Not everyone who is overly hyperactive, inattentive, or impulsive has an attention deficit disorder. Since most people sometimes blurt out things they didn’t mean to say, bounce from one task to another, or become disorganized and forgetful, how can specialists tell if the problem is ADHD?
To assess whether a person has ADHD, we consider several critical questions: Are these behaviours excessive, long-term, and pervasive? That is, do they occur more often than in other people the same age? Are they a continuous problem and not just a response to a temporary situation? Do the behaviours occur in several settings or only in one specific place like the playground or the office? The child’s pattern of behaviour is compared against a set of criteria and characteristics of the disorder. These criteria appear in a manual called the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version IV).