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7 Types Of ADHD

ADHD can look a little different in everyone, which is why treatment for ADHD must be highly individualized. 

Some people find it impossible to sit still, while others just simply can’t keep their attention on anything. Dr. Daniel Amen of the Amen clinic has found from working with children and adults with ADHD that there are actually seven types of ADHD that may present. 

In this article, you’ll learn what ADHD is, what the seven different types are, and how each type must be treated a little differently.

What Is ADHD?

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development. [1]https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd

People with ADHD typically experience ongoing inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity issues. Millions of children in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD, and research shows that the global rate of ADHD is above 5%. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the trends are slowing down anytime soon either.[2]https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/data.html[3]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5903618/

Some common symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Difficulty staying on task and maintaining focus
  • Challenges with staying organized
  • Constant fidgeting, tapping, or talking
  • Extreme restlessness
  • Difficulty with self-control
  • Acting without thinking
  • Inability to delay gratification
  • Interrupting others
  • Overlooking details
  • Hard to follow instructions

Looking at brain images of people with or without ADD/ADHD gives some insight into what’s happening in the background for individuals with attention issues. When someone without ADD/ADHD begins a task that requires concentration, scans show that blood flow increases to the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This is the brain area responsible for executive function skills, which allow for focus and concentration.[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4084861/#:~:text=Executive%20functions%20

Interestingly, when you view brain scans of people with ADD/ADHD, it shows that blood flow moves away from the prefrontal cortex when attention skills are being called on. This makes it much more challenging to focus and pay attention. 

With the increasing trends in ADHD, researchers are finding that this condition is far from a one-size-fits-all diagnosis. According to Dr. Daniel Amen, there are seven different types of ADHD that may present. 

What Are The 7 Types of ADHD?

Type 1: Classic ADHD

Classic ADHD is usually evident early in life and is often accompanied by the hyperactivity side of this condition. Babies with classic ADHD tend to be colicky, wiggly, and active. Children with classic ADHD may be restless, impulsive, demanding, noisy, and talkative. Due to the hyperactivity and conflict-driven behavior, this type tends to get parents’ attention early on. This type is more frequently seen in boys than it is seen in girls. 

Common symptoms of classic ADHD include:

  • Inattentive
  • Easily distracted
  • Disorganized
  • Impulsive
  • Poor follow-through
  • Trouble listening when others talk to them
  • Making careless mistakes/poor attention to detail
  • Forgetfulness
  • Restlessness
  • Being fidgety
  • Difficulty awaiting their turn
  • Act as though driven by a motor
  • Being noisy
  • Talking excessively
  • Interrupting others

Type 2: Inattentive ADHD

The second most common type of ADHD is inattentive ADHD. A more quiet and introverted composure characterizes this type of ADHD. People with inattentive ADHD may seem to daydream a lot and could be labeled as lazy or unmotivated. Because this type of ADHD doesn’t have the hyperactivity associated, it typically doesn’t cause the same behavior problems or negative attention that classic ADHD does. For this reason, inattentive ADHD can be missed. In fact, the Amen clinic prefers to use ADD instead of ADHD as a diagnosis due to the fact that not all attention deficit issues include hyperactivity.

Symptoms of inattentive ADHD include:

  • Trouble focusing
  • Easily distracted
  • Disorganized
  • Poor follow-through
  • Trouble listening when others talk to them
  • Problems with time management
  • Tendency to lose things
  • Making careless mistakes; poor attention to detail
  • Forgetfulness
  • Excessive daydreaming
  • Complaints of being bored
  • Appearing unmotivated or apathetic
  • Being tired, sluggish or slow-moving
  • Appearing “spacey” or preoccupied

Type 3: Over-Focused ADHD

People with over-focused ADHD have trouble shifting their focus from one task to the next. Unlike classic ADHD, where there is an issue focusing at all, people with over-focused ADHD can find their focus, but their flexibility in moving focus becomes a challenge. As a result, they may become hyper-focused on tasks, behaviors, or thought patterns. One common issue that arises for over-focused people is getting stuck in negative thought patterns or behaviors. A common trait for people with over-focused ADHD is substance abuse.

