Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): 3 subtypes


Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common disorder seen in my practice. Often co-occurring with other diagnoses such as dyslexia or epilepsy, my clients are often surprised to learn that ADHD is diagnosed based on 3 different behavioral profiles. In today’s blog, I share the 3 different types of ADHD, and the reasons why some individuals may be diagnosed as a child, while others may not be diagnosed until later adolescence or adulthood.

ADHD-H: The Hyperactive Client

When I think about how ADHD is portrayed in the media, the hyperactive subtype comes to mind. Perhaps you can think of someone who struggles to sit still, or acts as though they are powered by a motor! These individuals, try as they might, have difficulty containing their energy and are often moving about their space. In young children, this might be reflected in a child who bounces from toy to toy. In teenage years, this looks more subtle, such as a teen constantly tapping his or her toes or flicking a pen cap or paper clip. When able to release their energy, such as by sitting on a stability ball or shifting their weight when standing, these individuals can focus and attend to their surroundings.

ADHD-I: The Inattentive Client

Less well known is the Inattentive subtype of ADHD. Individuals with ADHD-I may look like they are paying attention, but they are frequently distracted. You may notice their attention is quickly pulled to other things going on in their environment, or they may look like they are zoning out or daydreaming. Often, ADHD-I is not diagnosed as early as the other subtypes, as children appear behaviorally complaint. They do not catch a teacher’s eye for being disruptive, and thus they are more likely to fly under the radar.

ADHD-C: The Combined Presentation

Individuals with ADHD-C struggle with both hyperactivity (ADHD-H) and inattention (ADHD-I). They are often diagnosed early because of their hyperactive traits, but upon further testing, they struggle to sustain their attention to longer or more monotonous tasks.

ADHD: Behavioral Intervention or Medication?

As a neuropsychologist, I am a behaviorist at heart and do not typically recommend medication as an initial treatment strategy. However, there are some clients who benefit from medication to allow them to regulate their behavior long enough to learn those behavioral strategies I recommend. While parents understandably struggle with placing their child on medication, it is often a time-limited strategy that can be removed as the child matures. Without a doubt, there are many behavioral strategies that can be implemented and tailored to a person with ADHD. To learn more about ADHD and the diagnostic process, check out my YouTube video