There are 3 types of ADHD in adults

Science has now identified that ADHD individuals typically present a cluster of symptoms in one of three categories:

  1. Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive 
  2. Predominantly inattentive
  3. Combined

Hyperactive/impulsive type

These people experience a considerable amount of hyperactivity that measures more extreme than adult peers of the same age. They may have trouble sitting still, waiting in a queue or taking turns in a conversation, instead blurting out and interrupting others. They may speak quickly and experience a tendency towards impulsivity in decision making. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with a hyperactive/impulsive presentation.

Inattentive type

These people experience difficulty in areas of disorganisation, forgetfulness, daydreaming (especially when they should be paying attention, such as in a work meeting), time blindness, distractibility and emotional dysregulation or unexplained mood swings. In many cases, predominantly inattentive types can suffer from analysis paralysis and lower activity, rather than hyperactivity.

Combined type

People with the combined type can have a mix of traits from both of the above. “Women with the combined presentation often describe experiences similar to those with the inattentive presentation, along with being overly talkative, prone to interrupting conversations, making impulsive decisions and physical or mental hyperactivity,” says Sari Solden, MS - author of ‘A Radical Guide for Women with ADHD’.

Here is the list of common traits exhibited by various flavours of ADHD folk:

  • Easily distracted (including by unrelated thoughts)
  • Tendency to procrastinate excessively
  • Fixates on things and can’t be distracted or diverted
  • Difficulty with organisation, time management and planning
  • Moody or prone to emotional outbursts
  • Makes impulsive decisions, waits impatiently in queues
  • Forgetful in daily activities
  • Acting as if ‘driven by a motor’
  • Difficulty winding down or relaxing, always ‘switched on’
  • Talks excessively and interrupts a lot
  • Fidgets a lot as a kid, sense of restlessness as an adult, often presenting as an internal restlessness or hyperactivity with racing thoughts
  • Constantly in motion

This list of traits is based on the DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Diagnosis), a globally-recognised clinical guide written largely (or exclusively) by people who don’t have ADHD, and who are instead observing the behaviours from the outside looking in as parents or teachers or child-focused clinicians. Much can be learned when we hear about the unique struggles and strengths from lived experience of ADHD individuals. 

In a society that doesn’t understand why ADHD folk act the way we do, we are often misunderstood, shamed, and that often leads to accompanying mental disorders.

Two out of three ADHD folk also have one or more of these accompanying conditions:

  • Major Depression
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Disordered Eating/Eating Disorders
  • Alcohol & Substance Abuse
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

How exactly do you know if you have ADHD though? Check out our article on ADHD Diagnosis if you want to see some overviews of the diagnostic journey.


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