Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As many of you know, the DSM-5 was published on May 18, 2013. Of particular interest are the changes made to the definition of ADHD, which for the first time, acknowledges ADHD in adults.

The first time I read the diagnostic criteria for ADHD in the previous edition of the DSM, I was taken back that adults were not included. Then I remembered that when I suggested to my doctor that I might have ADHD, he said “I never heard of it for adults.” Yet, the description of ADHD fit me to a tee, even as an adult. And while my doctor did end up treating me for the disorder, I kept thinking that ADHD needed to be formally acknowledge in adults too.

Well, with the DSM-5, that time has come. Here is an excerpt from the fact sheet on the new diagnostic criteria for ADHD:

Children must have at least six symptoms from either (or both) the inattention group of criteria and the hyperactivity and impulsivity criteria, while older adolescents and adults (over age 17 years) must present with five. While the criteria have not changed from DSM-IV, examples have been included to illustrate the types of behavior children, older adolescents, and adults with ADHD might exhibit. The descriptions will help clinicians better identify typical ADHD symptoms at each stage of patients’ lives. Using DSM-5, several of the individual’s ADHD symptoms must be present prior to age 12 years, compared to 7 years as the age of onset in DSM-IV. This change is supported by substantial research published since 1994 that found no clinical differences between children identified by 7 years versus later in terms of course, severity, outcome, or treatment response.

The adult-specific language acknowledges that ADHD does not fade away with age, and these changes ensure that adults are able to get the care and services they need.

But how do the changes in the DSM affect ADHD coaches and coaching? I believe it’s important to inform clients that diagnostic criteria now exist for adult ADHD, and also how the criteria might relate to them. This information can lead to the magical coaching “aha moment,” the moment when the client’s experience of their own lives suddenly makes sense.

Coaches do not diagnose or treat ADHD or other co-occurring conditions. We refer to other professionals for that (so make sure your referral list is up to date, and make use of the ACO’s list serve to identify experts in the communities in which your clients live!). But as coaches we can provide our clients with credible information such as this article written by the American Psychiatric Association.

Encourage your clients to bring specific questions about the changes to the DSM-5 to their therapist or healthcare provider. Your clients will be well served, and your professional colleagues will appreciate your not stepping beyond your boundaries as a coach.

Thanks for reading and have a great day. I’ll talk with you again next month.

Joyce Kubik - PresidentJoyce Kubik
ACO President