Understanding How ADHD is Diagnosed
Therapy Session

There are numerous opinions out there about how to diagnose ADHD. It can be confusing and overwhelming for both adults and children. Below are some highlights from the CDC that helps to explain how healthcare providers diagnose ADHD and what symptoms they look for in children as well as adults.

 

For additional details please visit the CDC website, and please remember to always consult your healthcare provider for any official medical advice regarding ADHD or other medical conditions.

According to the CDC, Healthcare providers use the guidelines in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth edition (DSM-5)1 , to help diagnose ADHD. This diagnostic standard helps ensure that people are appropriately diagnosed and treated for ADHD. Using the same standard across communities can also help determine how many children have ADHD, and how public health is impacted by this condition.

DSM-5 Criteria for ADHD
Inattention

Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16 years, or five or more for adolescents age 17 years and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level: Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
 

  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.

  • Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.

  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.

  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).

  • Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.

  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).

  • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).

  • Is often easily distracted o Is often forgetful in daily activities

 Young Woman Contemplating
Hyperactive and Impulsivity

Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16 years, or five or more for adolescents age 17 years and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:

Turning
  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.

  • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.

  • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).

  • Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.

  • Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.

  • Often talks excessively

  • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.

  • Often has trouble waiting their turn.

  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)

Additional Conditions

In addition, the following conditions must be met:

  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years.

  • Several symptoms are present in two or more settings, (such as at home, school, or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).

  • There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.

  • The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (such as a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder). . The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.

Researching and Writing

Types of ADHD Presentations

Combined Presentation

Woman at Work

Inattentive Presentation

Jumping

Hyperactive  Impulsive Presentation

Based on the types of symptoms, three kinds (presentations) of ADHD can occur:

  • Combined Presentation: if enough symptoms of both criteria inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity were present for the past 6 months

  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: if enough symptoms of inattention, but not hyperactivity-impulsivity, were present for the past six months

  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: if enough symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, but not inattention, were present for the past six months.

 

Because symptoms can change over time, the presentation may change over time as well.  Symptoms might look different at older ages. For example, in adults, hyperactivity may appear as extreme restlessness or wearing others out with their activity. For more information about diagnosis and treatment throughout the lifespan, please visit the websites of the National Resource Center on ADHD and the National Institutes of Mental Health.

References :

American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition. Arlington, VA., American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

 

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html

Content source: National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities