How Many Types of ADHD Are There?


There are a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions about ADHD. One popular theory that’s been disproven is that ADHD is a childhood disorder that kids will eventually outgrow. Some people with ADHD indeed notice fewer symptoms in adulthood after they’ve mastered the skills they need to function at their best. However many still need to work actively to manage their ADHD symptoms as adults.

Getting an evaluation from a qualified professional is important for more than one reason. First, they can rule out other potential issues like mental health conditions and seizure disorders. With a professional evaluation, you can also find out what your child’s ADHD subtype is (if they receive an ADHD diagnosis). 

In this informational blog post, we’ll outline the three different ADHD subtypes and their symptoms.


Free resource: ADHD Success Kit


What are the 3 ADHD subtypes?

The three ADHD subtypes are hyperactive-impulsive type, inattentive type, and combined type. ADHD symptoms exist on a wide spectrum, and each person with this condition may have traits from both categories. However, there’s evidence that these three trends in ADHD presentation are common enough to group them together as distinct types.

The 3 ADHD subtypes

According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), children under 17 must show evidence of five or more symptoms in either or both categories to receive a diagnosis. Their symptoms must also interfere with age-appropriate functioning in more than one environment. 

If criteria for another psychiatric disorder can better explain the presentation of symptoms, ADHD may not be diagnosed (e.g., if symptoms only occur during anxious or dissociative episodes). Children who only show inattentive and hyperactive behaviors at home or at school are likely dealing with another condition.

Here’s a full breakdown of each ADHD subtype:

ADHD hyperactive-impulsive type

This is the most well-known type of ADHD and the stereotype most people think of when someone mentions this condition. Children with this type may feel and act as if they’re driven by a motor. They have noticeable hyperkinesis or excessive movement. This can look like difficulty sitting still or staying in their seat during class. They may also self-stimulate or “stim” by tapping, bouncing their leg, fidgeting, or squirming.

Some common symptoms of ADHD hyperactive-impulsive type include:

  • Fidgeting with their hands, tapping their feet, or squirming
  • Being unable to quietly keep themselves occupied
  • Getting up and moving around when it’s not appropriate
  • Having difficulty with impulse control
  • Acting as if “driven by a motor” or pacing and moving restlessly
  • Talking much more than other children
  • Blurting out answers in class
  • Having trouble waiting their turn, interrupting, or intruding


ADHD inattentive type

ADHD inattentive type can be harder to spot than hyperactive-impulsive type. Children with inattentive type may have little to no hyperactive symptoms, or their hyperactive symptoms may be more internal. This type tends to be more common in girls, who sometimes learn to mask their symptoms from a young age. Their inattentive symptoms may look like daydreaming, procrastinating, getting distracted easily, or having problems with organization. Girls can also develop subtle coping mechanisms for their ADHD symptoms, like having organization systems or participating in a lot of after-school activities.

Some common symptoms of ADHD inattentive type include:

  • Getting sidetracked and abandoning projects before they’re finished
  • Missing key details or making careless mistakes 
  • Getting distracted from the activity at hand
  • Avoiding eye contact or seeming to not listen when they’re spoken to
  • Procrastinating or avoiding tasks, especially when they seem uninteresting
  • Losing track of their belongings
  • Forgetting both important and unimportant details
  • Difficulty with organizing


ADHD combined type

This is the most common type of ADHD. Children with ADHD combined type have five or more symptoms in both hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive categories. It’s difficult to make generalizations about how ADHD combined type presents since each case is unique. 

It’s important for children with symptoms like these to get a full evaluation from a qualified professional. Other conditions such as sleep disorders, thyroid issues, bipolar disorder, childhood trauma, and seizure disorders can be mistaken for ADHD, and it happens a lot. In the opposite case, missing an ADHD diagnosis or choosing not to get an evaluation, can be just as damaging. Regardless of how disruptive or noticeable their symptoms are to others, children with undiagnosed ADHD can face difficulties in every area of their lives. But with proper treatment, they can adapt and learn to thrive.

Beyond BookSmart coaches provide personalized support for children with ADHD

Though people with ADHD have neurological differences, they’re also capable of learning the skills they need with some coaching. If you find out your child has ADHD, there’s a lot you can do to help. Download our free ADHD Success Kit for some ideas. Your child’s pediatrician will be able to answer questions about medication. It’s not always necessary, but many children with ADHD need it to function.

Many of the symptoms above can be mitigated with Executive Function skill coaching. Executive Function skills are the life management skills that we all need to be effective in planning, initiating, and achieving daily goals at home, in school, and in the workplace. Not everyone learns these at the same pace, but they can be taught with time and patience. That’s what our coaches are great at!

Still have questions? Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial inquiry.

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