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ADHD - Persistence of Symptoms

Abstract: To make the diagnosis of ADHD symptoms must have persisted for at least six months.

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ADHD - Persistence of Symptoms

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Written by: Martin Winkler
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 22 Jul 2008.

Are short periods of distractibility or hyperactivity enough to make the diagnosis of ADHD?


To make the diagnosis of ADHD symptoms must have persisted for at least six months. There a normal fluctuations of the presentation of symptoms or changes within different environments. But the impairments have to meet the criteria of pervasiveness and severity and may not be caused by intermittent changes of the social environment or due to other acute problems.

During the diagnostic process other possible causes of hyperactivity, attention deficits or distractibility or problems of impulse control have to be excluded. Important other causes of these symptoms could be:

  • organic disorders

  • recent trauma (but also early sexual abuse or other traumatic experiences)

  • substance abuse

  • onset of an other psychiatric disorder (depression, anxiety disorder)

  • social problems or severe interpersonal problems at home

If problems are only present at school but everything is fine during holidays, one should be very careful to consider ADHD.

Some parents or teachers try to make a diagnosis after reading a book with ADHD-checklists. Simply knowing the symptoms of ADHD or having problems in distinct areas of behaviour or school performance is not enough to consider a clinical diagnosis. You need to refer to an expert to rule out other possible disorders and find the best help for your child.

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