3 ADHD Types, Hyperactive, Inattentive, and Combined

ADHD has various subtypes with distinct symptoms. The three basic ADHD types are hyperactive, inattentive, and mixed.

ADHD Types Overview

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting children and adults, significantly impacting their ability to focus, organize tasks, and regulate impulses. Within the realm of ADHD, there are three primary types: hyperactive, inattentive, and combined. Each type manifests unique symptoms and presents distinct challenges. Understanding these variations is crucial for accurate diagnosis, tailored treatment plans, and improved quality of life for individuals with ADHD. In this article, we will delve into the characteristics, diagnostic criteria, and management strategies associated with each of the three types of ADHD, shedding light on how this disorder manifests in individuals.

3 Different Types of ADHD

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, encompasses several different types that vary in their presentation and symptomatology. The three main ADHD types are hyperactive, inattentive, and combined.

  1. Hyperactive Type: This type is characterized by excessive motor activity and impulsivity. Individuals with hyperactive ADHD often struggle with restlessness, fidgeting, and an inability to remain still. They may frequently interrupt others, struggle with impulse control, and have difficulty waiting their turn.
  2. Inattentive Type: In contrast to hyperactive ADHD, the inattentive type is marked by difficulties sustaining attention and focusing on tasks. Individuals with this type often appear dreamy, forgetful, and easily distracted. They may struggle with organization, lose track of time, and have difficulty following instructions or completing tasks.
  3. Combined Type: As the name suggests, ADHD combines hyperactive and inattentive symptoms. Individuals with this type exhibit both hyperactive and inattentive behaviors. They may have trouble focusing, impulsivity, restlessness, and difficulty completing tasks.

Causes of ADHD

The exact causes of ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, are not fully understood. However, research suggests that a combination of genetic, neurological, and environmental factors contribute to its development. Here are some key factors that are believed to play a role:

  1. Genetics: ADHD tends to run in families, indicating a genetic component. Studies have shown that certain genes related to brain function and dopamine regulation may be involved. However, no single gene has been identified as the sole cause of ADHD, suggesting a complex interplay of multiple genetic variations.
  2. Brain Structure and Function: Brain imaging studies have revealed differences in the structure and activity of certain brain areas involved in attention, impulse control, and executive functions in individuals with ADHD. These differences suggest that abnormalities in neural pathways and neurotransmitter systems contribute to the symptoms of ADHD.
  3. Neurotransmitter Imbalance: Neurotransmitters are chemicals that facilitate communication between brain cells. In ADHD, there may be imbalances in neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, which play crucial roles in regulating attention, behavior, and impulse control.
  4. Environmental Factors: Prenatal and early-life factors may contribute to the development of ADHD. Factors such as maternal smoking, alcohol or drug use during pregnancy, premature birth, low birth weight, and exposure to environmental toxins (e.g., lead) have been associated with an increased risk of ADHD.
  5. Developmental Factors: Disruptions or delays in the maturation of the central nervous system during critical periods of brain development may contribute to ADHD. Factors like brain injuries, infections, or nutritional deficiencies during early childhood may impact brain development and increase the likelihood of ADHD symptoms.

ADHD Fact Sheet

Prevalence: ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders, affecting approximately 5-10% of children and 2-5% of adults worldwide. It is more commonly diagnosed in males than females.

Core Symptoms: The core symptoms of ADHD include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Individuals with ADHD may have difficulty sustaining attention, organizing tasks, following instructions, sitting still, and controlling impulses.

ADHD is categorized into three subtypes:

a. Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: Primarily characterized by difficulties with attention and organization.

b. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: Primarily characterized by hyperactivity and impulsivity.

c. Combined Presentation: Displays symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity.

Diagnosis of ADHD: This involves a comprehensive evaluation, including interviews with the individual, parents (for children), and teachers or other relevant observers. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) criteria are commonly used for diagnosis.

Long-Term Outlook: With appropriate diagnosis, treatment, and support, individuals with ADHD can lead fulfilling lives. Early intervention and ongoing management can significantly reduce the impact of symptoms and improve overall functioning.

