~11 million adults in the US are estimated to have ADHD*1,2

*Based on the National Comorbidity Survey Replication of 3199 adults aged 18-44 years conducted from 2001 to 2003 in which 4.4% of adults were estimated to have ADHD in the US and applied to the full US population in 2016 aged 18 and over.


In most individuals with ADHD, symptoms of motoric hyperactivity become less obvious in adolescence and adulthood, but difficulties with restlessness, inattention, poor planning, and impulsivity persist.

American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5®)

ADHD symptoms and DSM-5® diagnostic criteria for ADHD in adults3

ADHD is characterized as a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.

To be diagnosed with ADHD, individuals must meet the following criteria adapted from the DSM-5®:

  • Five or more symptoms of inattention and/or 5 or more symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity must have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities.

ADHD symptoms of inattention

  • Makes careless mistakes/lacks attention to detail
  • Lacks sustained attention
  • Poor listener
  • Fails to follow through on tasks and instructions
  • Exhibits poor organization
  • Avoids tasks requiring sustained mental effort
  • Loses things necessary for tasks/activities
  • Easily distracted (may include unrelated thoughts)
  • Forgetful in daily activities

Symptoms must occur often.

ADHD symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity

  • Fidgets with or taps hands/feet or squirms in seat
  • Leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected
  • Experiences feelings of restlessness
  • Has difficulty engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • Is “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”
  • Talks excessively
  • Blurts out answers
  • Has difficulty waiting their turn
  • Interrupts or intrudes on others

Symptoms must occur often.

DSM-5® diagnostic criteria for ADHD in adults (cont.)3

  • Several inattentive or hyperactive/impulsive symptoms were present before age 12 years
  • Several inattentive or hyperactive/impulsive symptoms must be present in 2 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, academic, or occupational functioning.
  • Symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, and are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g., mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, personality disorder, substance intoxication or withdrawal).

These are not the complete diagnostic criteria.

Diagnosis should be based on a complete history and evaluation of the patient.

DSM-5® is a registered trademark of the American Psychiatric Association. All rights reserved.

Tips to help assess for ADHD in adults

While there is no simple test to diagnose ADHD, there has been growing recognition of ADHD in adults, and more specific examples of adult symptoms are included in the DSM-5®.3,4

An assessment of ADHD in adult patients using age-appropriate and open-ended questions, while referring to the DSM-5® criteria, may help yield a more in-depth assessment of their symptoms.3,5

When assessing for ADHD, consider asking your patients:3,5

  • What symptoms have you or others observed?
  • How often do symptoms appear during the day?
  • In what situations or settings have you noticed your symptoms typically manifest?

Educational resources for you and your adult patients

These educational resources are available to help you facilitate a more meaningful and informed discussion about ADHD with your patients.

ADHD in Adults Symptom Checklist

Consider using this symptom checklist for discussing ADHD with your adult patients.

Proper Use of Stimulant Medication Brochure

Help your patients understand the proper use of stimulant medications for ADHD.

Hypothetical patient portrayal


Stay up to date with the latest information and resources to help support your Vyvanse patients.

  1. Kessler RC, Adler L, Barkley R, et al. The prevalence and correlates of adult ADHD in the United States: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Am J Psychiatry. 2006;163(4):716‐723.
  2. US Census Bureau, Population Division. Estimates of the total resident population and resident population age 18 years and older for the United States and Puerto Rico: July 1, 2016.
  3. American Psychiatric Association. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5®). 5th ed. (DSM-5®). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
  4. Post RE, Kurlansik SL. Diagnosis and management of adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Am Fam Physician. 2012;85(9):890‐896.
  5. Mattingly G, Surman CB, Mao AR, Eagan CA, Onofrey M, Lerner M. Improving communication in ADHD care: results from in-office linguistic research. CNS spectr. 2011;16(4):85‐94.