ADHD Subtypes and Symptoms


Getting Diagnosed

In order to be diagnosed with ADHD a child or adult needs to work with their doctor and meet certain criteria. If the patient is an adult, the doctor will ask them questions or have them complete a survey directly. If the patient is a child, the doctor will work with both the child and their parents and may even reach out to the child’s school. 

What do Symptoms Actually Mean

One important thing to remember is that every symptom of ADHD from lack of attention, to hyperactivity, to procrastination, to disorganization can be seen in people with ADHD and without. Your doctor will consider the number of symptoms, the frequency of their occurrence, the environment that they occur in, and how long they have been present. All of these pieces are necessary to tell the full story. For example, a recent trauma or life change could cause a number of ADHD like symptoms to suddenly appear. This does not mean that an individual suddenly has ADHD.

The type of symptoms that an individual with ADHD is struggling with also helps to identify which subtype of ADHD they are diagnosed with. These are: Inattentive, Hyperactive/Impulsive, and Combined. The symptoms for these subtypes look a little different as does the treatment and coaching plan.

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Diagnostic Criteria for ADHD

Below are the symptoms listed in the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Take note of the number of symptoms required for a diagnosis. For children, a diagnosis requires six or more symptoms within their subtype. These symptoms must be ongoing for at least six months at time of diagnosis. The impact of these symptoms must also be significant, with children a doctor will consider if these symptoms are developmentally inappropriate. 

When diagnosing an adult, the requirement is five or more symptoms within the subtype. A history of 6 months is also required, but doctors also expect that some of these symptoms have been occurring since childhood. A detailed history and a look back at things like childhood report cards might occur. Symptoms in adults might also look a little different, For example, in adults, hyperactivity may appear as extreme restlessness or wearing others out with their activity. Also remember that for an ADHD diagnosis in both children and adults, it is expected that an individual will be impacted in all areas of their lives. If only one area is impacted, it might be that that particular environment is not suited for this unique individual. If this is a situation that you are finding in your life, reach out for a free consultation and I am happy to help.

The DSM – 5 can be retrieved in full from the CDC at:

Symptoms by Subtype


Subtype 1: Inattentive ADHD

  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
  • Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
  • Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
  • Is often easily distracted.
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.

Subtype: Hyperactive/Impulsive ADHD

  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet, or squirms in seat.
  • Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected.
  • Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is not appropriate (adolescents or adults may be limited to feeling restless).
  • Often unable to play or take part in leisure activities quietly.
  • Is often “on the go” acting as if “driven by a motor”.
  • Often talks excessively.
  • Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed.
  • Often has trouble waiting their turn.
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations or games).

Subtype 3: Combined Presentation ADHD

  • This subtype is diagnosed when enough symptoms from within both of the previous subtypes of Inattentive ADHD and Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD were present for a minimum of six months.

Strengths Based ADHD and Behaviour Coaching

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