ADHD: Inattentive vs. Hyperactive

ADHD: Inattentive vs. Hyperactive—why do the differences matter? The first thing that comes to mind when picturing someone with ADHD is probably a little boy who can’t sit still, but what often gets overlooked is the little girl who is sitting quietly in her room day dreaming.

Today we’re going to talk about ADHD: Inattentive vs. Hyperactive

I’m Angela Howard, my passion is to break the stigma of mental illness among fellow Christians. I’m here to help you live a more purposeful life with God, and with one another. Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you can get the first updates of new content and connect in community.

A lot of times people will comment that they are “so ADD” because they are forgetful or distracted. There’s much more to a diagnosis than this. I’ll leave a link in the notes below to the DSM5 diagnostic criteria. The best thing to do if you suspect that you or a loved one have ADHD is to see a psychiatrist or psychologist to do a proper evaluation.

When my husband Michael and I were first married he could never sit through an entire church service. He would get up from his seat no less than 3 or 4 times during the message. I thought he was being immature and was completely judgmental. I’m pretty sure I had mastered the art of sighing quietly, but loud enough for him to know I disapproved.  Whenever he was seated his leg never stopped bouncing up and down. He also had a permanent bruise on his shin from me kicking him under the table those first few years. He would often interrupt people or say things that would embarrass me. If I would have read the diagnostic criteria for ADHD, I would have seen that he fit 7 of 8 symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity—a few being:

  • Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet or squirms in seat.
  • Often leaves seat in situations where remaining in your seat is expected.
  • Often blurts out answers before a question has been completed.
  • Feelings of restlessness.

My sister, on the other hand, was a peaceful sweet child growing up. She loved to play pretend and was known in our family as the peace maker. One of my most vivid memories of her was how it could take her an entire Saturday to clean her room. She seemed like she was in her own little world. We never thought that she might have ADHD, but she was diagnosed as an adult with the inattentive type.

Some of those symptoms are:

  • Is easily distracted by other things or people.
  • Starts projects, but gets easily sidetracked.
  • Difficulty staying focused during lectures, conversations, or lengthy reading.
  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or other activities.

Some people can even experience a combination of these symptoms, like my son Ben.

It’s important to know the differences in the types so that you can target the symptoms you are experiencing during your treatment and to simply have a better understanding of yourself so that you both accept yourself and learn what works for you.

We are all uniquely created by God, and we need to value one another for those differences. A perfect example of this is found in God’s word…


Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8


Do you see either inattentive or hyperactive symptoms in yourself or someone you love? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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DSM5 Diagnostic Criteria:
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