Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a symptom spectrum disorder. This means that there is a spectrum of symptoms and a diagnosis relies on, among other things, a number of those symptoms being present and having a negative effect on the subject. Someone having been diagnosed with ADHD is sometimes said to be “on the spectrum.”

The breakdown

The symptoms are divided into two distinct groups. These two groups are symptoms of inattentiveness, and symptoms of hyperactiveness and/or impulsiveness.

There are three possible subtypes of ADHD that are based on where the subjects preponderance of symptoms lie in these two groups. These subtypes are the Predominantly Inattentive subtype, the Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive subtype, and the Combined subtype.

According to the DSM …

The DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual revision V ) requires that for a diagnosis of ADHD: Predominantly Inattentive, six of the symptoms of inattention need to be present in persons 16 years of age and less, and five or more are required for a diagnosis in persons 17 years of age and older. The list of symptoms of inattention are as follows:

  • 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.

The DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual revision V ) requires that for a diagnosis of ADHD: Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive, six of the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity need to be present in persons 16 years of age and less, and five or more are required for a diagnosis in persons 17 years of age and older. The list of symptoms of inattention are as follows:

  • 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)

AS well as having an adequate number of the above symptoms identified, a diagnosis also requires that the following conditions, as outlined also in the DSM, 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).

The World Health Organization (WHO) also has some thoughts on the matter

The WHO (World Health Organization) offers a test known as the Adult ADHD Self Reporting Scale that gives us a slightly different perspective on the symptoms involved in ADHD. Each question is answered using a gradient scale where the person completing the test checks a box that corresponds to one of the answers: Never; Rarely; Sometimes; Often; Very Often.

Part A
  1. How often do you have trouble wrapping up the final details of a project, once the challenging parts have been done?
  2. How often do you have difficulty getting things in order when you have to do a task that requires organization?
  3. How often do you have problems remembering appointments or obligations?
  4. When you have a task that requires a lot of thought, how often do you avoid or delay getting started?
  5. How often do you fidget or squirm with your hands or feet when you have to sit down for a long time?
  6. How often do you feel overly active and compelled to do things, like you were driven by a motor?
Part B
  1. How often do you make careless mistakes when you have to work on a boring or difficult project?
  2. How often do you have difficulty keeping your attention when you are doing boring or repetitive work?
  3. How often do you have difficulty concentrating on what people say to you, even when they are speaking to you directly?
  4. How often do you misplace or have difficulty finding things at home or at work?
  5. How often are you distracted by activity or noise around you?
  6. How often do you leave your seat in meetings or other situations in which you are expected to remain seated?
  7. How often do you feel restless or fidgety?
  8. How often do you have difficulty unwinding and relaxing when you have time to yourself?
  9. How often do you find yourself talking too much when you are in social situations?
  10. When you’re in a conversation, how often do you find yourself finishing the sentences of the people you are talking to, before they can finish them themselves?
  11. How often do you have difficulty waiting your turn in situations when turn taking is required?
  12. How often do you interrupt others when they are busy?

It should be noted that the WHO checklist is meant not to diagnose on its own, but to “ […] provide information that is critical to supplement the diagnostic process.” according to the documentation that accompanies the ASRS.

This is not an exhaustive list of symptoms, but rather the list of symptoms as defined by two of the worlds leading organizations who concern themselves with the health of the human mind.

As an addendum to this list of symptoms, there have been many items identified as being either peculiar to ADHD or, at the least, more likely to occur among the segment of the population that has ADHD present in their lives. Some of those things are identified in the article, ADHD’s Symptom Like Oddities.