What Are the Different Types of Attention Disorders?

Child abuse may lead to hyperactivity in children.
Problems at home between parents may cause a child to become hyperactive.
People with ADHD may be extremely hyperactive.
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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 02 September 2014
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Poor impulse control and inattention are some of the most obvious symptoms associated with attention disorders, but such disorders can actually come in a variety of unique types with varying symptoms. Among the different disorder subtypes are childhood attention disorder, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). When the symptoms of ADD and ADHD appear to be equally present, a third type, known simply as a combined type, is diagnosed. Also, within ADHD are three categories: hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity. All types of attention disorders may also be found in adults.

Childhood attention disorder is so named because its symptoms are first recognized during childhood. Symptoms include an inability to sit for extended periods of time, poor memory, poor concentration, inattentiveness and poor impulse control. At one time, these symptoms were classified simply as attention deficit disorder or, as it is most commonly known, ADD. When it was realized that some children with ADD also exhibited symptoms of extreme hyperactivity, ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, was the label assigned to this new subtype.

Within ADHD, different subtypes may be found. These subtypes include hyperactivity, as well as impulsivity and inattention. Since symptoms are usually recognized in childhood and unaffected children can also just as easily exhibit all of these characteristics, a physician’s diagnosis is needed before a child is actually considered to be affected by one of these types.


Attention disorders are classified according to which symptoms appear to dominate a person’s behavior. For instance, a child who is mainly inattentive, but who doesn’t appear to show unusual levels of hyperactivity, will be diagnosed with ADD. A child who shows signs of poor impulse control or higher than usual symptoms of hyperactivity will, on the other hand, be diagnosed with ADHD. When an equal level of inattentiveness and hyperactivity are present, the diagnosis given is a combined type.

Although ADD and ADHD are commonly diagnosed in childhood, many struggle with these symptoms into adulthood. This accounts for an addition in the types of attention disorders, which is an adult type. Adult attention disorders may also include either adult ADD or adult ADHD. With either, the same symptoms exist as they do in childhood types. Attention disorders can cause serious implications in an adult’s life without proper treatment and many need medication in order to control the symptoms.

Although most attention disorders are first diagnosed during childhood, not all are. Some individuals are not diagnosed until adulthood. As with childhood attention disorders, symptoms of adult attention deficit disorder can also range from mild to severe.


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