ADHD and Hyperactivity & Impulsivity

Understanding Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD is characterized by persistent patterns of hyperactivity and impulsivity that interfere with functioning or development. Individuals with this type of ADHD may exhibit constant movement, excessive talking, difficulty waiting their turn, and acting without much consideration for consequences. These behaviors are more pronounced than typical for their age group, making daily tasks and social interactions challenging. Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for seeking appropriate treatment and support strategies.

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Written by

Tayler Hackett

Mental Health Writer and ADHD Expert
In this Article
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The Reality of Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

Ever wondered if your perception of ADHD aligns with the reality those with ADHD actually experience? Here, we’ll look specifically at the hyperactive-impulsive type of ADHD, its symptoms, and ways to manage it.

We’ll cover:

  • The three types of ADHD and how they’re different.
  • The myth of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD and how experiences vary from person to person.
  • The different symptoms and behaviors of someone with this type of ADHD. 
  • How an ADHD diagnosis works.
  • Strategies for managing hyperactivity and impulsivity with practical tips for daily life.

Ready to find out what hyperactivity and impulsivity look like in daily life? Let’s get into it! ☺️

The Three ADHD Types: An Overview

Before we look at Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD, we need to understand that it’s one of three types or presentations of ADHD.

According to the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), ADHD can be categorized into three categories:

  1. Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD
  2. Predominantly Inattentive ADHD Type
  3. Combined Type

Through an analysis of your ADHD symptoms against the DSM-5’s diagnosis criteria, a mental health professional can assess which ADHD type you have.

The Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type of ADHD is typically more obvious and easier to diagnose. These people have visible symptoms like fidgeting, tapping their feet, or squirming in their seats. 

They also tend to be talkative, act without thinking, or interrupt others during conversations. 

On the other hand, research indicates that the Predominantly Inattentive ADHD Type is often the most challenging type category to diagnose. 

These people often exhibit inattentive behavior, such as difficulty with sustained mental effort, especially to tasks they aren't interested in, getting easily distracted by external stimuli, or having trouble focusing on their assigned tasks. 

A lot of these are internal, meaning the symptoms of inattentive ADHD presentation can sometimes be hard for experts to recognize and give an accurate diagnosis.

When someone has five to six or more symptoms from both the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD criteria, they may be diagnosed with the combined ADHD type.

The Myth of Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD

When the majority of people think of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) they typically envision someone who’s disruptive, unruly, and often needs attention.

This misunderstanding dates back to 1902 when Professor George Friedrich Still, a British pediatrician, first identified these symptoms in children.

That observation persisted for years and he, along with other scientists, continued to research these behaviors, eventually paving the way for what we now call ADHD.

Though the description above may be partly true for those diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (specifically hyperactive-impulsive ADHD), symptoms still vary from person to person. 

There are ADHD symptoms that significantly affect my life and cause inconvenience, but there are also ADHD traits and struggles common to others that I find easy. 

ADHD can be a complex neurodivergent disorder, so what may be true to you might not be factual to someone else.

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6 ADHD Hyperactive and Impulsive Behaviors You Might Experience

Hyperactivity-Impulsivity symptoms of ADHD can manifest in different ways. According to the DSM-5, there are nine symptoms that a person with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can experience. 

However, for a diagnosis to be made, just five to six symptoms of this ADHD type need to be present, persistently affecting and interfering with an individual's daily life.

Here are some of the common symptoms of ADHD hyperactive-impulsive type:

Struggling to Stay Still and Always Fidgeting

Fidgeting, continuously tapping fingers on a table, or leg bouncing while seated can signify a hyperactive ADHD brain. When we can't sit still, our brain is usually overstimulated, trying to find a way to release this energy. We tend to feel restless and want to make movements constantly.

Children with ADHD are the most recognizable example of this ADHD symptom. They often squirm on their seats, tap their feet, or play with everything they see and have trouble focusing on what's in front of them. For adult ADHD, the hyperactive symptom may manifest in leg bouncing, pacing back and forth, or clicking your pen. 

Many people with hyperactive behaviors have a constant need for movement.

Difficulties Relaxing

When we can’t release the excess energy we have due to our hyperactive behavior, we might struggle to relax. Even if we’re idle and not doing anything, our hyperactive brain might be working on a thousand ideas or overthinking, resulting in difficulties with relaxation.

When I get stressed out and overwhelmed, I tend to escape reality, run to the nearest park, and exercise. I try to go to places where it's supposed to be relaxing. 

However, as I try to take my mind off the pressure, I'll start noticing other things that can stress me out more, like how a child runs, a dog's continuous bark, or the dark clouds that threaten me with rain. ☔ And because of this, I still can't seem to relax and destress fully.

Excessive Talking

Impulsive behavior is another criterion for a Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD diagnosis. Our self-control can sometimes affect other people because we might miss details and social cues. 

That’s why we may start talking excessively without considering whether it's the appropriate moment or not. And once we start, it’s difficult to stop talking.

We tend to overshare our thoughts, unnecessarily disclose personal information, or chat with anyone without being asked if that’s what they want.

Our difficulty in controlling these behaviors may cause us conflict in our relationships or make other people feel often disregarded and disrespected 💢.

