Most people are familiar with the acronym ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder but not many people can tell you much more about it than the individual is hyper and always on the move.  

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder which means that it relates to how the brain functions and that it is not caused by a stressful situation or parenting style. Although, the environment can affect how an individual is able to cope with their symptoms.

There are three different types of ADHD that will affect an individual’s emotions, learning and self-control.  An individual with ADHD can have a predominantly Inattentive Presentation, a Predominantly Hyperactive/Impulsive Presentation or a Combined presentation.  Each of these types of ADHD comes with their own set of challenges for the individual. The symptoms an individual with ADHD exhibits will likely change throughout their lifetime and affect their functioning differently in different settings.

When you are interacting with an individual, who has the Hyperactive/Impulsive Presentation of ADHD you need to remind yourself that there are some things they cannot control in the same way others can. They may do things that you see as frustrating and rude, but please remember that in most cases, they are not intentionally doing these things to bother you.  It is just how they function with their symptoms.  They likely feel similar frustration about some of their symptoms and wish it wasn’t part of who they are, but it is.  The best thing you can do is to be patient with them and to do your best to help them through the situation by subtly suggesting alternatives that would be more appropriate to what they are doing.

ADHD Impulsive

If an individual is diagnosed with ADHD Hyperactive/Impulsive Presentation, it means they met the diagnostic criteria for an individual with hyperactive and impulsive behaviors.  This presentation of ADHD is the one that the media typically portrays.  It is also the one that the layperson will feel they diagnose based on the behavior they see.

ADHD Impulsive Symptoms

For the examples in this post, I will be using a fictional character named Jamie who has ADHD Hyperactive/Inattentive Presentation.  Please note that these are just examples and I am not describing a real individual.

They often fidget or tap their hands or feet.

An individual with the predominately Hyperactive/Impulsive Presentation of ADHD has a tough time sitting perfectly still. If they are in a situation where they have to sit for extended periods of time, they will often be moving in some way whether it is fidgeting with something or tapping something.

Jamie has a tough time when she is in a meeting at work. She tries to be subtle, but she can’t help playing with her hair, tapping her pen on the desk or shaking her foot under the table.  Some people find these types of behaviors to be very distracting, but it is likely that Jamie doesn’t even realize she is doing them. 

Sitting down for a long time can be difficult, especially when remaining seated is expected.

Any instance that an individual with ADHD predominantly Hyperactive/Inattentive presentation has to stay seated for an extended period of time can be very daunting for them.  They know it will be hard to stay seated and focused.

It may be helpful to think of a time when you had a task to do that you really didn’t want to do and every time you started it, you would be okay for the first few minutes but then come up with something that had to be done at that moment.  I think most people experience this with some tasks in their life no matter what, but for an individual with the predominantly Hyperactive Presentation of ADHD, this happens with everything they want to do.  It can be very frustrating to the individual because no matter how hard they try, they can’t just sit down to focus for a few hours to get something done.

They often have a hard time engaging in leisure activities quietly.

This trait can be very frustrating for the individual on many different levels.  It can make ‘hanging out with friends’ very difficult.  Sitting around and talking or laying around at the beach can be very difficult because the individual with ADHD Hyperactive/Impulsive presentation can be very boring and make them feel very restless.  These individuals don’t understand how sitting in a bathtub can be relaxing.  They may feel guilty because they can’t enjoy just doing anything.

It is Spring Break, and Jamie goes on a trip with some friends to Mexico.  She has looked into all the different activities they can do on their trip, and she is so excited to go on these adventures with her friends.  When they arrive, Jamie wants to go look around the resort, but her friends say they just want some time to relax after a day of traveling.  They all make a plan to meet in a few hours for dinner. When Jamie gets to her room, she decides she will try to have a bath and relax.  After she is in the tub for a few minutes, she gets restless and starts to wonder what her friends could be doing.  This frustrates Jamie because she knows so many people that say they can stay in a nice bath for hours, but she is bored after 5 minutes and wants to get out.

Jamie is excited the next day when everybody heads out to the beach for the day.  She is looking forward to playing frisbee, beach volleyball, and having fun in the water.  When they get to the beach, everybody sets their towels up on the chairs and lays down to relax.  Jamie plays along for the first half-hour but then gets restless and need to get up and move. She asks her friends if they want to play a game or go in the water and they would prefer just relax on their chairs, so Jamie goes off on her own.  This continues to happen throughout the day and frustrates Jamie.  She is frustrated for two reasons, one because her friends don’t want to do some of the fun things she wants to do and because she isn’t able to enjoy just lounging around on the beach with them.

They often talk excessively, speak out of turn or interrupt others.

This can be a real problem for individuals with ADHD Hyperactive/Impulsive presentation because even though they may know it is inappropriate to do any of these behaviors, they cannot help themselves. 

They may constantly be talking because it is easier for them to focus on the situation than in complete silence.  Individuals with the Hyperactive/Impulsive presentation of ADHD also may be uncomfortable with the silence because they are unsure of what to do in the silence.

An individual may interrupt in a conversation because they have something important to add to it and they are worried that if they wait for their turn to speak the individual may forget what they were going to say or that the moment it was pertinent to the conversation has passed. They may finish another person’s sentence because they are trying to show that person that they are listening to what is being said and they have something they want to add to it.

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American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.