The Impact of Failing to Identify Suspect Effort in Patients Undergoing Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Assessment

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Abstract

This retrospective study examines how many adult patients would plausibly receive a diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) if performance and symptom validity measures were not administered during neuropsychological evaluations. Five hundred fifty-four patients were extracted from an archival clinical dataset. A total of 102 were diagnosed with ADHD based on cognitive testing, behavior rating scales, effort testing, and clinical interview; 115 were identified as putting forth suspect effort in accordance with the Slick, Sherman, and Iverson (1999) criteria. From a clinical decision-making perspective, suspect effort and ADHD groups were nearly indistinguishable on ADHD behavior, executive function, and functional impairment rating scales, as well as on cognitive testing and key clinical interview questions. These results suggest that a significant percentage of those making a suspect effort will be diagnosed with ADHD using the most commonly employed assessment methods: an interview alone (71%); an interview and ADHD behavior rating scales combined (65%); and an interview, behavior rating scales, and most continuous performance tests combined (62%). This research makes clear that it is essential to evaluate task engagement and possible symptom amplification during clinical evaluations.

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