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The Importance of Diagnosis: Sharing Symptoms ADHD Style

The DSM IV TR wherein you'll find the current criteria for ADHD diagnosis

ADHD is a Symptom Spectrum Disorder. You’ve heard it before. If you don’t know what that means, I’ll explain it in broad strokes. The subject in question manifests a requisite number of symptoms from a set list that collectively have a known negative effect.

ADHD is not being easily distracted and it’s not being forgetful. It’s not being hyper-active. It’s not being impulsive. Nor is it being able to hyperfocus exclusively on something to the exclusion of other, possibly more important things. ADHD is not any of these things, but it is many of these things and in extreme cases it is all of these things and more.

These are symptoms?

ADHD symptoms, oddly enough, are prevalent throughout humanity in ADHDers and non-ADHDers alike. What makes us different, makes us deserving of the diagnosis is the frequency and intensity of those symptoms and the extent of their effects.

“What was it I wanted?”

Ask a non-ADHDer if they’ve ever walked into a room and said to themselves “What am I doing here?” and they’ll answer “Of course I’ve done that, who hasn’t?” But ask them when they did it last and they may not be able to tell you. Why? Because it likely didn’t happen today or yesterday either.

Ask an ADHDer if they’ve ever done that and they’ll also answer yes. The difference is that this happens twenty times a day or more for us. We won’t be able to tell you when it happened last ’cause we won’t remember which of the last five times it happened was actually the last of them. And we know it’s going to happen again … soon.

But back to the spectrum disorder thingy

Screening tests for ADHD suggest symptoms in common with screening tests for other mental health disorders and illnesses.

Here are some examples:

Anxiety Screening Quiz: Constant or persistent worry; Irritable or difficulty sleeping; Avoid situations because of anxiety

Depression Screening Test: It is hard for me to concentrate on reading.; I have difficulty making decisions.; I am agitated and keep moving around. (more if needed)

Goldberg Bipolar Screening Quiz: At times I am much more talkative or speak much faster than usual.; At times I have been much more interested in sex than usual.; For no apparent reason I sometimes have been VERY angry or hostile.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Screening Quiz: Have you worried a lot about terrible things happening, such as: losing something valuable?; harm coming to a loved one because you weren’t careful enough?

Schizophrenia Screening Quiz: I feel it is very difficult for me to express myself in words that others can understand. I feel I share absolutely nothing in common with others, including my friends and family. I find it difficult to get a hold of my thoughts.

Wow, so which disorder do I have, or do I have all of them?

Sadly, many of us do have co-morbid disorders. But the real point to be taken from this is that there is no substitute for a professional diagnosis.

The world can argue about treatment and medication, but the most effective repair for your self esteem is finding your disorder’s name. The knowledge that you aren’t weird or odd; you are in fact, not unique, not alone, that knowledge is liberating.

If you disagree with a diagnosis, by all means question it, you have the right to be a part of your mental health care, but do not avoid assessment. And do please consider treatment and therapy.

The Importance of Diagnosis: Sharing Symptoms ADHD Style

Kelly Babcock

I was born in the city of Toronto in 1959, but moved when I was in my fourth year of life. I was raised and educated in a rural setting, growing up in a manner I like to refer to as free range. I live in an area where my family history stretches back 6 or more generations. I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 50 and have been both struggling with the new reality and using my discoveries to make my life better. I write two blogs here at Psych Central, one about having ADHD and one that is a daily positive affirmation that acts as an example of finding the good in as much of my life as I possibly can.

Find out more about me on my website: writeofway.

email me at ADHD Man

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APA Reference
Babcock, K. (2011). The Importance of Diagnosis: Sharing Symptoms ADHD Style. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Oct 2011
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