If you were to ask a random person what they see when they picture a person with ADHD, they would probably describe a troublemaker, likely a child, who can't sit still or gets fidgety at the dinner table.
And while these hyperactivity symptoms indeed fall under one category of ADHD, what many people may not know is that it isn’t the status quo. ADHD takes on different forms – three, to be exact – and looks much different for a woman in her thirties than it would for the child we mentioned in the first example.
What Is ADHD and How Does It Manifest?
ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a neuro-behavioral disorder characterized by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity.
It affects 11% of school-age children in the US and, in more than three-quarters of these cases, symptoms continue into adulthood.
While hyperactivity is the most commonly observed symptom at younger ages, as a person gets older and life's demands increase, inattentiveness and problems with organization and executive function (skills pertaining to self-regulation, planning, and focus) also begin to arise.
So, for example, what appears as fidgety behavior, daydreaming, and careless mistakes in childhood may become inner restlessness, failure to plan ahead, incomplete projects, and forgetfulness in adulthood.
However, ADHD symptoms are not the same for every person and can vary by type. Currently, the DSM-5 divides ADHD into three types:
1. Hyperactive/Impulsive Type
People with hyperactive/impulsive type ADHD feel the need for constant movement. They often fidget, squirm, and struggle to stay seated.
This type of ADHD is more recognizable and more often diagnosed in children and men.
A physician might diagnose an individual with hyperactive/impulsive type ADHD if they fit six of the nine descriptions below:
Being unable to sit still, especially in calm or quiet surroundings.
Fidgeting with or tapping hands or feet or squirming in their seat. For example, a child may fall out of their chair more often than peers, or feel the need to pick up everything and play with it. And an adult may be shifting in their chair or fidgeting with papers during work meetings.
Running or climbing in situations where it is inappropriate. In adolescents or adults, this symptom may manifest as feeling restless.
Being unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly.