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Screening for ADHD With 2 Questions

For ADHD researchers, coming up with more efficient ways of diagnosing the disorder is a work in progress. Are there a few core questions you can ask people to reliably separate out those who have ADHD from those who don’t? If so, finding those questions could make it a lot easier to diagnose people, and could ultimately result in more ADHDers getting access to treatment.

QuestionnaireThat’s the idea behind screening questionnaires for ADHD, short surveys that ask people a handful of basic questions about ADHD symptoms. An example is the 6-item screening questionnaire I wrote about previously. These questionnaires aren’t intended to diagnose ADHD – they’re not in-depth enough for that. Rather, they identify people who are more likely to have ADHD and whose potential ADHD symptoms should be explored in more detail.

Recently, a team of researchers from Brown University proposed a new screening tool consisting of just two questions. (Perfect for people with short attention spans!) The questions asked people about two things:

  • Difficulty sustaining attention
  • Fidgetiness

Testing the questionnaire on over a thousand psychiatric out patients, the researchers found that it was mostly accurate in sorting out who had ADHD and who didn’t. Of course, it wasn’t perfect – that’s not the point of a two-item screening questionnaire. But it correctly picked out more than 90 percent of the participants with ADHD. Similarly, more than 95 percent of the people who scored below the cutoff didn’t, in fact, have ADHD, suggesting there was a fairly low rate of both false positives and false negatives.

You might have noticed that the two questions correspond to the two major categories of ADHD symptoms: inattention (“difficulty sustaining attention”) and hyperactivity (“fidgetiness”).

Again, it’s important to note that this is far from a comprehensive diagnostic tool. And there’s more testing that needs to be done to figure out how accurate this questionnaire is in different groups of people.

But one interesting thing the findings do suggest is that when it comes to figuring out who may be experiencing symptoms of ADHD, just straight up asking people “d’you have difficulty concentrating?” and “d’you fidget a lot?” could be telling.

Image: Flickr/LaTransfo

Screening for ADHD With 2 Questions

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on psychology, ADHD and education. In addition to ADHD Millennial, he writes about psychology at Psych Central's AllPsych blog and about ADHD at He can be found on Twitter at @ADaptHD_blog

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2017). Screening for ADHD With 2 Questions. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Jul 2017
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