Controversy exists about the appropriate criteria for a diagnosis of adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
To examine the structure and symptoms most predictive of DSM-IV adult ADHD.
Data come from clinical interviews in enriched sub-samples of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R) (n = 131) and a survey of a large managed healthcare plan (n = 214). The clinician-administered Adult ADHD Clinical Diagnostic Scale (ACDS) was used to assess childhood ADHD and expanded symptoms of current adult ADHD. Analyses examined stability of symptoms from childhood to adulthood, the structure of adult ADHD, and the adult symptoms most predictive of current clinical diagnoses.
The ACDS was administered telephonically by clinical research interviewers with extensive experience in diagnosis and treatment of adult ADHD.
An enriched sample of community respondents
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES
DSM-IV/ACDS diagnoses of adult ADHD
Almost half (45.7%) of respondents who had childhood ADHD continued to meet full DSM-IV criteria for current adult ADHD, with 94.9% of these cases having current attention-deficit disorder and 34.6% current hyperactivity disorder. Adult persistence was much greater for inattention than hyperactivity-impulsivity. Additional respondents met full criteria for current adult ADHD despite not having met full childhood criteria. A three-factor structure of adult symptoms included executive functioning, inattention-hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Stepwise logistic regression found executive functioning problems to be the most consistent and discriminating predictors of adult DSM-IV/ACDS ADHD.
These findings document the greater persistence of inattentive than hyperactive/impulsive childhood symptoms of ADHD in adulthood, but also show that inattention in not specific to ADHD, as it is strongly associated with other adult mental disorders. Executive functioning problems, in comparison, are more specific and consistently important predictors of DSM-IV adult ADHD despite not being in DSM-IV, suggesting that the number of executive functioning symptoms should be increased in DSM-V/ICD-11.