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Three Types of ADHD and their Symptoms

written by: Mayflor Markusic • edited by: jen2008 • updated: 7/28/2010

Not all cases of ADHD are the same. According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are three different types based on the symptoms of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

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    What is ADHD?

    ADHD in children has come under attack by some who believe that there is an over-diagnosis by people who are too eager to label an active or an inattentive child. Perhaps this is the case. But to imply that ADHD is an invented imaginary illness for today’s generation is palpably false. ADHD or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a real mental illness that can be debilitating for the child and nerve-wracking for the child’s family.

    The American Psychiatric Association has characterized ADHD as a medical condition in the 2000 Diagnostic & Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders or the DSM-IV-TR. The symptoms of ADHD are categorized into three types. These are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Based on these ADHD symptoms, three types of ADHD have been identified.

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    Predominantly Inattentive Type

    The first type of ADHD is called the “predominantly inattentive type.” The child primarily exhibits the symptoms of inattention. These ADHD symptoms of inattention are described in the DSM-IV-TR as criterion A. These are:

    • Makes careless mistakes in school work due to inattention to details
    • Displays difficulty in focusing on tasks, activities, or plays
    • Appears to not hear or listen to a word that was said directly
    • Does not finish tasks or chores but does not show misunderstanding of instructions or resistance to obey
    • Has no exhibited ability to organize or prioritize
    • Gets distracted easily
    • Forgets or loses toys, pencils, and other items
    • Does not remember what happened during the day

    If six or more of the above symptoms of ADHD are exhibited by the child for more than six months, then the child suffers from the predominantly inattentive type of ADHD.

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    Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

    The second type of ADHD is called the “predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type” in which the child displays the symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Somehow, these two categories of ADHD symptoms, called criterion B by the DSM-IV-TR, are always observed together. These are:

    Hyperactivity symptoms:

    • Squirms in the seat and fidgets with hands and feet
    • Does not stay seated and gets up often
    • Is often restless, runs around or climbs too often
    • Has difficulty in sticking to slow and quiet activities
    • Talks excessively

    Impulsivity symptoms:

    • Usually cries out an answer to an unfinished question
    • Has no patience in waiting for his/her turn
    • Interrupts conversations or disrupts a game

    If for more than six months, the child displays six or more of the above ADHD symptoms, without showing the inattention symptoms, then the child’s ADHD is of the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type.

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    Combined Type

    Finally, the third type of ADHD is called the “combined type” in which the child manifests the symptoms of both criteria A and B. These observed symptoms could not be attributed to other illnesses, such as schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, mood disorder and personality disorder. And if during six months or more, the child shows six or more symptoms in criterion A and six or more symptoms of criterion B, then the child is having the combined type of ADHD.