Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with a person’s functioning or development. In adults this can lead to unstable relationships, poor academic performance and job performance, low self-esteem, and other struggles. Symptoms start in early childhood and can continue into adulthood.   


The diagnosis of ADHD is outlined by the American Psychological Association in the DSM-5 as a lifelong, persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development across time and settings. The diagnosis requires the following criteria:

  1. Inattention: Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 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.
  1. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: Six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity for children up to age 16, or five or more for adolescents 17 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 his/her 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, (e.g., 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 (e.g. Mood Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Dissociative Disorder, or a Personality Disorder).



The ADHD Diagnosis is further broken down into one of three subtypes:

Combined Presentation: symptoms of both criteria inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity were present for the past 6 months;

Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: predominant symptoms of inattention, but not hyperactivity-impulsivity, were present for the past six months

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: predominant symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity but not inattention were present for the past six months.

Common Self-help Treatments

Create and develop structure and good habits and stick with it.

  • Organize where you choose to put your things
  • Utilize a daily calendar on your phone or computer and set reminders
  • Prioritize through making lists. Utilize task management apps on smartphone.
  • Do things now instead of putting them off. If something can be done quickly do it now instead of putting it off.

Time management can be your best friend.

  • Set alarms and reminders
  • Give yourself more time by scheduling for it.
  • Plan on always being early. Set reminders early.

Take things one thing at a time.

  • Break homework assignment down into a couple of days instead of one block of time.
  • Utilize reminders and alarms to keep you on track.

Learn to say no to others and yourself

  • You can only handle some much on your plate before things start to fall off and are forgotten.

Develop a schedule with regular sleep, diet, and nutrition, exercise, and study times. Create time for yourself to meet your physical, emotional, and social needs.  

Where to Go for Help

ADHD/Attention Deficit Disorder Test


More Information and Resources

ADD/ADHD Overview by Edward Hallowell, MD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Fact Sheet by Russell Barkley, PhD

Attention Deficit Disorder Resources 

100 Self-help & Study Skills for Students with ADD(ADHD):https://custom-writing.org/blog/study-skills

Taking Charge of Adult ADHD, by Russell A. Barkley.  This book is available for free online to BYU-Idaho students through the BYU Idaho library.  Go the the library home page and type in the search field: Taking Charge of Adult ADHD.  It will bring up the full online version of the book.

Adventures in Fast Forward: Life, Love, and Work for the ADD Adult, by Kathleen G. Nadeau

Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder, by Edward M. Hallowell, MD, and John J. Ratey, MC