ADHD Diagnostic Criteria Made Easy

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Diagnostic Criteria for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

The following is a practical summary of the DSM-IV criteria for Attention Deficit Disorder. The actual criteria for "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder" is available in the DSM-IV manual.


  • A lot of people, including his parents, complain that he just doesn't seem to listen when spoken to;
  • Because of not sustaining attention, or because of acting like a "space cadet," he doesn't finish his chores or homework;
  • He can't keep his mind on what he's doing for very long unless it is very exciting, or very entertaining;
  • He doesn't pay close attention to what he's doing, so he makes a lot of careless mistakes. Video games are an exception because they give immediate feedback, they are exciting, and they are fun. Chores and homework are not. The inattention is seen most with homework, chores, and other boring things that you want him to do;
  • He's really disorganized. Most commonly seen in spending three hours to finally finish his homework, then losing it at school (it’s in his backpack), or forgetting to turn it in;
  • He really tries to avoid doing homework or chores;
  • He gets distracted easily, or pays attention to the wrong thing;
  • He is often forgetful and has to be reminded to do things often.

Symptoms of IMPULSIVITY in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder:

  • He often blurts out answers in class;
  • He can't wait his turn when he is playing games or at school;
  • He interrupts others a lot, he just doesn't wait well;
  • He tends to do things without thinking about them first;
  • He does not consider the consequences of his actions.

Symptoms of HYPERACTIVITY in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder:

  • He has happy hands and feet which fidget and squirm a lot;
  • He just can't stay in his seat for very long when he's supposed to at school or the dinner table;
  • He may run around too much, or climb on things he's not supposed to;
  • Is too loud;
  • He is "On the go" as if he is "driven by a motor";
  • He talks too much;
  • Leaves footprints across the ceiling

Important: At least some of these symptoms must have been seen before the age of seven.

Also Important: At least some of the symptoms are seen both at home and at school.

Also Also Important: These behaviors are really a problem. Not just a little bit, but a lot.

adhd inattentive type

For a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Inattentive Type:

  • Six or more from the Inattention list.

adhd hyperactive

For a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Impulsive-Hyperactive Type:

  • Six or more from the Impulsive or Hyperactive lists.

For a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Combined Type:

  • Both criteria are met.

Attempt at legal disclaimer. This is just for your information. We want you to know that there are several reasons why a child could have these symptoms besides Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. For example, thyroid problems, depression, anxiety disorders, hearing problems, and so on. Please do not attempt to "diagnose" your child. Follow the steps in the Diagnosis section. See your doctor. Go to a qualified mental health professional. This web site is no substitute for talking with an expert on ADHD.

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