What Is ADHD?

ADHD is considered a developmental syndrome of impairments primarily involving attention, focus, working memory, motivation and emotional regulation. Many adults with ADHD have struggled and suffered all their lives without an understanding of these impairments. Often they are misdiagnosed as having mood disorders. ADHD is highly heritable; one in four adults with this syndrome has a parent with it as well.

Diagnostic Criteria For ADHD

The diagnosis of ADHD can be challenging because of the range and severity of symptoms. It is important to be evaluated by a medical or mental health professional who is experienced in conducting an in depth clinical interview in this area. It is also important to have your symptoms managed by a provider who is experienced with the medications to treat ADHD and in providing support to optimize overall mental well being.

The DSM 5-Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition is published by the American Psychiatric Association to diagnose mental health conditions based upon specific criteria that are persistent. For the diagnosis of ADHD an adult must have at least 5 of 9 symptoms related to inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interfere with functioning.


  • 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
  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms


  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms
  • Often has difficulty remaining seated when expected
  • Often feels restless
  • Often unable to take part in leisure activities quietly
  • Is often ‘on the go’
  • 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 (butts into conversations)

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, (such as 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 are not better explained by another mental disorder (such as a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder). The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic 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.

Do I Have ADHD?

Take this TEST to see if you should consult Dr. Heithaus or another a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment of ADHD.