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ADHD health centre

Symptoms checklist

BMJ Group Medical Reference

The three signs of ADHD are not paying attention, being overactive and acting without thinking. A child can have symptoms of all three. However, to be diagnosed with ADHD a child must have: [7]

  • Either six or more symptoms of not paying attention (inattention)

  • Or six or more symptoms of being overactive and acting before thinking (hyperactivity and impulsivity).

Talking too much and fidgeting, for example, can both be symptoms of hyperactivity.

The symptoms of ADHD are listed in a book called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The following list of symptoms is adapted from that book. [7]

Not paying attention

Inattentive children:

  • Often pay no attention to detail and make careless mistakes in schoolwork or other activities

  • Can't concentrate on one game or task for long

  • Often seem not to listen when spoken to

  • Often don't follow instructions, and fail to finish schoolwork and tasks around the house

  • Often have difficulty organising tasks and activities

  • Often avoid tasks that need a lot of concentration

  • Often lose things

  • Are easily distracted

  • Are often forgetful.

Being overactive and acting before thinking

Hyperactive children:

  • Often fidget or squirm when sitting down

  • Keep getting up

  • Often run about or climb instead of sitting still

  • Often have difficulty playing quietly

  • Are on the go all the time, and act as if driven by a motor

  • Talk too much.

Impulsive children:

  • Often blurt out answers before a question is finished

  • Often have difficulty waiting their turn

  • Often interrupt others.

But, just because your child has lots, or even all, of the symptoms listed above it doesn't mean he or she has ADHD. Doctors also look for the following.

  • Your child must have been behaving like this for at least six months.

  • Some of the symptoms must have been present before your child reached the age of 7 years old.

  • Above all, your child's behaviour must be causing problems in at least two places (for example, at home and at school). [7]

Before diagnosing ADHD your doctor will also check that your child's symptoms are not caused by another condition such as bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, or personality disorder.

Types of ADHD

Doctors divide children with ADHD into three groups, depending on how they behave.

  • Combined type ADHD: This means your child has all three kinds of symptoms. They don't pay attention, can be hyperactive and can be impulsive. This is sometimes called hyperkinetic disorder or HKD. [27]

  • Predominantly inattentive type ADHD: This means your child's biggest problem is inattention. Hyperactivity and impulsiveness are not such big problems.

  • Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD: This means your child's biggest problems are being hyperactive and impulsive. Not paying attention is less of a problem.


For references related to Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder click here.
Last Updated: September 27, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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