ADHD Videos

Are There Really 3 Types of ADHD?

Often, the symptoms of ADHD are grouped into one of three types: inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, or combined. In this video, Russell Barkley, Ph.D., explains why that categorization is inaccurate and unhelpful.

3 Types of ADHD: Fact or Fiction?

Attention deficit disorder was once diagnosed as ADD or ADHD, depending on whether a patient exhibited inattentive or hyperactive/impulsive symptoms, respectively. Today, the condition is just called ADHD.

When making a diagnosis, clinicians typically categorize a patient’s symptoms as one of three discrete presentations — or types — of ADHD:

  • Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD
  • Primarily Inattentive Type ADHD
  • Combined Type ADHD

Other research contends that symptoms occur across a spectrum of always-evolving brain networks that control emotion, attention, behavior, and arousal.

In this video, from his ADDitude webinar titled “How ADHD Shortens Life Expectancy,” Dr. Russell Barkley explains why he finds it unhelpful and inaccurate to classify symptoms according to one of three types of ADHD and how inattentive symptoms can be mistaken for sluggish cognitive tempo:

Learn More About the Types of ADHD:

1. Take This TestCould You Have ADHD?
2. Take This TestCould Your Child Have ADHD?
3. Research: Is ADHD a Spectrum Disorder?
4. Download 3 Defining Features of ADHD That Everyone Overlooks
5. Research What Is ADHD? (and What Is It Not?)
6. Read ADD vs. ADHD: Explaining the 3 Types of Attention Deficit Disorder
7. Listen to  “What Neuroscience Reveals About the ADHD Brain” with Joel Nigg, Ph.D.

Russell Barkley, Ph.D., is a member of ADDitude’s ADHD Specialist Panel.

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  1. Russell Barkley’s assertion that there aren’t three types of ADHD invalidates my experience, not only as a clinician – but as a person with ADHD – Predominantly Inattentive type. It also invalidates my understanding of my father and of other members of my family. I most definitely have ADHD and I always have – something I discovered at the age of 40 – but as a child I most definitely did not fit the description of the hyperactive, impulsive boy. Was I fidgety? Yes, of course. But I preferred reading to roughhousing or any physical activity. I was socially awkward and disconnected from my peers, not because I was overbearing, but because I was shy, couldn’t read cues and was behind my peers in social maturity. It’s very clear to me that my father suffered throughout his life the same way.
    Dr. Barkley has devoted his career to ADHD and he’s a very hardworking and prodigious researcher. But in this case, he is doing harm to a great many people with ADHD. He is making it harder for us clinicians to explain to clients or to other professionals that our clients have ADHD, because it gives ammunition to misinformed people who will tell them “But you can’t have ADHD – you’ve never been hyper” or “you finished college” or “you have a graduate degree.” Yet go to any conference attended to by people with ADHD and you will immediately notice the difference between the speedy, gregarious, “hyper” types and the quieter, more disorganized inattentives, whose hyperactivity is occurring all in their brains. And because girls and women are more likely than boys and men to have that more “dreamy,” internal version of ADHD, he is risking causing many girls with ADHD not to get the help they need. Dr. Barkley’s claim that there aren’t any real distinctions in ADHD (except for “sluggish cognitive tempo,” which from the description I’ve read resembles neither myself nor a single client I have ever seen) should be vigorously challenged both by clinicians and by ADHD people themselves. This is one “expert” opinion, voiced by a very authoritative expert, that I believe is not only wrong, but can do great harm.

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