosis of Hyperactive-Impulsive type ADHD involves using the same age and time-based criteria as defined above. Some visible symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD include:

  • Frequent fidgeting and squirming
  • Moving about of feeling restless in any situation
  • Ignoring instructions to stay or sit still
  • Excessive talking
  • Inability to participate in leisure activities quietly
  • Interruptive and disruptive intrusions in conversations
  • Difficulty waiting for their turn

Healthcare providers, not exclusively neurologists, diagnose ADHD and determine its severity (mild, moderate, or severe) based on the number of symptoms present and the degree of functional impairment.

Importance of Diagnosing ADHD

You may be tempted to avoid putting your child through the diagnosis process for ADHD for one of many reasons.

You may not have trust in the medications. You may be concerned that being labeled with ADHD may affect your child more than help.

However, everything points to the importance of diagnosing ADHD as soon as possible for optimal treatment.

Getting an early diagnosis of ADHD can be the key to ensuring successful treatment for your child, even if you don’t plan on giving them medications as part of the treatment.

Symptoms of ADHD also lead to feelings of shame, embarrassment or guilt about underachieving. It can also cause frustration for the time it takes to complete simple tasks.

Thus, a diagnosis can help to reduce these negative emotions.

With a written diagnosis of ADHD, you can also access accommodations and facilities at your school or workplace.

You may be allowed to move your work desk to a quieter office area.

Once the diagnosis of ADHD is confirmed, it also helps to begin a course of treatment, which makes life more manageable.


If you wish to get assessed for ADHD, you should start by talking to your family physician.

The doctor may not carry out detailed diagnostic tests but can refer you to a certified professional to assess mental conditions, such as a neurologist, psychiatrist, psychologist and another physician.

Make sure to follow all instructions relating to treatment, medication and therapy to make your life easier.

See Also

Functional Neurological Disorder

How to Become a Neurosurgeon

Residency for Neurosurgery

Current Version
July 23, 2022
Written By
Shubham Grover
March 21, 2024
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.

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