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  • Writer's pictureShannon Anderson

Pursuing an ADHD Diagnosis

This is a guide on how to prepare for and talk to your doctor about getting an ADHD diagnosis!


  1. On the CDC website, read the "DSM-5 Criteria for ADHD" section. This is what doctors use to evaluate patients for ADHD.

  2. Symptom Lists: Using the DSM-5 symptoms from the CDC website, make 2 lists:

    1. List 1: symptoms present before age 12 (with examples)

    2. List 2: current symptoms present (with examples)

  3. *Additional Conditions (optional – it's helpful but don't worry about it if you're overwhelmed): In your Current Symptoms list, note the following for each symptom:

    1. What settings the symptom is present in (such as at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).

    2. How the symptom interferes with, or reduce the quality of: social, school, and/or work functioning.

  4. Doctor Visit: Bring these lists to your doctor and say (it's okay to read this off your phone at the appointment):

“I think I may have ADHD and I want to talk to you about getting tested. I read the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for ADHD on the CDC website. I made lists of my current symptoms and symptoms I had as a child. Here are my lists.”

I made a worksheet to help you create your lists! (Go to "File" > "Make a copy" to edit the worksheet)

IMPORTANT: ADHD has MANY similar symptoms to other conditions. If you believe you have ADHD based on the DSM-5 Symptoms list, it’s possible you might actually have a different condition that presents similarly to ADHD. Meeting the criteria just means you should definitely talk to your doctor! It does NOT mean you have ADHD.

List Examples

Here are some examples of what I would put on my lists.

  • Is often easily distracted

    • I was frequently distracted by small noises from the hallway, a kid in the classroom fidgeting, something happening outside, etc. that other students were easily able to tune out.

    • I missed hot lunch frequently because I didn’t hear my group number called

    • I was frequently scolded at gymnastics because I would get distracted, not hear the coach's instructions, and not be doing what I was supposed to.

  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.

    • Constant foot tapping (at home, work, restaurants, social situations, everywhere)

    • Excessively fidgets with hair (at work, in social situations where I'm bored)

    • Excessive nail biting/skin picking (at home, work, I try not to in social situations but it's hard)

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