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Understanding the Different Types of ADHD

Understanding the Different Types of ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common medical problem for many kids (and some adults, too). Characterized by an inability to “stay on task” among other symptoms, ADHD interferes with a child’s ability to perform well in school, at home, and in social settings with friends. 

Without proper management, ADHD symptoms can disrupt virtually every aspect of a child’s life, resulting in feelings of frustration and failure that can persist throughout childhood and even in the adult years. 

The good news: ADHD can be treated, and at Fayrouz Pediatrics, board-certified pediatrician Hisham Gadalla, MD offers multiple ADHD therapies that can be fine-tuned to each child’s unique and developing needs. 

While most people think of ADHD as one unique type of condition, there are actually three primary subtypes of ADHD. Identifying the subtype that’s affecting your child is an essential step in making sure they receive appropriate treatment.

ADHD: 3 subtypes

The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition (DSM-5) offers specific criteria to help doctors diagnose ADHD and differentiate between subtypes. To be diagnosed, kids must have multiple symptoms for several months (exact requirements can vary slightly by age).

Hyperactive-impulsive type

This is the subtype that most people think of when they hear “ADHD.” These children may seem like they’re always moving around, flitting from one space or subject to another with lots of difficulty concentrating or staying on task. 

For a child to be diagnosed with this type using the DSM-5 criteria, they must exhibit five or six of the following nine symptoms, depending on their age:

These kids may also be more prone to reckless behaviors, especially as they enter the teen years.

Inattentive type

Formerly known as ADD or attention deficit disorder (without the “h” for hyperactivity), the inattentive subtype of ADHD includes kids who find it difficult to pay attention. These kids are often informally classified as daydreamers, and they can be easily distracted when tasked with a high-focus activity, like homework.

Under the DSM-5 criteria, these kids must exhibit five or six of the following nine criteria (again, depending on the child’s age):

Problems focusing on schoolwork, being forgetful, and making careless mistakes often result in poor grades, even though these kids may be perfectly capable of performing the work assigned to them.

Combined type

Kids with this subtype have roughly equal symptoms of both the hyperactive-impulsive subtype and the inattentive subtype. This is the most common type of ADHD among kids.

These kids tend to have lots of energy, combined with difficulties focusing and staying on task. They’re also easily distracted, especially in a classroom setting or other “rigid” environment.

Treating ADHD

Although there’s no “cure” for ADHD, it can be safely and effectively managed. Most kids benefit from a combination of lifestyle changes, therapy, and medication. Therapy helps kids learn how to manage their behaviors, while medication addresses chemical imbalances that may be driving those behaviors and helps kids get the most from their therapy.

Most kids also have school plans in place to help them deal with their symptoms in a school setting. In fact, because ADHD affects nearly every part of your child’s life, having a school plan is essential.

It’s also very important to have your child evaluated by our team on a regular basis. ADHD symptoms can change as your child grows older, and regular office visits ensure their treatment stays on track with their evolving needs. 

Be your child’s personal champion

Despite what some well-meaning people might tell you, ADHD isn’t caused by vaccines, food allergies, or “too much sugar.” It’s a real medical problem, and to navigate it successfully, your child needs medical help, along with an informed family and supportive home and school environments.

As a parent of a kid with ADHD, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but we’re here and ready to help. To learn more about what you can do to help your child, call 973-834-5539 or book an appointment online with Dr. Gadalla and the team at Fayrouz Pediatrics today.

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