Attention-deficit disorder, known commonly as ADHD, is one of the most common mental disorders. According to The American Psychiatric Association, it’s estimated that 2.5 percent of adults have ADHD. While ADHD can be diagnosed at any age, this disorder begins in childhood — but can sometimes go undiagnosed, which can cause lead to challenges at home, school, work, and relationships. One of the reasons for a lack of diagnosis is that there simply wasn’t a huge awareness of the condition says Dr. Daniela Rizzo, a Psychiatrist in New York City specializing in ADHD. “There are a lot of people that go undiagnosed, especially in adults,” she says. “People 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago were not aware of this [condition].”
Fortunately, more people are aware of the condition, but that still doesn’t mean those diagnosed don’t deal with their own set of biases. Dr. Rizzo, who treats a lot of adult patients for ADHD, says one of the most common misconceptions she hears about people with the disorder is that they’re lazy, which is simply not the case. To help raise awareness around the condition, and to encourage those with it to seek the help they need, it’s crucial to educate yourself — starting with a breakdown of the three types of ADHD. If you didn’t know there were three specific types of ADHD, you’re not alone. Despite the advancements made in the neurological field, there’s still a lot we don’t know about ADHD, but hopefully, by reading the below, you can learn more about it.
The impulsive/hyperactive type of ADHD is the least common type of ADHD, according to Hopkins Medicine, and is characterized by impulsive and hyperactive behaviors without inattention and distractibility. “It’s like that patient that fidgets or wants to blurt out answers all the time,” says Dr. Rizzo. This type of ADHD is also known as the “classic” presentation of ADHD, meaning it is more recognizable and is often diagnosed in boys and men, who are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than their female counterparts.
People with this subtype of ADHD interrupt others and seem to talk constantly. They may struggle with self-control or run around and climb in situations where it’s inappropriate, says Dr. Rizzo. One of the tell-tale signs of the impulsive/hyperactive type is the need for constant movement even during silent activities i.e. squirming, struggling to stay seated, talking excessively, and losing things.
Adults who have significant problems with inattention, but exhibit few or no symptoms of hyperactivity, are said to have the predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD. People with this type of ADHD have trouble paying attention to details, are easily distracted, often have trouble organizing or finishing tasks, and often forget routine chores (such as paying bills on time or returning phone calls). Although nearly everyone experiences inattention problems at times, Dr. Rizzo notes that this type of ADHD is more common in females.
“The symptoms associated with the inattentive type include often failing to give close attention to details and making careless mistakes on schoolwork, work, or during other activities,” Dr. Rizzo says. “Patients with this type also often have difficulty sustaining attention to tasks, struggle to listen when spoken to directly, do not follow through on instructions, have difficulty organizing tasks, are often reluctant to engage in a task, often lose things, and are easily distracted.” Adults also mainly have the inattentive type, meaning they are more likely to procrastinate and have difficulty organizing tasks.
As the name suggests, the combined type of ADHD presents as a mix of both hyperactive/impulsive and inattentive behaviors. ADHD tends to show up as predominantly inattentive or predominately hyperactive/impulsive, but it is possible to have a mixture of the two. While having two types of ADHD can sound daunting, it’s important to note that if you have the combined type, it doesn’t mean your ADHD is a more severe version.
For example, according to the CDC and VeryWell Mind, a person who has a predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type might still experience some symptoms from the inattentive symptom list. However, he or she would not have the full five or six symptoms to be given a combined ADHD diagnosis. Being diagnosed with combined type ADHD means your symptoms are more likely to be evenly distributed between the two types.
If you think you may have ADHD or have been diagnosed, there are ways to help manage it. Talk to your doctor about different treatment options so you can create a plan that works for you.