Criteria for a diagnosis of adult ADHD

What is the criteria ?

  1. significant impairments in adult life
  2. parent or guardian noting problems with impairments before the age of 7 and / or between the age of 7 and 12.
  3. evidence from medical records of ADHD between the age of 7 and 12, and / or before the age of 7.

1 and 2 or 3 or both 2 and 3


Personally I hate the fact that it requires problems as a child. What if the child is only bad at one thing – having a typical job? And yet, as a child, BECAUSE HE WAS A CHILD, he never tried to have a job. So, he genuinely has ADHD, but he won’t be “allowed” (by the usual standards in the USA) to be diagnosed as such, simply because he didn’t fail miserably to do adult things when he wasn’t an adult.

THIS MAKES NO SENSE. People who are good at being entertained by others, and have the benefit of being in a school which views pedagogy as something which should entertain the children, will be people who do well in school. Later, they may also learn that they are bad at doing very boring drudgery type tasks, tasks which they were never asked to do while in school because they went to an interesting competent school that didn’t believe in drudgery. Their school thought learning should be fun! And these people, who require fun stimulation, clearly ADHDers, will be forever treated as though they have no ADHD, because they made the mistake of going to a school that wasn’t as boring and drudgery-filled as their jobs will be. I’m so angry at this stupid system … grr … Or even if the school wasn’t particularly entertaining (or otherwise enlightened), nevertheless the capacity to do well or poorly during school-age as an ADHDer does not predict a capacity to do well or poorly at a workplace! Of course it doesn’t! Why would anyone expect it to? And yet the ADHD criteria implicitly require it to do so.

Personally, I’ve had a hard time getting adequate adult treatment and accommodations. The systems insist on treating me as though I don’t have ADHD, but, not because I lack diagnosis of ADHD. I have a good diagnosis, with all the documents. But I did well during my school years, got high grades. So, most institutions point out that I have a lack of record of any failings as a child, and therefore they reject my AHDH diagnosis. What can I do, go back in time and point out all the occasions when I procrastinated? Identify the six or seven anti-social episodes when I got frustrated with unjust administrators and got violent, but which, because administrators were nice, didn’t go onto my record? It’s idiotic that the only way you can prove you’ve got a condition, is to have a record of that condition from a time when you were too young to know how to keep records, especially if the people who were keeping those records for you also didn’t know you had that condition. “Hi, ADHDer, if you hadn’t had ADHD you’d be much better at documenting your ADHD.” WTF!!!


DSM-5 Criteria for ADHD

People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity–impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development:

  1. Inattention: Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16 years, or five or more for adolescents age 17 years and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level:
  • 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.
  1. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16 years, or five or more for adolescents age 17 years and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:
  • 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 their turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games)
In addition, the following conditions must be met:
  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years.
  • Several symptoms are present in two or more settings, (such as 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 are not better explained by another mental disorder (such as a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder). The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.
Based on the types of symptoms, three kinds (presentations) of ADHD can occur:
  • Combined Presentation : if enough symptoms of both criteria inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity were present for the past 6 months
  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation : if enough symptoms of inattention, but not hyperactivity-impulsivity, were present for the past six months
  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation : if enough symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity, but not inattention, were present for the past six months.

Because symptoms can change over time, the presentation may change over time as well.

This is dirreectly from the CDC website dont ask why i jsut had that opened.

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@ALADDIN, this might be a good reference site for you:

The criteria looks the same, but it has additional helpful info regarding getting diagnosed with ADHD in the UK.


Did not think of the fact of country differences

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Yes. It’s a weird double-edged sword to be super well-supported as a kid with undiagnosed ADHD. Looking back I can see that I had impairments as a kid, but also that my family (many of whom also have undiagnosed ADHD) did a huge number of things to accommodate me. They did an amazing job creating conditions where I could thrive and they didn’t even consciously recognize that they were creating supports for a specific challenge or doing anything other than being involved parents/siblings/etc. A number of my teachers did that too, and perhaps a few of them had some inkling of why and what they were doing, but many appear to have not. This really helped me be successful as a kid. I am incredibly fortunate, but it also means that it’s hard to demonstrate the impairments even though they have been there all along.

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Sounds as though you and I have had some similar experiences, especially in our upbringings. :slight_smile: