What Are the Three Types of ADHD?

Written by Erica Roth | Published on June 19, 2013
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on June 19, 2013

What Is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder that mainly affects children, but can also affect adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the term neurobehavioral refers to “the way the brain affects emotion, behavior, and learning.”

ADHD is a lifelong challenge, but medication and other treatment options can improve symptoms.

Three Types of ADHD

ADHD is divided into three different types:

  • predominantly inattentive type
  • predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type
  • combination type 

The symptoms you experience most prominently inform the type of ADHD you have. Symptoms of the disorder must impact your life and affect your everyday function significantly to be considered a diagnosed case of ADHD.

Three Types of Symptoms

There are three categories of ADHD symptoms in addition to three types of the disorder. Symptoms are classified as:

  • inattention: getting distracted easily, having poor concentration and organizational skills
  • impulsivity: interrupting, taking risks
  • hyperactivity: never seeming to slow down, constantly talking and fidgeting, difficulty staying on task

Because everybody is different, two people may not experience these symptoms in the same way.

Predominantly Inattentive

Someone with this type of ADHD may show more symptoms of inattention than of impulsivity and hyperactivity. They might also have impulse control issues and problems with hyperactivity at times, but these aren’t the main characteristics of inattentive ADHD. People who suffer from inattention often:

  • miss details and are distracted easily
  • get bored quickly
  • have trouble focusing on a single task
  • have difficulty organizing thoughts and learning new information
  • lose pencils, papers, or other items needed to complete a task
  • don’t seem to listen
  • move slowly and appear as if they’re daydreaming
  • process information more slowly and less accurately than others
  • have trouble following directions

According to the National Resource Center on AD|HD, more girls are diagnosed with inattentive type ADHD than boys are.

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive

This type of ADHD is characterized by symptoms of impulsivity and hyperactivity. Although people with this type can display signs of inattention, it’s not as marked as the other symptoms, including:

  • squirming, fidgeting, feeling restless
  • difficulty sitting still
  • near-constant talking
  • touching and playing with objects, even when inappropriate to the task on hand
  • trouble engaging in quiet activities
  • impatience
  • acting out of turn, not thinking about consequences of actions
  • blurting out answers and inappropriate comments, interrupting 

Children with hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD can be a disruption in the classroom, making learning more difficult for themselves and other students.

Combination Type

People who have combination type don’t show predominantly one type of symptom as with the other two types of the ADHD. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains that most children have combination type ADHD. Diagnosis of the combination type means you show at least six symptoms each of inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity.


Diagnosis of any of the three types of ADHD includes extensive observation of behavior. Children with ADHD usually display symptoms before the age of seven.  A person must show at least six of the nine major symptoms for a specific type of ADHD. The behaviors must be present and disruptive to everyday tasks and routine for at least six months.

You’re Still You

ADHD is a lifelong challenge for many people, but you can manage your condition with medication and behavior modification.

Remember: having ADHD doesn’t mean you’re not bright, inquisitive, and just as motivated as others not affected by the disorder. You just need a little extra help to let your true colors shine.

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