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“On the basis of patterns of symptoms, comorbidity, and shared risk factors, ADHD was placed with neurodevelopmental disorders, but the same data also supported strong arguments to place ADHD within disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders.”1

  • American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5™)

“On the basis of patterns of symptoms, comorbidity, and shared risk factors, ADHD was placed with neurodevelopmental disorders, but the same data also supported strong arguments to place ADHD within disruptive, impulse-control, and conduct disorders.”1

  • American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5™)

To be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), individuals must meet the following criteria, adapted from DSM-5™1

Six or more symptoms of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity must have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities. For older adolescents and adults (age 17 and older), at least 5 symptoms are required.1

ADHD symptoms of inattention1
  • Makes careless mistakes/lacks attention to detail
  • Lacks sustained attention in tasks or play activities
  • Poor listener, even in the absence of obvious distraction
  • Fails to follow through on tasks and instructions
  • Difficulty with organization, time management, and deadlines
  • Avoids tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Loses things necessary for tasks or activities
  • Easily distracted (including unrelated thoughts)
  • Forgetful in daily activities
ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity1
  • Fidgets, taps hands, or squirms in seat
  • Leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected
  • Excessive running/climbing, or feelings of restlessness
  • Difficulty with quiet, leisure activities
  • Often “on-the-go”; acting as if “driven by a motor”
  • Excessive talking
  • Blurts out answers before questions even completed
  • Difficulty waiting turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others

Several ADHD symptoms must be present in 2 or more settings.1

In order to diagnose ADHD, symptoms must be persistent; confirmation of substantially impacting symptoms across settings typically cannot be accurately assessed without consulting observers who have seen the individual in the setting. Symptoms typically vary depending on setting/context. Below you will find some examples of how ADHD may affect children and adolescents at home, at school, and in social settings:

At home1
  • Is forgetful doing chores
  • Has difficulty keeping materials and belongings in order
  • Reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as homework
At school1
  • Does not follow through on instructions and fails to complete assignments
  • Overlooks or misses details in homework or schoolwork
  • Often squirms in seat and leaves seat in classroom inappropriately
In social settings1
  • Does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • Cannot wait for turn in conversation
  • May intrude into or take over what others are doing during play activities

These are not the complete diagnostic criteria. Please see DSM-5 for full diagnostic criteria. It is important to note that diagnosis should be based on a complete history of the patient.

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Reference:1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013.