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How to diagnose ADHD?

There is no single test that can diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and adults. ADHD is diagnosed after a person has shown some or all of the symptoms of ADHD on a regular basis for more than six months. In addition, symptoms must be present in more than one setting.

Depending on the number and type of symptoms, a person will be diagnosed with one of three subtypes of ADHD: Primarily Inattentive, Primarily Hyperactive or Combined subtype.

How is ADHD diagnosis made?

ADHD diagnosis is made based only on observable behavior. Behavior may be caused by a number of things.

Does ADHD diagnosis consider any of the triggers responsible for causing ADHD like behavior?

Inspite of various proven triggers/causes of ADHD behavior, identified by various studies, ADHD diagnosis criteria neither specifies nor considers what might be triggering ADHD like behaviors.

What are the triggers responsible for causing ADHD like behavior?

There are a whole list of causes which can cause ADHD like behaviors. Some of them are neurotoxicity, environmental factors, vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, vision problems, auditory processing issues etc.

Find the extensive list of the triggers causing ADHD behavior here.

What is the conventional medical process followed for diagnosing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder?

Deciding if a person has ADHD is a multi-step process.

The below abstract is taken from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for dignosing ADHD.

The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth edition (DSM-5)1, is used by mental health professionals to help diagnose ADHD. It was released in May 2013 and replaces the previous version, the text revision of the fourth edition (DSM-IV-TR). This diagnostic standard helps ensure that people are appropriately diagnosed and treated for ADHD. Using the same standard across communities will help determine how many children have ADHD, and how public health is impacted by this condition.

There were some changes in the DSM-5 for the diagnosis of ADHD: symptoms can now occur by age 12 rather than by age 6; several symptoms now need to be present in more than one setting rather than just some impairment in more than one setting; new descriptions were added to show what symptoms might look like at older ages; and for adults and adolescents age 17 or older, only 5 symptoms are needed instead of the 6 needed for younger children.

Here are the criteria in shortened form taken from center for disease control. Please note that they are presented just for your information. Only trained health care providers can diagnose or treat ADHD.

What is DSM-5 Criteria for ADHD diagnosis?

People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development:


Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level:

Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.

* Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.

* Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.

* Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).

* Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.

* Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).

* Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).

* Is often easily distracted

* Is often forgetful in daily activities.

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity

Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:

* Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.

* Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.

* Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).

* Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.

* Is often "on the go" acting as if "driven by a motor".

* Often talks excessively.

* Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.

* Often has trouble waiting his/her turn.

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

In addition, the following conditions must be met:

Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years.

* Several symptoms are present in two or more setting, (e.g., at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).

* There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.

* The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder. The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).

* Based on the types of symptoms, three kinds (presentations) of ADHD can occur:

Combined Presentation

if enough symptoms of both criteria inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity were present for the past 6 months

Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: if enough symptoms of inattention, but not hyperactivity-impulsivity, were present for the past six months

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: if enough symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity but not inattention were present for the past six months.

Because symptoms can change over time, the presentation may change over time as well.

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