Types of ADD and ADHD

By Bonnie Steele. Medically reviewed by Tom Iarocci, MD. May 7th 2016

Considered a fairly common psychiatric disorder among children and teens, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects roughly 4 to 6 percent of the U.S. population, including adults.

Characterized by a hyperactivity, short attention span, distractibility, disorganization, procrastination and problems with impulse control, ADHD is likely caused by biological factors that influence neurotransmitter activity in the brain, according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association. A subtype of ADHD — Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) — involves inattentiveness without the hyperactivity or impulsivity of ADHD. 


“When you know what to look for, you can see that ADD symptoms have been present for most of a person’s life,” says neuropsychiatrist Daniel G. Amen, MD, author of “Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program.”

Even if you strongly suspect you or a loved one has ADHD, avoid self-diagnosing the condition because there are different types of ADHD, and each requires specific treatments and medications, particularly for issues relating to learning and concentration, explains researcher J. Russell Ramsay, PhD, associate professor of clinical psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

“There’s also a strong genetic component,” says Ramsay. In fact, studies show that if one family member is diagnosed with ADHD, there is a 25 to 35 percent chance that other family members have it too.


7 Types of ADHD

There are multiple types of ADHD, and symptoms vary in each. “It’s also possible to have more than one type of ADHD simultaneously,” says Amen.

1. Classic ADHD: Characterized by primary ADHD symptoms (distractibility, disorganization, procrastination), sufferers of Classic ADHD may have symptoms such as hyperactivity, impulsivity and poor attention to details. This is the easiest pattern to spot and occurs more frequently in males, says Amen.

2. Inattentive ADHD: Often undiagnosed until later in life and more common among females, Inattentive ADHD sufferers exhibit low energy and poor motivation, as well as inattentiveness, restlestness and a propensity to appear preoccupied, worried and “spacey.”

3. Over-Focused ADHD: This ADHD sufferer has trouble shifting her attention and can get stuck on negative thoughts or long-held grudges. She often suffers from addiction issues or obsessive-compulsive tendencies and may or may not be hyperactive.

4. Temporal Lobe ADD: If someone you love exhibits anger-management issues and is also prone to memory problems and learning disabilities, she may suffer from low temporal lobe (brain) activity, says Amen. She may experience anxiety, frequent headaches and/or abdominal pain.

5. Limbic ADD: Named after parts of the human brain most influenced by depression and ADD, these potential patients often experience low self-esteem and poor sleeping patterns. She may become depressed suddenly with the tendency to be socially isolated.

6. Ring of Fire ADD: Along with having common ADD symptoms, people with this condition suffer overactivity across the brain’s central cortex, causing moodiness, inflexibility and rapid-fire thinking. She may also be highly sensitive to loud sounds and sudden, bright lights.

7. Anxious ADD: Exhibiting increased activity in the basal ganglia part of the brain when concentrating, Anxious ADD types are characterized by inattentiveness, nervousness and deep social anxieties. Anxious ADD sufferers are prone to headaches and gastrointestinal problems, and they fear conflict and being judged.

Take the Next Steps

If you suspect you or a loved one has ADHD, it’s vital to get a professional diagnosis because there are seven different forms of ADHD, says Amen, a who uses single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) brain imaging — much like an MRI — to examine brain patterns and blood flow to diagnose the disease. Take his online screening test to pinpoint which type(s) may affect you or someone you love.

If you have already been diagnosed with ADHD, treatments vary depending on your symptoms and personal health. They may include recommendations for medication (Ritalin, Dexedrine, Adderall), behavioral and cognitive therapy to help cope with symptoms, or a delicate combination of both. Amen also suggests you or a loved one:

  • Get tested early for learning disabilities (they occur in 60 percent of people with ADHD);
  • Eliminate caffeine from your diet to avoid the jitters;
  • Perform 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise daily to stabilize your mood;
  • Limit television and video games to 30 minutes a day to allow for mental rest;
  • Eat a diet high in healthy proteins (fish and nuts) and low in simple carbohydrates (sugars) to better fuel your brain; and
  • Take a high-quality fish oil supplement to keep your synapses funtioning at high capacity. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 2,000 to 4,000 milligrams per day; for children it’s 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams per day. 

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