The Different Types of ADHD: Unraveling the Intricacies

We break down the different sub-types of ADHD and how they affect people different so you can get a better understanding of the challenges faced in day to day life.

Do you ever feel like your mind is a merry-go-round, spinning through a thousand thoughts at once? Or perhaps you’re the type who can’t sit still, always seeking the next adventure? If you’ve ever pondered these traits, you might be venturing into the captivating realm of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

But here’s the thing: ADHD isn’t one-size-fits-all,; it’s a dazzling kaleidoscope of unique patterns and facets so, let us dive into ADHD, explore its different sub-types, and unveil the fascinating tapestry of this condition and how it affects people differently.

Type 1: Inattentive ADHD – The Dreamers

Inattentive ADHD, also known as ADHD-PI (Predominantly Inattentive Presentation), is one of the three subtypes of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The other two subtypes are Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD and Combined Presentation ADHD. Inattentive ADHD primarily manifests with difficulties related to attention, organization, and focus, without the hyperactivity and impulsivity often associated with other subtypes.

ADHD subtypes compared

While its important to remember that much like Autism, ADHD is a spectrum of challenges and while it can be handy to sub-type symptoms, there can sometimes be an overlap too which results in a third subtype – ADHD combined.

First, lets take a look at how inattentive ADHD presents.

  • Daydreaming: Frequent daydreaming or getting lost in thought is common. They may appear absent-minded and distant in social situations.
  • Inattention: Individuals with inattentive ADHD often struggle to maintain focus on tasks, especially those that are tedious or require sustained mental effort. They frequently make careless mistakes in schoolwork or work tasks, have difficulty paying attention to details, and tend to overlook instructions or important information.
  • Poor Organization: People with inattentive ADHD often have difficulty with organization, both in their physical environment and with time management. They may have messy workspaces, forget appointments or assignments, and frequently lose or misplace items like keys, wallets, and phones.
  • Difficulty Sustaining Effort: Completing tasks that require prolonged mental effort can be challenging for individuals with inattentive ADHD. They may start projects but struggle to finish them, get easily bored or frustrated, and frequently switch from one task to another.
  • Forgetfulness: Forgetfulness is a common symptom. People with inattentive ADHD may forget important dates, deadlines, or even conversations they’ve had recently. This forgetfulness can create challenges in personal and professional relationships.
  • Lack of Attention to Details: They may miss important details in conversations or written instructions, leading to misunderstandings or errors.
  • Avoidance of Tasks Requiring Mental Effort: Tasks that involve sustained attention and effort, such as reading, studying, or complex problem-solving, can be particularly difficult for individuals with inattentive ADHD. They may procrastinate or avoid these tasks altogether.
  • Difficulty with Follow-Through: They often struggle with following through on commitments and may have difficulty meeting deadlines or fulfilling promises.

It’s important to note that individuals with inattentive ADHD do not typically exhibit the hyperactivity and impulsivity symptoms commonly associated with other forms of ADHD. Instead, their primary challenges revolve around maintaining attention, organization, and focus.

Type 2: Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD – The Firecrackers

Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD, sometimes referred to as ADHD-HI (Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation), is another subtype of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). It is characterized by distinct symptoms that involve hyperactivity and impulsivity, setting it apart from Inattentive ADHD. Here’s an explanation of Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD and how it differs from the inattentive presentation:

Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD can sometimes present as:

  • Hyperactivity: Individuals with Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD exhibit excessive and often disruptive levels of physical restlessness and hyperactivity. They may have difficulty sitting still, frequently fidget, and appear as if they are constantly “on the go.” This hyperactivity is typically more pronounced in children but may persist into adulthood.
  • Impulsivity: Impulsivity is a hallmark feature of this subtype. Individuals with Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD often act without thinking through the consequences of their actions. They may blurt out answers in class, interrupt conversations, or engage in risky behaviors without considering the potential dangers.
  • Difficulty Waiting Their Turn: People with Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD often have difficulty waiting their turn in situations that require patience, such as standing in line or taking turns in games. They might become frustrated or agitated in these situations.
  • Inability to Stay Seated: They struggle to remain seated when it’s expected, for example, in the classroom or during meetings.
  • Excessive Talking: They tend to talk excessively, often dominating conversations and finding it challenging to listen to others.
  • Impatience: They have little tolerance for delays or situations that require waiting, and they may become easily frustrated.

Type 3: Combined ADHD – The Multifaceted Marvels

Combined Presentation ADHD, also known as ADHD-C (Combined Type), is one of the subtypes of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As the name suggests, it combines symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. This subtype is characterized by a diverse set of symptoms that can create challenges in various aspects of a person’s life. Here are the key symptoms of Combined Presentation ADHD:

1. Inattention

  • Difficulty sustaining attention: Individuals with Combined Presentation ADHD may struggle to maintain focus on tasks, frequently becoming distracted by unrelated stimuli or thoughts.
  • Careless mistakes: They often make errors due to overlooking details or missing instructions.
  • Poor organization: Disorganization, forgetfulness, and difficulty with time management are common, leading to missed appointments, lost items, and messy workspaces.
  • Procrastination: Tasks that require sustained mental effort are often delayed or avoided.
  • Forgetfulness: Frequent memory lapses, such as forgetting important dates, deadlines, or conversations.

2. Hyperactivity Symptoms

  • Restlessness: They may find it challenging to stay seated and have an overwhelming urge to move around.
  • Excessive talking: Individuals with Combined Presentation ADHD often talk excessively and have difficulty waiting their turn in conversations.
  • Intrusiveness: They tend to interrupt others, blurt out answers, or be impulsive in their actions.
  • Difficulty engaging in quiet activities: Tasks that require a calm and focused approach are often met with restlessness.

3. Impulsivity Symptoms

  • Impulsivity in decision-making: Individuals with Combined Presentation ADHD may act without considering the consequences, leading to impulsive behaviors or decision-making.
  • Impatience: They have little tolerance for delays or situations that require waiting.
  • Risk-taking behavior: Engaging in risky activities or making hasty decisions without considering potential dangers.

Combined Presentation ADHD can vary in severity, and the specific combination of symptoms can differ from one individual to another. The symptoms often cause significant impairments in various life domains, including academic, occupational, and social functioning but not with everyone.

3 types of ADHD infographic

So, What’s the Takeaway?

Understanding these diverse ADHD types isn’t just about categorizing people; it’s about acknowledging the incredible tapestry of human minds. ADHD isn’t a flaw; it’s an alternate way of thinking. It’s about having an overactive brain in a world that might seem too slow, or it’s about being the life of the party in a world that might prefer a quieter gathering.

Research underscores that every ADHD type comes with its set of strengths and superpowers. It’s about harnessing these powers, not battling against them.

Knowledge is power, and by understanding the intricate details of ADHD, we can better comprehend ourselves and those around us. Whether you’re a dreamer, a firecracker, or a multifaceted marvel, you have a unique perspective to offer the world. Remember, while ADHD can be limiting; it is a tapestry of endless possibilities if properly harnessed in the right ways.

Andy Cresswell

Andy is the founder at Thruday. His research combined first and third-hand lived experience living with neurodivergent challenges drives us forward. He is passionate about spreading awareness around neurodiversity and developing neuro-friendly technology that is accessible and easy to use.

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