ADHD is a neurobiological disorder that represents problems at the nerve center where neurotransmitters like dopamine help messages transfer from one nerve to another. It’s important to realize this in order to keep in mind that it is a medical diagnosis for a good reason!
The DSM-5, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was written by the American Psychiatric Association and guides mental health providers on an accurate diagnosis of ADHD. It was recently (2013) updated for further accuracy and to allow for a better assessment of adult ADHD. The age by which children were diagnosed was age 7. This age has now changed to age 12. This allows for the health care provider to look back during middle school years to document the presence of symptoms, rather than have to document a much earlier age of onset that might be impossible to remember for the client.
The three kinds of ADHD, inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive and a combined presentation used to be considered subtypes. They are now considered presentations that can allow for variation and intensity.
Children are diagnosed with six or more symptoms of any of the presentations. Older teens and adults need five of the symptoms to be diagnosed.
• Not paying attention
• Not organized
• Inability to sustain focus
• Difficulty in following directions
• Frequently losing things
• Out of seat
• Driven by a motor
• Talks incessantly
• Inability to wait turn
This includes a combination of the two previous presentations. Everyone is different and each will have a variety of different symptoms, some of which may not even impair day to day living.
These changes have allowed for better and more effective diagnosis. It is important for the health care provider to be aware of this tool of diagnosis before confirming and handing out prescriptions for ADHD. Many disorders are similar and many have co-existing disorders that may cloud the diagnosis. Remember, one or two symptoms stated to a doctor that may or may not be present in two environments does not confirm that diagnosis!