Symptoms of over-focused ADHD include:

  • Core symptoms of ADD
  • Excessive or senseless worrying
  • Getting stuck in loops of negative thoughts
  • Oppositional and argumentative
  • Tendency toward compulsive behaviors
  • Difficulty seeing options
  • Excessive worrying
  • Tendency to hold grudges
  • Difficulty shifting attention from subject to subject
  • Tendency to hold onto own opinion and not listen to others
  • Needing to have things done a certain way or they get upset
  • Mayor may not be hyperactive
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Type 4: Temporal Lobe ADHD

Temporal lobe ADHD is marked by the classic symptoms of ADHD, plus specific issues with the temporal lobe. Your temporal lobe is responsible for learning, memory, and mood stability. Behavioral control issues may arise for people with temporal lobe ADHD, such as aggression, temper outbursts, and potentially violence. This type of ADHD is often associated with head injuries. Brain scans show that people with this type of ADHD may have increased or decreased activity in the brain’s temporal lobe both at rest and during concentration tasks. 

Symptoms of temporal lobe ADHD include:

  • Core symptoms of ADD
  • Memory problems
  • Auditory processing issues
  • Irritability
  • Episodes of quick temper
  • Periods of spaciness or confusion
  • Periods of panic and/or fear for no reason
  • Visual changes such as seeing shadows or objects changing shape
  • Episodes of déjà vu
  • Sensitivity or mild paranoia
  • Headaches or abdominal pain of uncertain origin
  • History of head injury
  • Dark thoughts (may involve suicidal or homicidal thoughts)
  • Possible learning disabilities
  • Mayor may not be hyperactive

Type 5: Limbic ADHD

For people with limbic ADHD, the limbic center in the brain is overactive during concentration and at rest, while the prefrontal cortex is underactive. The limbic center is responsible for your emotional expression and controls how happy or sad you are. When this area is overactive, it can lead to symptoms of depression, which may make people with limbic ADHD seem negative, moody, irritable, and generally down. 

Symptoms of limbic ADHD include:

  • Core symptoms of ADD
  • Moodiness
  • Negativity
  • Low energy
  • Frequent irritability
  • Tendency for social isolation
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Perceived helplessness
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Loss of interest in things
  • Sleep changes (too much or too little)
  • Chronic low self-esteem
  • Mayor may not be hyperactive

Type 6: Ring Of Fire ADHD

Ring of fire ADHD is characterized by overall high activity in the brain. With this type of ADHD, people tend to feel overwhelmed with their thoughts and emotions and have a difficult time turning their brain “off.” For people with ring of fire ADHD, stimulating medications should be avoided as they will only make matters worse. Ring of fire ADHD may be related to allergy, inflammation, or infection in the brain. There is also a connection between ring of fire ADHD and bipolar disorder. One keynote is that ring of fire ADHD (without bipolar) comes without the episodes of mania and the symptoms are more consistent than those of bipolar (with the classic ups and downs). 

Symptoms of ring of fire ADHD include:

  • Core symptoms of ADD
  • Sensitive to noise, light, clothes or touch
  • Cyclic mood changes (highs and lows)
  • Inflexible rigid thinking
  • Oppositional
  • Demanding to have their way
  • Periods of mean, nasty or insensitive behavior
  • Periods of increased talkativeness
  • Unpredictable behavior
  • Periods of increased impulsivity
  • Grandiose or “larger than life” thinking
  • Talks fast
  • Racing thoughts
  • Appears anxious or fearful
  • Irritability
  • May or may not be hyperactive

Type 7: Anxious ADHD

Anxious ADHD is characterized by increased basal ganglia activity, with low prefrontal cortex activity. The basal ganglia is related to anxiety as it sets the body’s “idle speed.” For people with anxious ADHD, feelings of anxiety serve to increase the symptoms of ADHD, which means that they require both stimulating and calming treatments for the brain. 

Symptoms of anxious ADHD include:

  • Core symptoms of ADD
  • Frequently anxious or nervous
  • Physical stress symptoms such as headaches
  • Tendency to freeze in social situations
  • Dislikes or gets excessively nervous speaking in public
  • Predicts the worse
  • Conflict avoidant
  • Fear of being judged

Takeaway

The diagnostic process for ADHD has continued to evolve over the years as we learn more about the brain and specifically how different brain areas are related to this condition. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating ADHD, but determining which category you or a loved one falls into will make the treatment plan much more effective. 

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