ADHD – What’s in a Name?

The name or label used to capture the group of symptons that make up ADHD has changed over the years. In 1980, it was referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder with or without hyperactivity. At present, we use these terms:

  • ADHD, predominantly inattentive type
  • ADHD, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type
  • ADHD, combined type

Definition and Characteristics of ADHD

ADHD is a developemental (present early in life) disorder resulting in one or both of the following core problems:

Inattention Hyperactivity/Impulsivity

Health professionals use the DSM IV, the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, to determine if an individual has the symptons and meets the guidelines for a diagnosis of ADHD.

Definition and Characteristics of ADHD

In order to be diagnosed with ADHD:

  • The list of symptoms must be present for at least the past 6 months
  • Some symptoms must be present before 7 years of age
  • Some impairment from the symptoms must be present in 2 or more settings (eg. school and home)
  • There must be significant impairment in social, academic or occupational areas
  • The symptoms cannot be primarily caused by another psychiatric condition

DSM IV Symptoms of Inattention


  • Careless
  • Difficulty sustaining attention in activity
  • Doesn’t listen
  • Poor follow through
  • Avoids/dislikes tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Difficulty organizing
  • Loses important items
  • Easily distractible
  • Forgetful in daily activities

DSM IV Symptoms of Hyperactivity-Impulsivity



  • Squirms and fidgets
  • Difficulty remaining seated
  • Runs/climbs excessively (may be experienced as mental restlessness in adolescents and adults)
  • Difficulty playing or working quietly
  • “On the go” / “driven by a motor”
  • Talks excessively



  • Blurts out answers
  • Difficulty waiting
  • Intrudes / interrupts others