Recognize the Symptoms of ADHD for Proper Diagnosis and Treatment

Symptoms of ADHD

Symptoms of ADHDAttention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is one of the best known but least understood mental health conditions.  It is so well know because practically everyone knows someone with the diagnosis.  Reports claim that between 5 percent of children and 2.5 percent of adults meet the criteria for the diagnosis.  This means that 1 out of every 20 children and 1 out of every 40 adults have ADHD.  ADHD affects students, teachers, doctors, lawyers, mothers and fathers.

ADHD is one of the least understood disorders because, despite its prevalence, there is still a bit of confusion regarding the symptoms.  Some think that ADHD is only for children while others think that you can have ADHD as an adult without symptoms as a child.  Some think that ADHD is over diagnosed or is a way to pathologize normal functioning.  Some people still tell doctors that they have ADD even though that term has not been used in over 20 years.

To address something as tricky as ADHD, it is essential that you have a firm grasp on what it is and how it operates.  Without a good understanding, you could be using your limited resources in inefficient or counterproductive ways.  Read on to understand ADHD from a mental health professional’s point of view and to learn how to differentiate between ADHD, and what you can do to help along the way.

Diagnostic Criteria

Mental health professionals use a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) to assess and diagnosis mental health issues.  Since the book is currently on its fifth revision, you will hear professionals refer to the DSM5.  The book contains every diagnosis, and what symptoms need to be present to receive the diagnosis.


ADHD criteria are broken up into two categories.


Luckily, ADHD is a very descriptive name for a mental health disorder so you can probably guess the two categories symptoms fall.  The first is inattention.  There are nine possible symptoms but the child in your life only needs six to meet the criteria in this section.  Inattention symptoms include:

  • Making careless mistakes or not paying attention to details at school, work or home.
  • Difficulty paying attention for long periods of time.
  • Difficulty listening when someone is speaking to them.
  • Difficulty following directions and problems completing tasks and assignments due to poor follow through.
  • Difficulty getting or staying organized, being messy with poor time management.
  • Avoids, dislikes and is hesitant to engage in activities that require high levels of mental effort.
  • Difficulty locating items/ often loses items and materials necessary for completing tasks.
  • Is easily distracted by sights and sounds going on around them.
  • Difficulty remembering assignments, chores and other responsibilities.

Next page: symptoms of impulsivity and hyperactivity. 

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