Co-occurring Conditions: ADHD often coexists with other conditions such as learning disabilities, anxiety disorders, depression, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), and conduct disorder (CD). These comorbidities can further complicate diagnosis and treatment.

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ADHD Type Statistics

These statistics shed light on the prevalence rates, distribution of ADHD types (such as inattentive, hyperactive, and combined), age ranges affected, and gender differences among individuals diagnosed with ADHD. By exploring these statistics, we can gain a deeper understanding of the widespread nature of ADHD and its varied presentations, informing efforts for early detection, effective management, and support for individuals with ADHD.

8.7 Million

In 2019, the number of visits to physician offices with attention deficit disorder as the primary diagnosis was 8.7 million.

Source: NIMH


Approximately 9.5% of American adults, ages 18 and over, will suffer from a depressive illness (major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia) each year.

Source: NIMH


The heritability of ADHD, estimated to be around 70-80%, further supports the notion that genetic factors play a substantial role in its development.

Source: NIMH

ADHD Hyperactive Type

Determining your specific ADHD types requires a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional specializing in ADHD.
Determining your specific ADHD types requires a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional specializing in ADHD.

Hyperactive Type ADHD, also known as ADHD-H, is one of the three main types of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Individuals with this subtype exhibit prominent symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Here are some key characteristics and features associated with Hyperactive Type ADHD:

  • Hyperactivity: People with Hyperactive Type ADHD often display excessive levels of physical restlessness and a constant need for movement. They may have difficulty staying seated, constantly fidget or squirm, and feel a strong urge to be in constant motion.
  • Impulsivity: Impulsivity is a hallmark feature of Hyperactive Type ADHD. Individuals may act without thinking, frequently interrupt others during conversations, and struggle with self-control. They may find it challenging to wait their turn or adhere to social norms and boundaries.
  • Short Attention Span: While attention difficulties are more pronounced in the Combined Type ADHD, individuals with Hyperactive ADHD Type also experience problems sustaining attention. They may become easily distracted by external stimuli or internal thoughts, leading to difficulties in focusing on tasks or following instructions.
  • Restlessness and Difficulty Relaxing: Individuals with Hyperactive ADHD Type often have trouble relaxing or engaging in activities that require quiet and calm. They may feel a constant sense of inner restlessness and find it challenging to unwind or settle down.
  • High Energy Levels: People with Hyperactive ADHD Type tend to have higher energy levels than their peers. They may engage in intense physical activities and seek out stimulation to manage their restless impulses.
  • Impaired Executive Functions: Executive functions, such as planning, organizing, and problem-solving, may be compromised in individuals with Hyperactive ADHD Type . They may struggle with task initiation, time management, and completing tasks due to difficulties with executive functioning.

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ADHD Inattentive Type

ADHD Inattentive Type, also known as ADHD-I or previously referred to as ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), is one of the three main types of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Individuals with this subtype primarily struggle with inattention and have fewer hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. Here are some key characteristics and features associated with ADHD Inattentive Type:

  • Inattention: Individuals with ADHD Inattentive Type have difficulty sustaining attention and staying focused on tasks. They may appear dreamy, easily distracted, and have trouble staying organized and completing tasks. They often struggle to follow through on instructions and frequently make careless mistakes.
  • Distractibility: People with ADHD Inattentive Type are highly susceptible to distractions, both external and internal. They may have trouble filtering out irrelevant stimuli, leading to difficulties maintaining concentration and engagement in activities.
  • Forgetfulness and Disorganization: Memory and organizational challenges are common in individuals with ADHD Inattentive Type. They may frequently misplace items, forget appointments or deadlines, and struggle with time management. Their workspaces and personal belongings may be disorganized and cluttered.
  • Daydreaming: Excessive daydreaming or being lost in thought is a common feature of ADHD Inattentive Type. Individuals may frequently drift off mentally, resulting in reduced productivity and difficulties in focusing on immediate tasks or conversations.
  • Difficulty with Mental Effort: Sustaining mental effort or engaging in mentally demanding tasks can be challenging for individuals with ADHD Inattentive Type. They may experience mental fatigue more quickly and have trouble staying engaged in activities that require sustained attention and concentration.
  • Executive Functioning Impairments: ADHD Inattentive Type is often associated with difficulties in executive functioning, which includes skills such as planning, organization, and problem-solving. Individuals may struggle with initiating tasks, managing time effectively, and maintaining a structured routine.

