ADHD Symptoms and Diagnosis

ADHD Symptoms and Diagnosis

A child on a tablet. ADHD symptoms and diagnosis.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), you are likely already aware of the harmful effects that symptoms of ADHD can have on functioning, both in social and school or work domains. Seeking help is the first step toward managing ADHD symptoms and diagnosis so that you or your loved one can live a more productive and fulfilling life.

Diagnosing ADHD may differ slightly depending on whether the therapist is treating a child or an adult, but overall the observation is likely to consist primarily of an interview with the person or their guardian as well as solo meeting with the therapist. If the child is attending school, your child’s therapist may ask your permission to ask the child’s teacher to report on his or her observations of your child as they compare to their same-aged peers. Your child’s therapist would then consider the teacher’s reports as additional information in a broader analysis of your child’s symptoms. In some cases, your therapist may ask you or your child to perform various paper and pencil questionnaires.

It is a relatively common disorder, occurring in about 8.4% of children and about 2.5% of adults.

ADHD Symptoms and Diagnosis

Types of ADHD: Inattentive, Hyperactive-Impulsive, and Combined

  • Inattentiveness: An individual with inattentive symptoms of ADHD may fail to give close attention to details or make careless mistakes, have difficulty sustaining attention or listening to instructions, have difficulty completing tasks and staying organized and relatedly, may avoid menial tasks that require sustained concentration.
  • Hyperactivity-Impulsive: An individual with hyperactive/impulsive symptoms of ADHD may often fidget or squirm, struggle to engage in leisure activities, often talk excessively, and/or interrupt others or blurt out answers before a question has been completed. Children with hyperactive/impulsive symptoms may also leave their seat when they are expected to remain seated, or run about or climb in inappropriate situations. To be symptoms of ADHD, these behaviors must not be solely oppositional or defiant in nature, and they are not the result of a failure to understand tasks or instructions.

An individual diagnosed with ADHD is given one of three possible sub-diagnoses. If an individual experiences symptoms primarily in only one of the above domains, a diagnosis of either predominantly inattentive or predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation would be made. When an individual exudes both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms, a diagnosis of combined presentation is made.

ADHD Diagnosis

ADHD is only diagnosed when the present symptoms cause considerable interference in functioning across areas of a person’s life. Further, symptoms must have been present in the individual before the age of 12. Later onset of inattentive or hyperactive/impulsive symptoms may be indicative of other mental health issues, as many of the symptoms of ADHD can look like symptoms of other mental disorders. For example, difficulty concentrating can also be a symptom of depression, and fidgeting can also be a symptom of anxiety. Thus, it is important that a trained mental health professional performs a thorough review in order to make an informed diagnosis and rule out other mental health issues.

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