Please click on the links below for further information about how ADHD is defined, its symptoms, associated strengths and other conditions that present similarly.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5 as a childhood-onset neurodevelopmental disorder, defined by the presence of developmentally inappropriate and impairing levels of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
There are three types of ADHD:
The DSM-5 states that to make a diagnosis of ADHD, it would be expected that several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present prior to age 12 years (APA, 2013). The symptoms of ADHD can change as the individual ages; therefore symptoms may differ as the individual moves through their education. For example, a tendency to frequently find an excuse to move around within the classroom can change to a requirement to pace around the room while speaking on the telephone.
In the UK, ADHD can be diagnosed as a medical condition and as a Specific Learning Difference (SpLD). You can find more information on the two types of diagnosis here.
Symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD include:
Symptoms of inattentive type ADHD include:
Individuals with ADHD report the following strengths and benefits of the condition:
The symptoms of ADHD can overlap with characteristics of other Specific Learning Differences and mental health conditions. For example, a weak auditory/working memory, typically observed in a profile of dyslexia or dyspraxia, can cause distractibility and challenges in attention and concentration.
Similarly, anxiety can cause mind wandering and restlessness and depression can cause concentration problems. Other mental health issues can also be at the root of impulsive behaviour, overactivity and restlessness or distractibility.
There are currently many self-diagnosis tools for ADHD available online and it can sometimes be hard to distinguish whether your symptoms indicate the presence of ADHD or are indicative of another condition. While platforms like TikTok and Instagram are making information on mental health and wellbeing more accessible, it is important to bear in mind that information isn’t always credible and posts may have been made by content creators and not health professionals or mental health experts.
If you are experiencing difficulties in your studies and want to explore assessment for ADHD, you are advised to seek guidance from your GP or the Disability and Dyslexia Service. More information on different diagnostic routes for ADHD can be found here.