There are several diagnostic criteria that must be met prior to the diagnosis of a particular mental health illness. Adult attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) remains a clinically challenging entity to diagnose due to similar presentations in other disease states. The major criteria for ADHD diagnosis include: symptoms (inattention, easy distractibility, forgetfulness, impulsivity) that are rooted in childhood, functional impairment due to these symptoms in two of three domains (home, school, and/or work and social settings), and a causal relationship between ADHD and the symptoms.

ADHD is frequently diagnosed simultaneously with other co-morbid conditions including: dysthymia, depression, bipolar, anxiety and substance abuse disorders. Awareness of these diagnostic criteria is important for primary care physicians in order to provide the appropriate referrals for treatment.


Katzman MA, Bilkey TS, Chokka PR, Fallu A, Klassen LJ. Adult ADHD and comorbid disorders: clinical implications of a dimensional approach. BMC Psychiatry. 2017 Aug 22;17(1):302. doi: 10.1186/s12888-017-1463-3. Review. PubMed PMID: 28830387; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5567978.

Lenard A. Adler, MD
Professor of Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry / Director, Adult ADHD Program
NYU School of Medicine