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Article by:-
Mareli Fischer Masters Student University of Cape Town
Department of Psychology ACSENT Laboratory

Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

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 types)

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 to
them sustaining more injuries and accidents than others.

The Combined subtype is characterized by symptoms of both Inattentive Type and Hyperactive Type.

Clinical Diagnoses

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 directly.
3. Often does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace
    (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 developmental level:


1. Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
2. Often gets up from seat when remaining in seat is expected.
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 activities quietly.
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 been finished.
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 for by
    another mental disorder
   (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).

Based on these criteria, three types of ADHD are identified:

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 met
    for the past six months.

For any more information or questions on ADHD, please contact Mareli Fischer on