Hyperactive & Impulsive ADHD Type: Explained

Living with ADHD can be challenging, affecting many aspects of your everyday life. From difficulty focusing and completing tasks to getting distracted or forgetting things, the symptoms of ADHD can sometimes feel confusing or even overwhelming. However, it’s important to recognize that ADHD is a treatable condition, and with the right tools and support, individuals with ADHD can excel and flourish.

Understanding the different subtypes of ADHD – along with the proper diagnosis, treatment and resources – can help support individuals living with ADHD to reach their fullest potential.

Published: March 21, 2023

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    When you’re diagnosed with ADHD, you’re likely to fall into one of the three categories: 

    1. ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Type (formally known as ADD)

    2. ADHD Combined Type

    3. ADHD Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

    The Inattentive Subtype is characterized by symptoms such as difficulty sustaining attention, forgetfulness, and being easily distracted. Individuals with this subtype may have trouble following instructions, completing tasks, or paying attention to details. 

    The Combined Subtype includes symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity. Individuals with this subtype may have trouble sitting still, be easily distracted, and interrupt others.

    In this article, we’ll be diving deeper into the Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD subtype, which is primarily characterized by symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Individuals with this subtype experience symptoms like fidgeting, restlessness, and difficulty sitting still. They may interrupt others, have difficulty waiting their turn, and act without thinking. 

    We’ll be focusing on adults living with Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD, along with coping mechanisms and strategies that can help you navigate this diagnosis. 

    What is Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD?

    Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD is often described as the “easiest to recognize” because its symptoms can be more overt and noticeable than its other subtypes. Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD is often diagnosed in children but can also be present in adults.

    What is hyperactivity? 

    Hyperactivity is a common symptom experienced by individuals with ADHD. The physical symptoms can refer to excess movement or activity, such as the inability to sit still, excessive talking, fidgeting, or restlessness. Non-physical hyperactivity is often less noticeable to others, manifesting as racing thoughts or an inability to relax or slow down. For someone living with ADHD, it often feels like a constant need to move or be in motion. 

    What is impulsivity? 

    Impulsivity is another common symptom of ADHD. Physically, it can be seen as a lack of inhibition or control over movement, like interrupting others, acting without thinking or engaging in risky behaviours. Non-physical impulsivity may appear as impulsive thoughts or decisions or overlooking the potential consequences of their actions. For those living with ADHD, impulsivity can feel like their actions exist outside of their control – even if they end up regretting them later. 

    Blame the condition, not the person

    It’s important to stress that hyperactivity and impulsivity do not reflect a lack of self-control or discipline – they are symptoms of ADHD, particularly of the hyperactive-impulsive type. Those living with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD have likely heard from others to “settle down” or “try harder.” 

    But understanding and accepting the symptoms of ADHD is an essential step for everyone – including those who don’t have ADHD – to practice more mindfulness and build a more supportive environment for someone living with ADHD to navigate.

    Identifying the signs & symptoms of Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

    Below are some common signs of how this ADHD type manifests. 

    • Fidgeting and squirming: tapping feet, moving limbs, wringing hands, doodling in notebooks, chewing on objects, folding/destroying restaurant serviettes, etc.

    • Restlessness: difficulty sitting or standing still

    • Hyperactivity: you’ve likely heard someone say to you, “I don’t know where you get all your energy when multitasking.”

    • Talking excessively: feeling a buzzing energy when you’re talking

    • Interrupting others: an urgency to express yourself, taking over activities, or acting without intending to be intrusive or rude

    • Difficulty waiting for one’s turn: intensely disliking lining-up

    • Impulsivity: making decisions without thinking through the consequences, like blurting out answers before you hear the full question

    Hyperactivity isn’t only physical

    It’s important to note that hyperactivity does not necessarily mean physical hyperactivity; it can also refer to mental hyperactivity, such as racing thoughts. For example, adults with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD may have difficulty managing their time, keeping track of appointments, and completing tasks on time. They may also struggle with organization, often misplacing items or forgetting important details.

    It’s common to experience co-occurring conditions, such as mood swings, anxiety and depression, when living with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD. These conditions often further complicate and impact someone’s well-being.  

    • Mood swings: sudden and intense changes in mood, often without an obvious trigger and accompanied by irritability or anger

    • Anxiety: excessive worry or fear, difficulty concentrating, physical symptoms such as sweating

    • Depression: feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or a loss of interest in activities that were enjoyable before

    The impact of Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD on work, school, and relationships

    We often don’t talk enough about ADHD and how it can affect many aspects of a person’s life, significantly impacting their ability to succeed in academic, professional and personal settings. 

    In the workplace or educational settings, individuals with Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD may struggle with maintaining focus, completing tasks on time or prioritizing responsibilities, resulting in poor performance and missed deadlines. 

    In some cases, individuals with ADHD may also struggle with social interactions and communication in professional and personal settings, hindering career and academic ambitions and interpersonal relationships. 

    With the proper ADHD diagnosis, treatment, and support, individuals with ADHD can learn strategies to manage their symptoms and thrive in all areas of their lives.

