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Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Diagnosis

There is no single diagnostic test for ADHD; instead, diagnosis is a stepwise process that also has to take into consideration several other conditions, such as anxiety, learning disabilities, and anxiety, which may cause similar symptoms (CDC 2013a).

The first national survey that asked parents about ADHD was completed in 1997. Since then, there has been an increase in the number of parentally-reported ADHD diagnoses as well as in prescribing rates. However, it is difficult to tell whether this represents an increase in the number of children diagnosed or an increased number of children who developed this condition (Thomas 2013; CDC 2013a).

It is thought that some important contributors to the increasing rate of diagnosis are the lack of consistent criteria to objectively assess the severity of symptoms and the shift observed over the years in ADHD diagnostic criteria (Thomas 2013).

Diagnostic criteria describe three types of ADHD. Previously, the predominantly inattentive type included individuals with six or more symptoms of inattention and less than six symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity. The predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type included individuals with six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity and less than six symptoms of inattention. The combined type included individuals with symptoms across both these dimensions (Willcutt 2012). One of the changes incorporated in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) (adopted in 2013) is that for people over 17, five instead of six symptoms are sufficient for diagnosis (Prosser 2013; Thomas 2013).