ESPECIALLY FOR TEENS:
Excerpts from A Bird's-Eye View of Life with ADD and ADHD:
Advice from Young Survivors, 2nd ed (2007) (Summaries 2 & 3)
(Summary 2: "How Do I Know If I Have ADD or ADHD?")
Alex Zeigler and Chris A. Zeigler Dendy
Let me briefly explain how doctors decide if you have an attention deficit. Here are some basic facts you should know:
- There is no single test that confirms that you have attention deficit disorder. The doctor looks at a lot of information and has to make a judgment about whether or not you have ADD or ADHD.
- Underachievement or doing badly in school is usually a key symptom. Teachers may fill out a checklist that shows where you have problems. Report cards may contain comments like "does not pay attention," "fails to complete work," and "does not use time wisely." Teachers may say, "You're really smart but you are not living up to your potential."
- In order to be given an official diagnosis of ADD or ADHD, you must be having problems in two places. In other words, it usually shows up both at home and at school and later on at work.
- The official list of symptoms of ADD and ADHD is contained in a document called the DSM-IV.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fourth edition (DSM-IV)
Although the new DSM-V is not due until 2013, here is a simplified list of the symptoms with the new proposed revisions:
A) Inattentive. Doctors call this ADHD, predominately inattentive; teachers call this ADD. You will be diagnosed with this type of attention deficit if you have six of the nine symptoms listed below. If you are older than 17, only four symptoms are required.
- Doesn't pay close attention to details or makes careless errors
- Difficulty sustaining attention
- Doesn't seem to listen
- Doesn't follow through or finish chores or schoolwork
- Avoids schoolwork and homework that required sustained attention
- Loses things
- Easily distracted
- Forgetful in daily activities
B) Hyperactive-Impulsive. Doctors call this ADHD, predominately hyperactive-impulsive; teachers call this just plain ADHD. These symptoms describe what you were like in elementary school. You will be diagnosed with this type of attention deficit if you have six of the thirteen symptoms listed below. If you are older than 17, only four symptoms are required. The last three characteristics are new and will be officially added in 2013.
- Fidgets or squirms in your seat
- Restless, can't stay in your seat
- Runs or climbs a lot (teenagers may feel restless)
- Excessively loud, difficulty playing quietly
- "On the go;" acts if "driven by a motor"
- Talks a lot
- Blurts out answers
- Can't wait for your turn
- Interrupts; butts into conversations or games
- acts without thinking
- impatient, restless while waiting
- uncomfortable doing things slowly and systematically, rushes through work
- difficult to resist temptations and opportunities, takes risks
C) Combined hyperactive and inattentive. If you have a total of 12 symptoms (8 for older teens), six in each section, then doctors say you have ADHD Combined Type. Teachers also call this ADHD. The new criteria will also state that symptoms must be observed by age 12 (it was raised from age seven to twelve).
If you want to know more about diagnosing ADD or ADHD, several good books are listed in the References list.
The official diagnostic criteria for AD/HD are contained in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fourth Edition. Washington DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994.