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How is Someone with ADHD Diagnosed?

When it comes to diagnosing an individual with ADHD, it’s important to remember that there is no single test that determines if you, your child or someone else has it.


There are many other disorders that share similarities with ADHD, such as anxiety, depression, different types of learning disabilities, and sleep disorders.


If you are concerned that your child has ADHD, be sure to speak with a healthcare provider before jumping to any conclusions. Your healthcare provider can help you determine if the symptoms seen in your child are indicative of whether or not they have ADHD.


Criteria for Being Diagnosed with ADHD

When it comes to actually diagnosing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, healthcare providers follow the guidelines as set by the American Psychiatric Association in their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.


1. Inattention - Six or more of the following symptoms must be found in children up to 16 years of age, as well as five or more for adolescents and adults. They must also be inappropriate for the individual’s developmental level.

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

  • Often has difficulty holding attention

  • Often doesn’t seem to listen when spoken to

  • Often doesn’t follow through with instructions or fails to finish a task

  • Often has trouble with organization

  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to take on tasks that require mental effort for a long time

  • Often loses things necessary for tasks (i.e. school materials like pencils or a backpack)

  • Often gets easily distracted

  • Often gets forgetful with daily activities

2. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity - Six or more of the following symptoms must be found in children up to 16 years of age, as well as five or more for adolescents and adults. They must also be inappropriate for the individual’s developmental level.

  • Often fidgets, squirms in seat or taps hands and feet

  • Often leaves seat when remaining seated is expected

  • Often engages in physical activities that are not appropriate

  • Is often unable to play or take part in activities quietly

  • Often acts “on the go” or “driven by a motor”

  • Talks excessively often

  • Often blurts out answers before a question has been finished

  • Often can’t wait their turn

  • Interrupts often

In addition to the inattentive, hyperactive and impulsive symptoms that must be present, the following conditions must also be seen in the individual:

  • Several inattentive, hyperactive or impulsive symptoms were present prior to the age of 12

  • Several symptoms are present in more than one setting (i.e. at school, home work, with friends or family members)

  • There is clear evidence that their symptoms interfere with their ability to do school work, socialize, or function at work

  • The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (i.e. anxiety, dissociative, or personality)


Observing National ADHD Awareness Month

During the month of October, we encourage you to learn more about ADHD and its symptoms, especially if you or your loved one is diagnosed with it.


To learn more, be sure to check out these top resources:

The American Psychiatric Association

The National Institute of Mental Health

The American Academy of Pediatrics

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