DSM-IV Clinical Definition ADHD

For those seeking a textbook definition of ADHD, The American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV manual identifies 18 key symptoms, grouped into two different clusters: Inattention and Hyperactivity/Impulsivity. To receive a diagnosis of ADHD, you must have six out of the nine symptoms on one or both of the clusters, and your life must be impaired in some way by these symptoms.

Cluster #1: Symptoms of ADHD


  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
  7. often loses things necessary for tasks or activities
  8. is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli
  9. is often forgetful in daily activities

Cluster #2: Symptoms of ADHD


  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 when 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 acts as if “driven by a motor”
  6. often talks excessively


  1. often blurts out answers before questions have been completed
  2. often has difficulty awaiting turn
  3. often interrupts or intrudes on others


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