According to the most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical
Manual of Mental Disorders2 (DSM-IV-TR), there are three
patterns of behavior that indicate ADHD. People with ADHD may show several signs
of being consistently inattentive. They may have a pattern of being hyperactive
and impulsive far more than others of their age. Or they may show all three
types of behavior. This means that there are three subtypes of ADHD recognized
by professionals. These are the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
type (that does not show significant inattention); the
predominantly inattentive type (that does not show significant
hyperactive-impulsive behavior) sometimes called ADD—an outdated term for this
entire disorder; and the combined type (that displays both
inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms).
Hyperactive children always seem to be “on the go” or
constantly in motion. They dash around touching or playing with whatever is in
sight, or talk incessantly. Sitting still at dinner or during a school lesson or
story can be a difficult task. They squirm and fidget in their seats or roam
around the room. Or they may wiggle their feet, touch everything, or noisily tap
their pencil. Hyperactive teenagers or adults may feel internally restless. They
often report needing to stay busy and may try to do several things at once.
Impulsive children seem unable to curb their immediate
reactions or think before they act. They will often blurt out inappropriate
comments, display their emotions without restraint, and act without regard for
the later consequences of their conduct. Their impulsivity may make it hard for
them to wait for things they want or to take their turn in games. They may grab
a toy from another child or hit when they’re upset. Even as teenagers or adults,
they may impulsively choose to do things that have an immediate but small payoff
rather than engage in activities that may take more effort yet provide much
greater but delayed rewards.
Some signs of hyperactivity-impulsivity are:
- Feeling restless, often fidgeting with hands or feet, or squirming while
- Running, climbing, or leaving a seat in situations where sitting or quiet
behavior is expected
- Blurting out answers before hearing the whole question
- Having difficulty waiting in line or taking turns.
Children who are inattentive have a hard time keeping their minds on any one
thing and may get bored with a task after only a few minutes. If they are doing
something they really enjoy, they have no trouble paying attention. But focusing
deliberate, conscious attention to organizing and completing a task or learning
something new is difficult.
Homework is particularly hard for these children. They will forget to write
down an assignment, or leave it at school. They will forget to bring a book
home, or bring the wrong one. The homework, if finally finished, is full of
errors and erasures. Homework is often accompanied by frustration for both
parent and child.
The DSM-IV-TR gives these signs of inattention:
- Often becoming easily distracted by irrelevant sights and sounds
- Often failing to pay attention to details and making careless mistakes
- Rarely following instructions carefully and completely losing or forgetting
things like toys, or pencils, books, and tools needed for a task