Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most common psychiatric disorder in children and one of the most common psychiatric disorders in adults, affecting between 5-10% of the general population. 
What is ADHD? Simply put, ADHD is characterized by:
Persistent short attention span
Problems with forethought and judgment 
Impulse control
Please note: Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), the “inattentive” subtype of ADHD, is similar, although it is characterized mainly by inattentiveness without impulsivity and hyperactivity. 
Having untreated ADHD affects nearly every aspect of a person's life and has been associated with:
Failure to reach potential at school or work
Family conflict
Drug abuse
Legal and criminal problems
Low self-esteem 
Chronic stress 
Outside of the Amen Clinics, the mainstream treatments for ADHD in both children and adults—given without a clear picture of brain activity or a diagnosis of the sub-type of ADHD—have been stimulant medications, such as Ritalin or Adderall. These medications are helpful for some people, but they also make many others with typical ADHD worse. Side effects of these medications include hallucinations, violent outbursts, volatile temperaments, psychosis, and suicidal behavior.

How Amen Clinics Can Help

At Amen Clinics, we understand the pain a diagnosis of ADHD can cause for a family or even an adult. We approach each individual with a sense of compassion, and our experienced clinical staff will take a full history of each person thought to have ADHD before beginning treatment with SPECT imaging or other recommendations.

SPECT Imaging

SPECT imaging (which stands for single-photon emission computerized tomography) is a special kind of photograph we take of the brain to help us better understand how it works and what is going on inside of it.
SPECT can specifically help people with ADHD by:
Helping evaluate whether or not the person has ADHD
Helping determine the type of ADHD to inform treatment decisions
Seeing how well treatment is working
Finding out if there are other co-occurring conditions that need treatment
Reducing emotional pain and stigma by demonstrating that symptoms and behaviors are not imaginary
Increasing treatment compliance by showing pictures of results
Helping families gain a better understanding of the illness through visuals
Learn more about SPECT
Visit our Science page to learn more about how SPECT works.

Breakthrough Discovery: Types of ADHD

Shortly after he began brain SPECT imaging work in 1991, Dr. Amen realized that realized that ADHD was not a single or simple disorder, and it is important to understand that to really know what ADHD is. Just as there are many different causes of chest pain, he noticed there were different brain SPECT patterns in his ADHD patients. Over the next several years, he described 7 different types of ADHD that responded differently to different treatments. 
“One treatment does not fit everyone.” — Dr. Amen
The 7 different types of ADHD are described briefly below. You can find more detailed information in Dr. Amen’s book, Healing ADD, which is available in our store

Type 1: Classic ADHD


Primary ADHD symptoms plus hyperactivity, restlessness, and impulsivity

Common SPECT findings: 

  • Low prefrontal cortex activity while the person is concentrating 

Type 2: Inattentive ADHD


Primary ADHD symptoms plus low energy and motivation, spacey, and internally preoccupied. Type 2 is diagnosed later in life, if at all. It is more common in girls. These are quiet people, often labeled as “lazy,” “unmotivated,” and “not that smart.”

Common SPECT findings: 

  • Low prefrontal cortex activity while the person is concentrating 
  • Low cerebellar activity

Type 3: Over-focused ADHD


Primary ADD symptoms plus cognitive inflexibility, trouble shifting attention, stuck on negative thoughts or behaviors, worrying, holding grudges, argumentative, oppositional, and a need for sameness. Often seen in families with addiction problems or obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

Common SPECT findings:

  • High anterior cingulate activity
  • Low prefrontal cortex activity while the person is concentrating


Type 4: Temporal Lobe ADD


Primary ADD symptoms plus a “short fuse,” difficulty distinguishing helpful corrections from insults, periods of anxiety, headaches or abdominal pain, history of head injury, family history of anger management problems, dark thoughts, memory problems, and difficulty reading. Often seen in families with learning disabilities or anger management problems.

Common SPECT findings: 

  • Low temporal lobe activity 
  • Low prefrontal cortex activity while the person is concentrating

Type 5: Limbic ADD:


Primary ADD symptoms plus chronic mild sadness, negativity, low energy, low self-esteem, irritability, social isolation, and poor appetite and sleep patterns. Stimulants, by themselves, usually cause problems with rebound or cause depressive symptoms.

Common SPECT findings: 

  • High deep limbic activity 
  • Low prefrontal cortex activity at rest and while the person is concentrating

Type 6: Ring of Fire ADD


Primary ADD symptoms plus extreme moodiness, anger outbursts, oppositional behavior, inflexibility, rapid-fire thinking, excessive talking, and high sensitivity to sounds and lights. “Ring of Fire” refers to the intense ring of overactivity that Dr. Amen has observed in the brains of affected people. Note: this type of ADHD is often worsened by stimulants.

Common SPECT findings: 

  • Noticeable overall increased activity across the cortex
  • Low prefrontal cortex activity (less common)

Type 7: Anxious ADD


Inattentiveness, distractability, disorganization, anxiety, tension, nervousness, a tendency to predict the worst, freezing in test taking situations, and a tendency toward social anxiety. People with this type are prone to experience the physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches and gastrointestinal problems.

Common SPECT Findings:

  • Increased activity in the basal ganglia at rest and while the person is concentrating.
  • Decreased activity in the underside of the prefrontal cortex and cerebellum while the person is concentrating.

Recommendations for All Types of ADHD

  1. Take a 100% multi-vitamin every day. Studies have reported that they help people with learning and help prevent chronic illness. 
  2. Eliminate caffeine from your diet. It interferes with treatments and sleep.
  3. Get 30-45 minutes per day of intense aerobic exercise. At Amen Clinics, brain health is very important to us, so please make sure kids have safe exercise outlets and wear helmets when appropriate. When nothing else is available, go for long, fast walks.
  4. Turn off the television and video games, or limit them to no more than 30 minutes a day. This may be hard for kids and teens, but it can make a huge difference.
  5. Food is a drug. Most people with ADHD do best with a diet that is high in protein and low in simple carbohydrates. Dr. Barry Sears’s book, The Zone: A Dietary Road Map, is a good place to start learning how to make this diet work for you.
  6. Do not yell at people with ADHD. Many people with ADHD seek out conflict or excitement because they like the stimulation it brings them. They can be masters at making other people mad or angry. Do not lose your temper with them: if they are able to get this reaction out of you, their subconscious, low-energy prefrontal cortex lights up and makes them feel great. Never let your anger be their medication—they can get addicted to it.
  7. Test ADHD kids and adults for learning disabilities. They occur in up to 60% of people with ADHD. The local schools are often set up to do this for school-age children. 
  8. Apply for appropriate school or work accommodations.
  9. Take a high-quality fish oil supplement. Adults: 2,000-4,000mg per day. Children: 1,000-2,000mg per day. 
  10. Never stop seeking the best help for your brain.
At Amen Clinics, we want to help you learn more about the brain and how to feel better. Call us today at 1-888-564-2700 or tell us more to schedule an appointment. 

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