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Mareli Fischer Masters Student University
of Cape Town
Department of Psychology ACSENT Laboratory
Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
It is estimated that 3-7% of children suffer from
ADHD, while it is diagnosed approximately three
times more often in boys than in girls. As one
of the most common neuro-behavioral disorders
of childhood, ADHD can persist through adolescence
and into adulthood. Because this disorder is so
prevalent, and also so often misdiagnosed, it
is important for parents and teachers to be educated
on the symptoms that constitute diagnoses.
Three Subtypes of ADHD
Firstly, one has to note that there are three
subtypes of the disorder, namely:
• Predominantly Inattentive Type
• Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Type
• Combined Type (symptoms of both the other two
The Inattentive subtype (ADD) is characterized
with difficulties in organizing or finishing tasks,
executing daily routines, paying attention to
details, and following instructions or conversations.
These children are often described as dreamers.
The Hyperactive subtype (ADHD) is characterized
by fidgeting and excessive talking, inability
to sit still, running, jumping or climbing constantly,
while children are also prone to impulsivity,
for example interrupting others, grabbing objects
and inappropriate verbal outbursts.
It is hard for them to wait their turn or listen
to directions, while impulsivity may also lead
them sustaining more injuries and accidents than
The Combined subtype is characterized by
symptoms of both Inattentive Type and Hyperactive
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental
Disorders (DSM) is published by the American
Psychiatric Association and provides diagnostic
criteria for mental disorders. Many mental health
professionals use this book to determine and help
communicate a patient's diagnosis after an evaluation;
hospitals, clinics, and insurance companies also
generally require a DSM diagnosis of all
the patients treated. The DSM can be used
to establish a diagnosis or categorize patients
using diagnostic criteria. The DSM, including
DSM-IV, is a registered trademark belonging
to the American Psychiatric Association.
According to the DSM’s latest version (IV)
a diagnoses for ADHD requires the following:
A. Six or more of the following symptoms of inattention
have been present for at least 6 months to
a point that is disruptive
and inappropriate for developmental level:
Often does not give close attention to details
or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work,
or other activities.
1. Often has trouble keeping attention on tasks
or play activities.
2. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to
3. Often does not follow instructions and fails
to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the
(not due to oppositional behavior
or failure to understand instructions).
4. Often has trouble organizing activities.
5. Often avoids, dislikes, or doesn't want to
do things that take a lot of mental effort
for a long period of
time (such as schoolwork or homework).
6. Often loses things needed for tasks and activities
(e.g. toys, school assignments, pencils,
books, or tools).
7. Is often easily distracted.
8. Is often forgetful in daily activities.
B. Six or more of the following symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity
have been present for at
least 6 months to an
extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for
1. Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms
2. Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat
3. Often runs about or climbs when and where it
is not appropriate
(adolescents or adults may
feel very restless).
4. Often has trouble playing or enjoying leisure
5. Is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven
by a motor".
6. Often talks excessively.
1. Often blurts out answers before questions have
2. Often has trouble waiting one's turn.
3. Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g.,
butts into conversations or games).
II. Some symptoms that cause impairment were present
before age 7 years.
III. Some impairment from the symptoms is present
in two or more settings
(e.g. at school/work
and at home).
IV. There must be clear evidence of significant
impairment in social, school, or work functioning.
V. The symptoms do not happen only during the
course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder,
Schizophrenia, or other Psychotic
Disorder. The symptoms are not better accounted
another mental disorder
(e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder,
Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).
Based on these criteria, three types of ADHD are
1. ADHD, Combined Type: if both criteria 1A and
1B are met for the past 6 months
2. ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type: if criterion
1A is met but criterion 1B is not met for
the past six months
3. ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type:
if Criterion 1B is met but Criterion 1A is not
for the past six months.
For any more information or questions on ADHD,
please contact Mareli Fischer on firstname.lastname@example.org