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Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Diagnosis, Management, and Treatment in the DSM-5 Era

Joel L. Young, MD, and David W. Goodman, MD

Published: November 17, 2016

Article Abstract

Objective: To increase awareness of adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the primary care community and to provide guidance for the management of this condition. Despite its increasing prevalence, adult ADHD largely remains underdiagnosed and inappropriately treated in the United States. The publication of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), has provided more clear diagnostic criteria for adult ADHD, but a solid framework supporting the transition of ADHD management from pediatric to adult primary care is lacking.

Data Sources: We searched PubMed and MEDLINE databases (January 1, 1984-June 1, 2016) using combinations of keywords, including ADHD, adult, diagnosis, prevalence, symptoms, treatment, comorbidity, compliance, and guidelines; international treatment guidelines; and the Diagnostic Interview for Adult ADHD websites to identify relevant clinical studies, reviews, meta-analyses, guidelines, and web-based resources describing updates to the DSM.

Study Selection/Data Extraction: In total, 143 citations were selected based on their relevance to adult ADHD diagnosis, treatment, major issues, and practice guidelines.

Results: The update on diagnostic criteria in the DSM-5 may increase the diagnosis of adult ADHD. There are critical differences between childhood and adult ADHD, and specific considerations should be taken with an adult ADHD diagnosis. Adult ADHD is primarily treated with pharmacotherapy assisted by behavior interventions. Caution should be exercised when using stimulants during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Adult ADHD patients often suffer from unemployment, financial difficulties, and an unsuccessful personal life. Adult-specific guidelines may improve adult ADHD treatment.

Conclusions: The successful diagnosis and management of adult ADHD require consideration of many facets including prior medical history and comorbid conditions and use of an individualized, evidence-based treatment approach.

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