ADHD - Symptoms and Diagnosis

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often persists into adulthood. ADHD includes a combination of problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

Individuals with ADHD may present with both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity, or one symptom may pattern predominate. Many other problems, like anxiety, depression, and certain types of learning disabilities, can have similar symptoms.

The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth edition (DSM-5), is used by mental health professionals to help diagnose ADHD:
A-Inattentive - Six or more of the following symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months to a point that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:
  • Often does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  • Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace.
  • Often has trouble organizing activities.
  • 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).
  • Often loses things needed for tasks and activities (e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
  • Often easily distracted.
  • Often forgetful in daily activities.

B-Hyperactive and Impulsive - Six or more of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for developmental level:
  • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
  • Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected.
  • Often runs about or climbs when and where it is not appropriate.
  • Often has trouble playing or enjoying leisure activities quietly.
  • Is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor".
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often blurts out answers before questions have been finished.
  • Often has trouble waiting one's turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others.

Based on the types of symptoms, three types of ADHD are classified:
ADHD, Combined Type: if both criteria A and B are met for the past 6 months
ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Type: if criterion A is met but criterion B is not met for the past six months
ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type: if Criterion B is met but Criterion A is not met for the past six months.

Symptoms of ADHD tend to be first noticed at an early age. Most cases are diagnosed in children between the ages of 6 and 12. The symptoms usually improve with age, but many adults who are diagnosed with the condition at a young age will continue to experience problems.While treatment won't cure ADHD, it can help a great deal with symptoms.
Treatment typically involves medications and behavioral interventions. Early diagnosis and treatment can make a big difference in outcome.

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