AD / HD For Dummies
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Understanding and diagnosing attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or AD/HD, begins with learning the three types of AD/HD and recognizing that they can be exhibited through secondary symptoms as well. To cope with AD/HD, explore a number of treatment options and how they can be approached for better results.

The three types of AD/HD

AD/HD looks different in almost everyone. You may have problems regulating yourself if you’re dealing with AD/HD. This can happen in areas of attention, behavior, and motor movements. The term attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder comes from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (now in its fifth edition), which outlines three basic types of AD/HD:

  • Predominantly inattentive type. Having this type of AD/HD means that you have difficulty focusing but are able to sit still. Classic symptoms include:

    • Making careless mistakes

    • Not seeming to listen as someone else speaks

    • Being disorganized or forgetting things

    • Having trouble focusing on a specific task

  • Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive type. If you have this type of AD/HD, maintaining attention is less of a problem than being able to control your body movements or behaviors. The basic symptoms include:

    • Speaking or acting out of turn

    • Not considering consequences before acting

    • Fidgeting or feeling restless when trying to sit

    • Being excessively physically or verbally active

  • Combined type. If you have a number of symptoms from both the inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive lists, you may have the combined type of AD/HD.

To have AD/HD, your symptoms must meet certain guidelines, including:

  • Existing for at least six months

  • Appearing before you were 7 years old

  • Having a significant impact on your life in more than one setting

  • Not being attributable to a different condition (such as bipolar disorder)

Secondary symptoms of AD/HD

AD/HD is not limited to the classic (or primary) symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Many other (secondary) symptoms exist that can negatively impact your life, including but not limited to:

  • Worry

  • Boredom

  • Loss of motivation

  • Frustration

  • Low self-esteem

  • Sleep disturbances

  • Hopelessness

  • Procrastination

  • Difficulty getting along with others

  • Difficulty managing time or money

Treatment levels for AD/HD

A variety of ways exist to treat AD/HD symptoms but treatment has to be addressed from three levels: biological, psychological, and social. This combined, or multimodal treatment approach is the most effective way to deal with AD/HD.


Biological treatments change the way your brain works. The change can be accomplished several ways and can be temporary or permanent, depending on the approach you take. The options include:

  • Medication

  • Diet

  • Vitamin supplements and herbal remedies

  • Repatterning therapies, such as neurofeedback, rhythmic entrainment intervention, auditory integration training, and vision therapy

  • Rebalancing therapies, such as homeopathics, acupuncture, sensory integration therapies, and manipulation therapies (osteopathy, chiropractic, and craniosacral therapy).


Psychological therapies help you deal with the feelings that come from your symptoms and understand how to change the way you think and act to improve your life. Psychological treatment strategies can include:

  • Counseling and psychotherapy, such as insight-oriented therapy, supportive therapy, play therapy, skills training, psychoeducational counseling, and parent training

  • Behavior management, such as behavior modification, cognitive-behavioral counseling, and awareness training


Everyone needs certain skills in order to function in the world, but people with AD/HD often struggle with basic life strategies. After you deal with the biological issues associated with AD/HD, you need to start developing your social skills in the following areas:

  • Organization

  • Relationships

  • Communication

  • Lifestyle choices

  • Occupational skills

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Jeff Strong is the Founder and President of REI Institute, which focuses on neuro-developmental disabilities. Michael O. Flanagan, MD, is a neuropsychiatrist in private practice in New Mexico.

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