Feeling Exhausted and Tired All the Time

When people think about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), they may expect us all to be lively and enthusiastic, never running out of energy. ⚡Some neurotypicals might think they never see anyone with ADHD tired, exhausted, and drained at any given time. 

However, this is an ADHD misconception.

Because of our difficulty relaxing and staying still, we may often become tired or exhausted. When we need to rest and replenish our energy, our hyperactive brain makes it nearly impossible, usually during sleep, significantly affecting our energy levels.

Blurting Out Answers & Interrupting

Another impulsive behavior that can impact our relationships is the tendency to blurt things out or interrupt others. 

We might not let someone finish what they’re saying, or interrupt and finish their sentences, even when we genuinely want to listen and be respectful.

This is seen in children with ADHD who blurt out answers in class to get their teacher’s attention, or answer before being called on, unable to wait their turn. Often, this child’s behavior is seen as disruptive.

Adults with impulsive ADHD may also have difficulty waiting for their turn to speak in a conversation or meeting at work because of their impulsivity. Many people with ADHD also are forgetful, so they’ll want to speak before they forget what it is they want to say.

You might ask, "Neurotypical people do that as well. Is interrupting other people really an ADHD thing?" 

Yes, it can be an ADHD thing. 

And yes, neurotypical people can do them as well, but for us, it can be a bit more severe because our hyperactive & impulsive ADHD may affect our daily functioning.

While it may just seem like a small thing, if you do it often enough, people may find it challenging to have a conversation with you. 🥺

Risky Behaviors

Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD symptoms are often the source of risky behaviors such as driving recklessly, not being able to control spending or substance abuse. If you’re struggling with these types of behaviors, it’s important to reach out to someone who specializes in treating ADHD.

How Is Hyperactive & Impulsive ADHD Presentation Diagnosed?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional using the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders as a guide for determining the symptoms that may affect you. 

These symptoms should be/have been present before the age of 12 and show up in two or more settings (home, work, school, etc.) 

After answering the questionnaires required by your mental health doctor, they will carefully assess all the symptoms that are linked to ADHD. 

During an assessment, they may also ask you questions about your difficulty sustaining attention, social skills, or anything that could be related. This is to determine the best treatment for you.

To be diagnosed, five (to six) or more symptoms of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD must be present depending on whether you’re a child or adolescent/adult. 

If you also show enough signs of inattentive symptoms, you may be diagnosed with combined-type ADHD.

Strategies for Managing Hyperactivity

Behavioral therapy, ADHD medications, or social skill training are usually your best options to treat ADHD. But there are also lifestyle changes and habits you can start to make your hyperactivity & impulsivity symptoms more manageable. 

Here are some practical tips for daily life that can help reduce your hyperactivity:

  • Choose a job that benefits from your ADHD-positive behaviors, especially your Hyperactive-Impulsive symptoms. This way, you can channel your creativity and extra burst of energy into something productive and get paid for it.
  • Regularly do brain-training exercises. These activities and games can help you improve focus and concentration by providing a stimulating environment for your brain. 🧠
  • Exercise frequently. This can help burn any extra energy and even improve your sleep at night. 
  • Practice good sleep hygiene. Try to stick to a routine, avoid gadgets at night, and make sure your environment is designed for a good night's sleep.
  • Use fidget toys. Fidget toys can help you stay calm and focus on the task by providing a physical outlet for your fidgeting.
  • Join solid support groups. There are a lot of people with ADHD that successfully manage their symptoms. Learning from their experiences can be helpful. Don’t be afraid to turn to family members and other trusted friends for support in your journey to managing ADHD.

Key Takeaways

  • There are three ADHD Types: Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type, Predominantly Inattentive Type, and Combined Type.
  • ADHD stereotypes are usually wrong: ADHD symptoms vary widely from person to person. 
  • Hyperactive and impulsive symptoms include difficulty staying still, excessive talking, exhaustion, impulsivity, and risky behaviors.
  • If you think you have ADHD, you should seek a diagnosis from a mental health professional.
  • Managing your ADHD can look like behavior therapy, stimulant medications, and lifestyle adjustments like suitable job selection and support group involvement.

Whichever ADHD presentation you have, there are ways to manage your symptoms so that they don’t stop you from achieving your goals in life. And remember, never be afraid to ask for help when needed.

What’s Next?

If you think you have hyperactive-impulsive ADHD or are simply interested in learning more, here are a few of the symptoms explored in more detail:

Exploring the Role of Fidgeting in ADHD Management

The Struggle with Impulse Control in ADHD

Mastering Spontaneous Shopping: Control Your Impulse Purchases & Save Money

Predominantly Hyperactive & Impulsive ADHD: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What are the 3 types of ADHD?

The three categories are Predominantly Inattentive Presentation, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation, and the Combined Type. 

What is the ADHD hyperactive-impulsive type?

The hyperactive-impulsive type of ADHD is characterized by symptoms that include restlessness, an inability to stay still, excessive fidgeting, challenges in waiting for one's turn, and a tendency to interrupt others during conversations.

What does ADHD impulsivity look like?

ADHD impulsivity is characterized by acting without thinking and difficulty controlling behavior. Hyperactive-impulsive behavior includes constant movement, excessive talking, interrupting, and engaging in risky behaviors.

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