Getting Checked

Understanding DSM-5 Criteria for Adult ADHD: A Comprehensive Guide

Learn about the ADHD diagnosis process using the DSM-5 criteria, including the different presentations and diagnostic considerations. Discover how Finding Focus offers comprehensive and affordable ADHD care.

If you're seeking a diagnosis for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), you'll undergo a thorough evaluation that involves answering specific questions about your thoughts, behaviors, and challenges. This evaluation is guided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5).

Introduction to the DSM-5

The DSM-5 is the authoritative manual used by healthcare professionals to diagnose mental health conditions, including ADHD. It organizes disorders into categories and provides criteria for each, facilitating accurate diagnoses. ADHD is categorized under "Neurodevelopmental Disorders" due to its early onset in childhood.

DSM-5 ADHD Diagnostic Criteria

ADHD is identified by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. For an ADHD diagnosis, the DSM-5 requires the following general criteria:

  • Symptoms must be present for at least 6 months.
  • Symptoms must occur in two or more settings (e.g., at home, school, work).
  • Several symptoms must have been present before age 12.
  • Symptoms must significantly impair social, academic, or occupational functioning.
  • Symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder.

ADHD can manifest in three different presentations based on predominant symptoms:

Predominantly Inattentive Presentation

To be diagnosed with predominantly inattentive ADHD, an adult must exhibit at least five of the following symptoms (six for children under 17 years):

  1. Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes.
  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 tasks.
  5. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
  6. Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks requiring 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.

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation

For predominantly hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, an adult must display at least five of the following symptoms (six for children under 17 years):

  1. Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
  2. Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
  3. Often feels restless or has difficulty staying still.
  4. Often unable to play or engage in activities quietly.
  5. Often "on the go," acting as if "driven by a motor."
  6. Often talks excessively.
  7. Often blurts out answers before questions have been completed.
  8. Often has difficulty waiting for their turn.
  9. Often interrupts or intrudes on others.

Combined Presentation

When criteria for both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive presentations are met, a combined presentation diagnosis is given. This type includes symptoms from both categories.

Additional Diagnostic Considerations

Besides identifying the type of ADHD, clinicians assess the status and severity of the condition:

  • Status: If symptoms have reduced but still impair functioning, a diagnosis of ADHD in partial remission may be given.
  • Severity: ADHD severity can be classified as mild, moderate, or severe based on the number and intensity of symptoms and the degree of functional impairment.

Common Queries about DSM-5 and ADHD

What are the DSM-5 codes for ADHD?

ADHD is classified under the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-10-CM) and ICD-11-CM:

  • ICD-10-CM Codes:
    • F90.0: Predominantly inattentive type
    • F90.1: Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type
    • F90.2: Combined type
    • F90.8: Other type
    • F90.9: Unspecified type
  • ICD-11-CM Codes:
    • 6A05.Z: ADHD, presentation unspecified
    • 6A05.2: ADHD, combined presentation
    • 6A05.Y: ADHD, other specified presentation
    • 6A05.0: ADHD, predominantly inattentive presentation
    • 6A05.1: ADHD, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation

Is ADHD considered a mental illness by the DSM-5?

Yes, ADHD is classified as a mental disorder under the DSM-5. The American Psychiatric Association defines mental disorders as conditions involving significant changes in thinking, emotion, or behavior, and ADHD fits this definition due to its impact on various aspects of life.

Next Steps After Diagnosis

Receiving an ADHD diagnosis is the first step toward managing your symptoms effectively. At Finding Focus, we offer comprehensive evaluations and personalized treatment plans, including medication management and ADHD coaching.

Finding Focus ADHD Clinic

At Finding Focus, we provide an affordable and balanced approach to ADHD care:

  • Initial Assessment: $399, including a 75-minute comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis, often completed within hours.
  • Continuous Care Program: $24.99 per month, including one virtual check-in per month, medication management, and treatment plan adjustments.
  • ADHD Coaching: Available at $120 per session, added based on individual needs.

Finding Focus Care Team

We are a group of nurse practitioners, continuous care specialists, creators, and writers, all committed to excellence in patient care and expertise in ADHD. We share content that illuminates aspects of ADHD and broader health care topics. Each article is medically verified and approved by the Finding Focus Care Team. You can contact us at if you have any questions!


For more information, visit Finding Focus or consult your healthcare provider about the most suitable treatment options for you.

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