Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder. The widely accepted criteria for establishing a diagnosis of ADHD requires a person to demonstrate a significant number of symptoms of inattention (distractibility), hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity with an onset in childhood that causes significant impairment in school, work, or social adjustment.

A) Either 1 or 2:

  1. Six or more of the following symptoms of inattention have persisted for at least six months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level:

    Inattention
    1. Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities
    2. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities
    3. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly
    4. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (not due to oppositional behavior or failure to understand instructions)
    5. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
    6. Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (such as homework)
    7. Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (toys, school assignments, pencils, books, or tools)
    8. Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
    9. Is often forgetful in daily activities

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

    Hyperactivity
    1. Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
    2. Often leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
    3. 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)
    4. Often has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
    5. Is often "on the go" or often acts as if "driven by a motor"
    6. Often talks excessively

    Impulsivity
    1. Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
    2. Often has difficulty awaiting turn
    3. Often interrupts or intrudes on others (such as butting into conversations or games)

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 (such as in 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 another psychotic disorder and are not better accounted for by another mental disorder (such as a mood, anxiety, dissociative, or personality disorder).

*Information consolidated from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV, American Psychiatric Press; ISBN: 0890420246


This information is provided by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.