Diagnosing ADHD in Adults: An Examination of the Discriminative Validity of Neuropsychological Tests and Diagnostic Assessment Instruments

J Atten Disord. 2018 Sep;22(11):1019-1031. doi: 10.1177/1087054715618788. Epub 2015 Dec 17.


Objective: The objective of this study is to investigate the discriminative validity of neuropsychological tests and diagnostic assessment instruments in diagnosing adult ADHD in a clinical psychiatric population.

Method: Of 108 patients, 60 were diagnosed with ADHD. The Diagnostic Interview for ADHD in adults (DIVA 2.0) and Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS) v.1.1 together with eight neuropsychological tests were investigated.

Results: All instruments showed poor discriminative ability except for the DIVA, which showed a relatively good ability to discriminate between the groups (sensitivity = 90.0; specificity = 72.9). A logistic regression analysis model with the DIVA and measures of inattention, impulsivity, and activity from continuous performance tests (CPTs) showed a sensitivity of 90.0 and a specificity of 83.3.

Conclusion: Neuropsychological tests have a poor ability to discriminate between patients diagnosed with ADHD and patients not diagnosed with ADHD, but variables from CPT tests can contribute to increasing the specificity by 10% if used in combination with the DIVA.

Keywords: adult ADHD; diagnostic validity; sensitivity; specificity.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests*
  • Self Concept
  • Self Report
  • Sensitivity and Specificity