ADHD Explained – What it Really Feels Like Every Day

Whether you have to explain the disorder to a child, a skeptic, or an adult, there are common misconceptions about ADHD that everyone should be aware of. Most people think they know the ins and outs of what ADHD really is. However, there are so many negative stigmas and stereotypes that go along with it, the definition has become widely distorted over the years.

One of the best ways to explain ADHD is to break it down simply. If you really want to get a better insight into the disorder, ask someone who has it what their day-to-day life really feels like. Until then, though, being able to know the basics can be incredibly helpful.

What is ADHD?

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, can be broken down into three subtypes:




Each of these subtypes have patterns that follow certain behaviors. But, they all fall underneath the blanket of ADHD. Because these subtypes exist, it can be easy for people to misdiagnose the disorder, or brush it off as something less serious than it actually is. What can you expect from each of these subtypes? Let’s take a closer look at some of the warning signs, for children and adults alike who may be experiencing them.


An inattentive subtype will have difficulty paying attention and staying focused. We tend to notice this more in children because it may start to affect their schoolwork. However, it shows up in some adults, too. Inattentive types lose things easily, and may not remember something that was just recently told to them.

Additionally, inattentive types usually have difficulty following instructions clearly, and may come across as unorganized and extremely forgetful. It’s not hard to see why there is a negative stereotype associated with this disorder. As adults, inattentive subtypes can be labeled as ‘lazy,’ when it’s not their fault at all.


Someone who has hyperactive-impulsive tendencies will always feel the need to keep moving. They may fidget quite a bit, or find it difficult to sit still. It’s not just physical signs that show off this subtype. They may also have trouble with interrupting people, and talking excessively.

This subtype can often be easier to diagnose in children, especially when they are in a school setting with others. Adults may be able to ‘control’ it a bit more, but it can still be very noticeable at almost any age.


Having combined subtypes is actually very common. While it makes it easier to pick out different attributes of the other two types, it’s not always easy on the person dealing with these characteristics.

Again, there are so many negative labels and stereotypes that can go along with ADHD, from childhood to adulthood. The more we understand about these subtypes and the symptoms of each one, the better individual diagnoses will become.

It’s important not to shrug off adult ADHD behaviors. While it’s easy to assume someone might be lazy, immature, or hyper, there could be something much deeper going on that needs to be officially diagnosed. The sooner we are able to let go of these stigmas, the more likely it is that adults with some of these symptoms will seek out an actual diagnosis. Then, they can get the treatment they deserve to manage these unwanted behaviors.

Marcy M. Caldwell, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment and assessment of adult ADHD Psychologist Philadelphia.