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What are the different types of ADHD?

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Three typesManaging ADHDAre there other types?Getting helpSummary
There are three main types of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). These are inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and combined. However, some people say there are more.
Medically reviewed by Yalda Safai, MD, MPH
Written by Charlotte Parker
Updated on

ADHD is a mental health condition that can affect your ability to concentrate, sit still, and regulate your behavior. This condition can lead to challenges in studying, working, and relationships. It tends to appear in childhood and can continue into adulthood.

Children with ADHD often find themselves in trouble, for instance, at school. As a result, ADHD may also increase the risk of anxiety and depression. Other mental, emotional, or behavioral disorders can occur with ADHD.

Depending on which type you have, ADHD will affect you differently.

There is no cure for ADHD, but a combination of behavioral therapies, family support, and medication can help manage it. Many people with ADHD often find symptoms more manageable by the time they reach adulthood.

What are the three types?

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5-TR), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) both recognize three types of ADHD.

These are:

  • predominantly inattentive presentation
  • predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation
  • combined presentation

A doctor will base a diagnosis on the signs and symptoms that are present. These symptoms generally fall into two categories:

  • inattentive
  • hyperactive-Impulsive

If you have enough symptoms from both groups, the doctor may diagnose combined presentation ADHD.

If you are under 16 years, then you will need to have six or more of the following symptoms for a diagnosis of ADHD. If you are 17 years or above, you need to have five of the symptoms. The symptoms must also have been present for over 6 months and must not be expected behavior for a person of that age.

Predominantly inattentive presentation

According to the DSM-5-TR, you might have ADHD if you:

  • often fail to pay close attention to details or make careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities
  • have difficulty focusing on tasks or play activities
  • don’t seem to listen when spoken to directly
  • find it hard to follow through on instructions and frequently fail to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace
  • often find it challenging to organize tasks and activities
  • find yourself trying to avoid tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time, such as schoolwork or homework
  • are always losing things that you need, like school materials, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, or your mobile telephone
  • easily feel or become distracted
  • often forget daily tasks

Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation

This type of ADHD has a different set of symptoms.

You may have this type if you:

  • often find yourself fidgeting with or tapping your hands or feet or squirming in your seat
  • frequently get up out of your seat in situations when remaining seated is expected
  • often run about or climb in situations where it is not appropriate, which, in adolescents and adults may show up as feeling restless
  • find it hard to play calmly or join in leisure activities quietly
  • often feel “on the go” or as if “driven by a motor”
  • frequently find yourself talking excessively
  • often blurt out an answer before someone has finished asking a question
  • have difficulty waiting your turn
  • frequently interrupt or intrude on other people’s conversations or activities

combined presentation

If anyone has more than five symptoms in both the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive categories, a doctor might diagnose combined presentation ADHD.

Other criteria for diagnosis

  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms appeared before the age of 12 years.
  • Symptoms must occur in two or more settings, such as at home, school, work, or with friends or relatives.
  • There must be clear evidence that the symptoms affect your ability to have good social interactions, or that they pose a problem at school or at work.
  • A doctor finds that symptoms are not due to another mental health issue, such as a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, or personality disorder. Symptoms must not happen only during schizophrenic episodes or other psychotic disorders.
  • Children below 3 years of age cannot have a diagnosis of ADHD because many of the symptoms typically occur during early development.

Managing ADHD day-to-day

The treatment for ADHD is the same for all types, but a doctor’s recommendations will depend on the individual’s age.

Before the age of 6 years, parent training is usually the first course of action after a positive diagnosis. Behavior therapy for the child may also help.

From the age of 6, a doctor may prescribe medication to help manage symptoms that persist after trying behavior therapy and parent training.

There are two categories of medication:

  • stimulant drugs
  • nonstimulant drugs

In most cases, a doctor will prescribe stimulants, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin). They are fast acting and help reduce symptoms in 70–80% of children.

Another option is a non-stimulant drug, such as atomoxetine (Strattera). These are slower to take effect but can last up to 24 hours. They can be helpful if the side effects of stimulant medication are bothersome.

Behavioral interventions at school may also be helpful.

Parents can help by engaging with all the people that interact with their child, such as teachers, sports coaches, and therapists. This can help create a stable environment with consistent rewards for good behavior and sanctions for poor behavior. It can support behavioral therapy.

Adolescents and adults with symptoms of ADHD are more likely to take risks which can lead to substance misuse and other dangerous activities like drinking and driving.

So, it is important that they continue to adhere to prescribed medication, psychotherapy, education, and training, or a combination of treatments that will help them manage their symptoms better.

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Are there more than three types of ADHD?

Some people believe that there are six or seven different types of ADHD. Dr. Daniel Amen has mainly promoted this theory in his book, “Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You to See and Heal the 7 Types of ADD.”

But, Dr. Amen is yet to present his theories for scientific peer review and has not yet shown any proof to back them up. The DSM-5-TR no longer recognizes the diagnosis of attention deficit disorder (ADD) that Dr. Amen uses for the title of his book.

Until Dr. Amen is willing to provide evidence to back up his theories, it would be advisable to follow the definitions of ADHD used by the DSM-5-TR, the CDC, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Getting help

If you think that you or a child you care for has ADHD, it is a good idea to speak with a doctor as soon as possible because this will enable you to get help if you need it.

Other options for children include:

  • consulting a specialist, such as a child psychiatrist, developmental pediatrician, or child psychologist
  • ask for help at your local early intervention agency, for preschool children
  • speaking with your child’s school teacher

The Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) offers help for adults and children. You can contact them at 1-866-200-8098, where trained staff are available to answer questions about ADHD.


There are three types of ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, and a combination of both.

ADHD can seriously affect education, home life, relationships, and work. It affects people in different ways, but anyone who may have ADHD can benefit from seeking help as early as possible.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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