Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms

A diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder rests on this set of symptoms, which may be evaluated by psychiatrists or other mental health professionals. Also see the separate page on the ICD-10 approach to ADHD (“ADD and ADHD: ICD-10 Criteria for Hyperkinesis”).

Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

The following specific diagnostic criteria for ADHD are reproduced verbatim (except for codings and page references) from the DSM-IV, the immediate predessor of the current DSM-IV TR (where ‘IV TR’ indicates fourth edition, text revision).

Diagnostic Criteria for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

A. Either (1) or (2):

(1) six (or more) of the following symptoms of inattention have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental levels:


  • (A) Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
  • (B) Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
  • (C) Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • (D) Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behaviour or failure to understand instructions).
  • (E) Often has difficulty organising tasks and activities
  • (F) Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • (G) Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools).
  • (H) Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli.
  • (I) Is often forgetful in daily activities.

2. six or more of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:

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  • (A) often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
  • (B) often leaves seat in classroom or in other situation in which remaining seated is expected.
  • (C) often runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which it is inappropriate ( in adolescents or adults, may be limited to subjective feelings of restlessness)
  • (D) often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • (E) is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor”
  • (F) often talks excessively.


  • (G) often blurts out answers before questions have been compleated.
  • (H) often has difficulty awaiting turn.
  • (I) often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., at school or work and at home).

B. Some hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive symptoms that caused impairment were present before age 7 years.

C. Some impairment from the symptoms is present in two or more settings (e.g., at school or work and at home).

D. There must be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.

E. The symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia, or other Psychotic Disorder and are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (e.g., Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).

The DSM-IV distinguishes between the following types of ADHD:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, combined type: if both criteria A1 and A2 are met for the past six months.
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, predominantly inattentive type: if criterion A1 is met but criterion A2 is not met for the past six months.
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type: if criterion A2 is met but criterion A1 is not met for the past six months.

All clinical material on this site is peer reviewed by one or more qualified mental health professionals. This specific article was originally published by on and was last reviewed or updated by Dr Greg Mulhauser, Managing Editor on .

Our material is not intended as a substitute for direct consultation with a qualified mental health professional. Please seek professional advice if you are experiencing any mental health concern.

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