Though ADHD symptoms are diverse and can affect everyone differently, each type of ADHD is manageable with the right treatment plan.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common mental health condition. While many people are generally familiar with this condition, few know all the facts surrounding the different types of ADHD.

There are three types of ADHD:

  • inattentive
  • hyperactive-impulsive
  • combined

Typical ADHD symptoms that may come to mind first include fidgeting, lack of attention and concentration, or impulsive behavior. But ADHD can also present in more subtle ways, such as low self-esteem, anxiety, and lack of interest.

Without management, ADHD can affect a person’s:

  • relationships
  • ability to perform their job
  • academic achievement
  • day-to-day functioning

ADHD is a mental health condition and neurodevelopmental disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5) classifies ADHD as a pattern of persistent inattention and hyperactive impulsivity that can disrupt a person’s level of function or development.

ADHD in kids

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 6.1 million children were diagnosed with ADHD in the United States in 2016.

Boys may be more than twice as likely to be diagnosed as girls. ADHD symptoms are often overlooked in girls and women.

Additionally, 6 out of 10 children diagnosed with ADHD are likely to also be diagnosed with a behavioral, mental, or conduct disorder.

Adult ADHD

A 2019 study estimated the prevalence of ADHD in adults to be 0.96%. And just like with children, men are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than women.


Only a doctor or therapist can diagnose ADHD. Clinical assessments used by therapists and doctors include tools like rating scales and interviews.

Other disorders and conditions commonly misdiagnosed in place of ADHD include:

If you think you or your child might have ADHD, talking with your doctor can be a smart first step toward managing symptoms.

Inattentive ADHD involves prolonged or persistent symptoms that can affect a person’s development and ability to function.


Common symptoms of ADHD include difficulties with:

  • focusing
  • listening
  • paying attention to detail

Also, someone with inattentive ADHD might:

  • seem forgetful
  • avoid tasks that require mental focus
  • appear careless toward objects or responsibilities

Symptoms of inattentive ADHD may show up in other ways, including:

  • losing personal items
  • turning assignments in late
  • making mistakes that seem “careless”

Additionally, forgetting shifts at work or not paying attention during a lecture can signal that you or someone you love has inattentive ADHD.


According to the DSM-5, symptoms of inattentive ADHD considered inappropriate for the person’s age level must be present for 6 or more months for a doctor to make a diagnosis.

Five or more symptoms are necessary for people 17 years and older to get a diagnosis and treatment for inattentive ADHD.

For children 16 years and younger, six or more symptoms are necessary to get an inattentive ADHD diagnosis.


Males may be more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as females, according to the CDC. In a 2011 study of 217 male children, 133 were diagnosed with inattentive ADHD.


Treatment options for inattentive ADHD typically include a combination of medication and counseling or therapy.

Doctors commonly prescribe stimulants like amphetamine/dextroamphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Ritalin) for inattentive ADHD. If you don’t tolerate stimulants well, you might get a prescription for a nonstimulant medication, like atomoxetine hydrochloride (Strattera).

Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD is characterized by symptoms that center around hyperactivity and impulsivity.


Symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD can include:

  • impulsivity
  • fidgeting
  • restlessness

Other signs of this type of ADHD include:

  • trouble focusing and paying attention to details, which may sometimes result in making mistakes
  • disorganization
  • challenges concentrating
  • difficulty following books and movies
  • trouble following instructions and staying on task, especially for longer periods of time
  • procrastination
  • forgetfulness in everyday activities, such as losing important belongings, forgetting to pay bills, or remembering where you parked
  • wandering thoughts
  • lateness

Some common symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD in kids include:

  • fidgeting
  • lashing out physically
  • difficulty regulating the volume of their voices


Symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD must be present for 6 or more months and be considered inappropriate for someone’s age level, according to the DSM-5.

Just like with inattentive ADHD, children under 16 years old must exhibit 6 or more symptoms in order to get a hyperactive-impulsive ADHD diagnosis.

Adults older than 17 must have 5 or more symptoms to get a diagnosis.


Since boys and men may present with more hyperactive-impulsive symptoms than girls and women, males are more likely than females to be diagnosed with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD.

Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD affects people of all ethnicities and races. But children from under-resourced communities may be more likely to receive a diagnosis than their counterparts, according to a 2014 study.


Like other forms of ADHD, a combination of medication and therapy is typically used to treat hyperactive-impulsive ADHD.

Doctors often administer medication starting in smaller dosages to decrease side effects, like:

  • fatigue
  • decreased appetite
  • nausea
  • sleep disturbance
  • headaches

In order to receive a combined ADHD diagnosis, a person must exhibit enough symptoms of both inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD for 6 months or longer.

First and foremost, if you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of ADHD, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Millions of children and adults around the world experience symptoms just like you.

All types of ADHD are manageable with the right treatment plan.

Speaking with your doctor about the symptoms you’re experiencing is often the best course of action. Once you have a diagnosis, you can work together to find the treatment plan that works for you.

Often, ADHD treatment consists of a combination of:

  • medication
  • therapy
  • self-care and lifestyle changes

Trying multiple approaches is often the best way to find an effective treatment for your ADHD. This may take some time.

If you’re ready to get help but don’t know where to begin, you may want to check out Psych Central’s guide to seeking mental health care.