Diagnosing ADHD

Learn How ADHD Is Diagnosed

The following symptom checklist is used in diagnosing ADHD, otherwise known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADD.

While there is no traditional “test” used in diagnosing ADHD, a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is based on symptom and behavior observation.

The condition is diagnosed via the diagnostic criteria found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is used by mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, and counselors to diagnose mental illnesses. 

Diagnostic Criteria For ADHD

Six or more of the following symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months to a point that is inappropriate for developmental level:

1) Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.

2) Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.

3) Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.

4) Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions).

5) Often has trouble organizing activities.

6) Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn't want to do things that take a lot of mental effort for a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).

7) Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).

8) Is often easily distracted.

9) Is often forgetful in daily activities.

Other Important Diagnostic Criteria

In addition, six or more of the following symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:

1) Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat when sitting still is expected.

2) Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected.

3) Often excessively runs about or climbs when and where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may feel very restless).

4) Often has trouble playing or doing leisure activities quietly.

5) Is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor".

diagnosing adhd

6) Often talks excessively.

7) Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished.

8) Often has trouble waiting one's turn.

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

In addition to the above, some symptoms that cause impairment must have been present prior to age 7, some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (e.g. at school/work and at home).

Also, there must be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, school, or work functioning, the symptoms do not happen only during the course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, or other Psychotic Disorder, and the symptoms are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).

Based on these criteria, three types of ADHD are identified...

IA. ADHD, Combined Type: if both criteria IA and IB are met for the past 6 months

IB. ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type: if criterion IA is met but criterion IB is not met for the past six months

IC. ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: if Criterion

IB is met but Criterion IA is not met for the past six months. 

Other Assessments Used In Diagnosing ADHD

In addition, there are other methods in diagnosing ADHD. These tests include ratings scales, surveys, questionnaires, and checklists that are used for diagnosing Attention Deficit disorder. Parent-completed Child Behavior Checklist

Teacher Report Form (TRF) of the Child Behavior Checklist
Conners Parent and Teacher Rating Scales
ADD-H: Comprehensive Teacher Rating Scale (ACTeRS)
Barkley Home Situations Questionnaire (HSQ)
Barkley School Situations Questionnaire (SSQ)

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