    How is Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD different from other ADHD subtypes?

    One of the key differences between hyperactive-impulsive ADHD and the other subtypes is the presence of physical restlessness and hyperactivity. The term “body filled with nervous energy” may aptly describe someone living with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD. 

    Another difference is the impact that symptoms have on daily life. While individuals with predominantly inattentive ADHD may struggle with organization and time management, those with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD may have a more challenging time with task completion and may engage in risky behaviours, such as seeking thrills in response to having a sedentary office job or feeling under-stimulated. 

    It’s important to note that while there are differences between the subtypes, many individuals with ADHD may display symptoms that overlap with multiple subtypes. Additionally, symptoms can vary in severity and frequency from person to person. 

    What to do if you think you have ADHD

    Do you believe you may be living with ADHD? You can take a free self-assessment in under 2 minutes to see if you present any symptoms. 

    What causes Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD?

    There is no single known cause of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD. However, research suggests that genetics, neurobiology, and environmental factors all play a role. 

    Studies have also shown that individuals with a family history of ADHD are likelier to develop the disorder. Those with a direct blood relative with ADHD are more likely to possess ADHD themselves. However, there is no “ADHD gene” – it’s much more complicated and not a black-and-white answer. 

    How do you get diagnosed with Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD?


    While there are several online self-screening tests available that can help identify the symptoms of Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD, it is important to note that self-screening tests cannot diagnose ADHD on their own. Patients should consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

    Medical diagnosis

    In Canada, diagnosing someone with ADHD is typically done by a healthcare professional specializing in ADHD ((i.e. Nurse Practitioner, Doctor, Psychiatrist, Psychologist, etc.). The assessment commonly includes reviewing an individual’s medical history, a physical exam, and key indicators from a questionnaire to assess symptoms.

    The diagnostic criteria for ADHD include the following:

    1. Persistent and excessive hyperactivity and impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development, as evidenced by at least six of the following symptoms:

      • Often fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat

      • Leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected

      • Runs about or climbs in situations where it is inappropriate

      • Unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly

      • Often “on the go,” acting as if “driven by a motor”

      • Talks excessively

      • Blurts out an answer before a question has been completed

      • Difficulty waiting their turn

      • Interrupts or intrudes on others

    2. Several symptoms are present before the age of 12 years.

    3. Several symptoms are present in two or more settings, such as at home, school, or work.

    4. There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with or reduce the quality of social, academic, or occupational functioning.

    There are online diagnosis options

    50% of Canadian adults living with ADHD are undiagnosed, and equitable access to ADHD care can differ significantly depending on where you live. Accessing a diagnosis in person can be difficult. Frida is working to remove these physical barriers so you can get an assessment in weeks, not months.

    ADHD treatment options 

    Accurately diagnosing ADHD can be challenging, but it is necessary to identify the subtype correctly to provide appropriate treatment. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but with the right medication, therapy and lifestyle changes, those with ADHD can more effectively manage their symptoms. 


    For hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, medications such as stimulants may be helpful. However, it’s important to note that ADHD medication works best when supported by non-medication strategies. Lifestyle changes like exercise, healthy eating, and good sleep habits can help ease symptoms alongside medication.

    Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)

    CBT is a form of talk therapy that can help individuals with ADHD learn coping skills and strategies. It focuses on identifying and changing negative patterns of thinking and behaviour in the present.

    CBT can be used alone or with medication to manage ADHD symptoms, but it’s important to work with a licensed therapist with experience treating ADHD to get the best results.

    Lifestyle changes 

    Making lifestyle changes can also greatly enhance the effectiveness of medication and therapy in treating ADHD. Some examples of this could include: 

    • Exercise: Regular exercise increases dopamine and can help reduce symptoms of ADHD. 

    • Sleep: Consistent, quality sleep can help regulate your mood and behaviour since a lack of sleep can worsen symptoms.

    • Nutrition: Eat a healthy and balanced diet and try to avoid sugary and processed foods, which can exacerbate symptoms. 

    • Time Management: Consider using tools like calendars, timers and to-do lists to help you stay organized and focused. 

    • Stress Reduction: Activities like meditation, deep breathing or yoga can help you work through daily stress.

    Take an ADHD Screening with Frida

    If you suspect that you might have adult ADHD, but haven’t yet received a diagnosis, use Frida’s screening tool. With the right support, treatment and compassionate care, our team at Frida can guide you through a diagnosis and get you a treatment plan with medications delivered right to your door.

    Our diagnostic assessment is completed in 4 steps:

    1. Complete a medical questionnaire/screener (5 – 7 minutes long)

    2. Complete a medical assessment form (20 minutes long)

    3. Schedule and undergo an ADHD assessment appointment (75 minutes)

    4. Receive your diagnosis results

    Frida Care Team

    We are a group of clinicians, continuous care support, writers, and creators who care deeply about patient care and ADHD. Together, we write content that we hope sheds light on ADHD and the health care space at large. You can reach us at support@talkwithfrida.com if you have any questions!