What are the Different Types of Attention Disorders?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 15 March 2020
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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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Post 3

My nephew has ADHD. I babysit him sometimes and it's such a challenge. He doesn't listen, can't pay attention to anything and he just has way too much energy. If I ask him to sit down and color or play a game, he can only focus for like twenty seconds before getting up and doing something else. If I push too much, he becomes upset and starts fidgeting and yelling. I don't know what to do when he's like that.

His parents want to help him but they don't want him on medications at such a young age. They are looking for a new doctor for therapy or alternative treatments. I honestly don't want to see my nephew on medications either, but he needs to be treated somehow. He can't continue like this.

Post 2

@candyquilt-- I'm not a doctor but I think it can go both ways. Some children do improve as they get older. Others may have trouble with attention throughout their lives although medication and various therapies can help significantly.

I'm inclined to think that an adult with ADD would have had problems in childhood as well. It might have been overlooked by the parents hoping that the child would grow out of it but the child never does. That's certainly not the right way to go about this. It needs to be diagnosed as soon as symptoms appear and treated so that the child doesn't suffer consequences such as poor performance in academics. Attention disorders can and do limit success. But it's also possible to overcome them.

Post 1

Do children with ADD or ADHD eventually grow out of them or does it stay through adulthood? And what about people diagnosed in adulthood? Does ADD appear suddenly or was it just not diagnosed until then?

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