Identifying ADHD through writing?


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is medically diagnosed according to specific criteria. However, a new method could make it possible to identify people with this disorder, although not replacing a real diagnosis.

𝐒𝐭𝐲𝐥𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐫𝐲 is a technique most often used to 𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐟𝐲 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐨𝐫 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫𝐬 who have written a text in the legal field. This analysis technique statistically describes the 𝐬𝐭𝐲𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐜 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐚 𝐭𝐞𝐱𝐭, such as the distribution of character sequences, tool words (articles, prepositions, auxiliaries, coordinating conjunctions, etc.), by testing different variations.

The authors of a recently published study examined texts written by 198 adolescents, some of whom had been 𝐝𝐢𝐚𝐠𝐧𝐨𝐬𝐞𝐝 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐀𝐃𝐇𝐃. Each participant was asked to write three texts concerning significant biographical memories dating back less than 1 year, with detailed descriptions, and with a specific word count. The results showed that adolescents with ADHD had 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐝𝐢𝐟𝐟𝐢𝐜𝐮𝐥𝐭𝐲 𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐯𝐞𝐬, using "we" more than "I" in particular. Compared to the control group, they also used fewer plurals, described less varied experiences, and text lengths were different. This technique was able to classify texts as coming from the ADHD group or the control group with an 𝐚𝐜𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐲 𝐨𝐟 𝟖𝟓% 𝐭𝐨 𝟗𝟐%, depending on the stylistic parameter studied.

Although the results are promising, this technique still needs to be refined and is 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐫𝐞𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐚 𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥 𝐝𝐢𝐚𝐠𝐧𝐨𝐬𝐢𝐬. For example, it would be interesting to study whether this method can also be used to distinguish the 𝐝𝐢𝐟𝐟𝐞𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐦𝐨𝐝𝐚𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐀𝐃𝐇𝐃 (predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive, or both). Stylometry is therefore an interesting way of identifying 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞𝐥𝐲 𝐭𝐨 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐀𝐃𝐇𝐃, much like a screening test.