ADHD Combined Type

ADHD Combined Type is one of the three main types of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As the name suggests, individuals with ADHD Combined Type exhibit symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Here are some key characteristics and features associated with ADHD Combined Type:

  • Inattention: Individuals with ADHD Combined Type experience difficulties sustaining attention and focusing on tasks. They may struggle with organizing and completing assignments, following instructions, and paying attention to details. They may also have a tendency to become easily distracted by external stimuli.
  • Hyperactivity: Hyperactivity is a prominent feature of ADHD Combined Type. Individuals may exhibit restlessness, fidgeting, and an inability to remain seated for prolonged periods. They often feel a constant need for movement and may engage in excessive talking or excessive physical activity.
  • Impulsivity: Impulsivity is another key aspect of ADHD Combined Type. Individuals may have difficulty controlling their impulses and acting without thinking. They may interrupt others during conversations, have trouble waiting for their turn, and engage in impulsive decision-making without considering the consequences.
  • Poor Self-Regulation: Individuals with ADHD Combined Type often struggle with self-regulation, meaning they have difficulty managing their emotions, behavior, and impulses. They may be more prone to emotional outbursts, have trouble controlling their temper, and exhibit impulsive reactions in various situations.
  • Executive Functioning Challenges: Executive functions, such as planning, organization, and problem-solving, may be impaired in individuals with ADHD Combined Type. They may have difficulties with time management, initiating and completing tasks, and organizing their thoughts and materials.
  • Academic and Social Impairments: ADHD Combined Type can significantly impact academic performance and social interactions. Difficulties with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity can interfere with learning, completing assignments, and maintaining positive relationships with peers and adults.

A comprehensive evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional is necessary for an accurate diagnosis and to determine the most appropriate treatment options for managing Combined Type ADHD symptoms.

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Different Types of ADHD Medication

There are several types of medications commonly used in the treatment of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). These medications work by targeting the underlying neurochemical imbalances associated with ADHD, helping to improve attention, focus, impulse control, and overall functioning. Here are some of the main types of ADHD medications:

  1. Stimulants: Stimulant medications are the most commonly prescribed and effective treatment for ADHD. They work by increasing the levels of certain neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, in the brain. Commonly prescribed stimulant medications include methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin, Concerta) and amphetamines (e.g., Adderall, Vyvanse).
  2. Non-Stimulants: Non-stimulant medications may be prescribed as an alternative or in combination with stimulant medications. They work differently than stimulants and may be used for individuals who do not respond well to or cannot tolerate stimulants. Non-stimulant medications include atomoxetine (Strattera), guanfacine (Intuniv), and clonidine (Kapvay).
  3. Alpha-2 Agonists: Alpha-2 agonists, such as guanfacine and clonidine, are commonly used to manage symptoms of ADHD. They work by targeting specific receptors in the brain, leading to improved impulse control, attention, and behavior regulation.
  4. Antidepressants: In some cases, certain antidepressant medications may be prescribed to manage symptoms of ADHD, particularly when there are co-occurring conditions such as depression or anxiety. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) and tricyclic antidepressants (e.g., nortriptyline) are sometimes used off-label for ADHD treatment.

A skilled healthcare expert who is knowledgeable in the treatment of ADHD is the best person to administer medication and monitor its effectiveness. The precise drug and dose will be determined by a number of individual factors such as the patient’s age, symptoms, medical history, and reaction to therapy. Maintaining a close line of communication with the healthcare practitioner is critical in order to assess the efficacy of the therapy, any potential negative side effects, and any required modifications to the treatment.

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  1. What are the types of ADHD in adults?

    The ADHD types in adults include inattentive type, hyperactive type, and combined type.

  2. What is my ADHD type?

    Determining your specific ADHD types requires a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified healthcare professional specializing in ADHD.

  3. What type of disorder is ADHD?

    ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a neurodevelopmental disorder.

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