ADHD Symptoms the DSM-5 Misses

…Plus the current DSM-V Criteria for ADHD.

Help understanding the real-life symptoms of ADHD.

What is ADHD?

According to the CDC, ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood, but it continues to impact people throughout their adult lives.
October is ADHD Awareness Month, and increased awareness and understanding of signs and symptoms has caused more people to question whether they might have ADHD.

If you’re wondering if you or your child might have ADHD, obviously the best source of individualized information is a medical professional. Unfortunately, there are many who don’t have access to proper assessment or support options, so I aim to make information more accessible.

I’ll share what the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) lists as criteria for ADHD, and then I will share symptoms that the DSM-V has missed.

ADHD Iceberg, created by author

This information is based on extensive research as well as personal and professional experience.

I share this for informational purposes only, as each person’s experience with ADHD will be different.

DSM-5 ADHD Criteria

People with ADHD show a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity–impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development:


Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16 years, or five or more for adolescents age 17 years and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level:

  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
  • Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
  • Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
  • Is often easily distracted.
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.

Hyperactivity and Impulsivity

Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16 years, or five or more for adolescents age 17 years and older and adults; symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity have been present for at least 6 months to an extent that is disruptive and inappropriate for the person’s developmental level:

  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
  • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
  • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
  • Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
  • Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
  • Often has trouble waiting their turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).

In addition, the following conditions must be met:

  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years.
  • Several symptoms are present in two or more settings, (such as at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).
  • There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.
  • The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (such as a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder).
  • The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.
Created by author

What the DSM-V Misses

These are based on extensive research, as well as personal and professional experience. These are not prescriptive, simply descriptive.

What I mean by that is, if you have ADHD that doesn’t mean you will experience all of these, and if you experience any of these, that does not automatically mean you have ADHD.

My article lists symptoms that are common with a number of overlapping disorders and neurotypes, but that does often include ADHD.

If you’re a Medium member, read my article on Neurodiversified.

If you’re a News Break member, read my article on NewsBreak.

You can even “buy” me a book and read my article on

© Jillian Enright, ADHD 2e MB

ADHD and Comorbid Conditions

How Executive Functions Matter in Daily Living

Clumsy, or is it ADHD?

7 Ways ADHD is Misunderstood


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition. American Psychiatric Association.

Garb, H. N. (2021). Race bias and gender bias in the diagnosis of psychological disorders. Clinical Psychology Review, 102087, 0272–7358.

Mowlem, F.D., Rosenqvist, M.A., Martin, J. et al. (2019). Sex differences in predicting ADHD clinical diagnosis and pharmacological treatment. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 28481–489.

Pinkerton, M. (2021). The Underdiagnosis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in Young Females. Capstone Showcase, 102

Slobodin, O., & Masalha, R. (2020). Challenges in ADHD care for ethnic minority children: A review of the current literature. Transcultural Psychiatry, 57(3), 468–483.

Published by Neurodiversity MB

Jillian has Child and Youth Work diploma as well as a BA in Psychology. Jillian worked on the front lines of Social Services agencies from 2003 - 2012. Jillian has taken numerous continuing education courses and has attended various workshops focused on supporting neurodiverse children, in particular children with ADHD.

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