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The symptoms of ADD (attention deficit disorder) and ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) include inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. ADD/ADHD are common in adolescents and teens. But adults also can have these disorders. In adults, symptoms may vary, as they may experience restlessness, instead of hyperactivity. Adults with ADD/ADHD have problems with social relationships and in the workplace, while adolescents and teens have problems in school and home life.
Even though science has made great strides to evaluate and treat ADD/ADHD in the general population, there is still no single definitive test available to help doctors assess this increasingly common condition. Usually doctors get a better picture of the problem after talking to the patient, family or teachers, in the case of adolescents. Behaviors, moods, productivity level, nutrition and lifestyle habits are key to attention span issues. A physical examination can assess the adult patient’s, or teen’s, overall health. But specific signs and symptoms should be evaluated before an accurate diagnosis and subsequent treatment of ADD/ADHD can occur.
The American Psychiatric Association publishes a set of criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). Doctors use this criteria to evaluate patients who may have ADD/ADHD or other mental or behavioral disorders. The patient needs to meet either the first or second set of criteria in order to receive a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD.
The first set of criteria focuses on inattentiveness. A patient with six or more of these symptoms, for at least six months, that are inconsistent with their developmental level, would receive an ADD/ADHD diagnosis. These include:
The second set of criteria focuses on hyperactivity-impulsivity. Again, the patient would have to have six or more of these symptoms, for at least six months, and are inconsistent with the person’s level of development. These include:
Impulsivity symptoms include:
After the symptoms criteria are met, additional criteria are evaluated, such as whether these symptoms were present before the age of seven. To obtain a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, impairment should be present in two or more settings, and would interfere with the person’s performance at school/work and home. The impairment needs to be clinically significant impairment with regards to social, academic or occupational functioning.