Getting to Know the ADD Types—Type 3: Over-Focused ADD

Attention-deficit disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, over-focused ADD, over-focused ADHD, spect scans, amen clinics, excessive worry, types of ADHD, what is adhd, what is over-focused ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, ADD types, adhd treatment,

One of the most common symptoms of ADD/ADHD is having trouble with focus. Surprisingly, however, some people with this condition have a tendency to hyperfocus on certain things. At Amen Clinics, which has identified 7 types of based on more than 250,000 brain SPECT scans, this type is called over-focused ADD/ADHD.

In part 3 of this 7-part blog series, you’ll learn about over-focused ADD, its symptoms, what SPECT scan reveal, and proven interventions.

Some people with ADD/ADHD have a tendency to hyperfocus on certain things. At Amen Clinics, which has identified 7 types of based on more than 250,000 brain SPECT scans, this type is called over-focused ADD/ADHD. Click To Tweet


Attention-deficit disorder (ADD), more commonly called attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by attention issues, impulse-control problems, and hyperactivity (in some cases). Come people who are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD in childhood continue struggle from symptoms as an adult.

The brain-imaging work using SPECT scans at Amen Clinics show that ADD/ADHD is not a singular condition. To date, Amen Clinics has identified 7 different brain patterns associated with ADD/ADHD. Each type has its own set of symptoms, and each type requires a targeted treatment plan.


Based on the patients at Amen Clinics, over-focused ADD/ADHD is the third most common type of the condition. Basically, people with this type can have difficulty shifting their attention. They become hyper-focused on one thing while tuning out everything else.

Individuals with over-focused ADD/ADHD have troubles with cognitive processing. They aren’t inattentive, rather, they are over-attentive.

People with over-focused ADHD tend to get “stuck” in negative thought patterns and behaviors.

In addition, they can be argumentative or oppositional. And they may have outbursts when things don’t go a certain way.

In some cases, this form of the neuropsychiatric disorder has been mistaken for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A pivotal difference between the two conditions is impulsivity. People with OCD typically aren’t impulsive, whereas those with over-focused ADD/ADHD tend to make more impulsive decisions.

Another common trait among those with this type of the condition is having a substance use disorder. It is also more likely to be found in the children and grandchildren of alcoholics.


The SPECT scans and clinical work at Amen Clinics shows that each ADHD subtype has unique symptoms. However, the following symptoms can be seen in all of the 7 ADHD types:

  • Inattention
  • Easily distracted
  • Procrastination
  • Forgetfulness
  • Problems with follow-through
  • Impulse-control issues
  • Disorganization

People who have over-focused ADD/ADHD can struggle with all of these symptoms or just some of them. Some people experience mild symptoms while others suffer with severe problems.

When it comes to disorganization, people who are over-focused may not be like those with other types of ADD/ADHD. In fact, in some cases, they may be obsessively organized.

In other cases, the over-focused type may appear very organized to others. They may be dressed perfectly, and their homes may look very neat and tidy. However, if you look inside their desk drawers or their closets, you may find a disaster.


In addition to the hallmark symptoms mentioned above, the unique characteristics of over-focused ADD/ADHD include:

  • Excessive worry
  • Argumentative and oppositional
  • Struggle to see options
  • Get locked into negative thinking patterns
  • Tendency to hold grudges
  • Obsessive and inflexible thinking
  • Tendency toward compulsive behaviors
  • Obsessive organization
  • Hold onto their own opinion without listening to others
  • Can get locked into a course of action (even when it doesn’t serve you)
  • Must have things done in a specific way
  • May or may not be hyperactive

These type-specific symptoms can range from mild to severe.


On SPECT scans, people with over-focused ADD may have increased activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus (ACG)  when their brain is at rest or during concentration. In the scan below, the arrow is pointing to overactivity in the ACG.

The ACG is the brain’s gearshift. It allows a person to shift from one thought to another thought or from one idea to the next. When the ACG is overactive, people have a tendency to get stuck or locked into negative thoughts and behaviors.

SPECT scans also show that during concentration, people with over-focused ADHD have decreased activity in the underside of the prefrontal cortex, cerebellum, and basal ganglia.

Over-Focused ADD SPECT Scan During Concentration


Strategies that can help manage the symptoms of over-focused ADD/ADHD include the following:

  1. Boost serotonin and dopamine levels.

One way to treat this type is to increase the dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain. The best way to boost both is with exercise. Exercise can help to distract from obsessive thoughts, provide relaxation for open-mindedness, and boost blood flow to the brain.

  1. Focus on complex carbohydrates.

An optimal diet for people with ADHD who tend to over-focus should include complex carbs like sweet potatoes, as well as small amounts of high-quality proteins. Too much protein in these individuals can exacerbate the tendency to hyperfocus.

  1. Ensure quality sleep.

It’s recommended that individuals with this type get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Getting appropriate levels of sunlight during the day can also increase your body’s production of serotonin. In the evening, serotonin converts into melatonin, which aids in getting a good night’s sleep.

  1. Use the 3-thought cutoff.

If you frequently experience obsessive or negative thoughts, establish a 3-thought cutoff. Once a negative thought has repeated in your mind 3 times, get up and do a different activity. Focusing on something else will allow you to push negative thoughts to the back of your mind.

  1. Review goals daily.

One effective way to reduce over-focus symptoms is to start writing down your goals. Review these goals each day, evaluate your decisions and adjust your behavior so that you’re working toward your goals, instead of against them.

  1. Take targeted supplements.

This type of ADD seems likely due to low levels of both serotonin and dopamine. Because of this, it’s a good idea to take nutritional supplements that boost these important neurotransmitters. A combination of St. John’s Wort and L-tyrosine can be very helpful. L-tryptophan and 5-HTP, which are serotonin building blocks, are other nutraceuticals that may increase serotonin in the brain.

  1. Get a personalized treatment plan.

If you have over-focused ADD/ADHD, you need a targeted treatment program. What works for other types of ADHD may not work for you. In fact, some standard ADHD treatments could make your symptoms worse.

To make sure you get the right treatment for your needs, ask yourself these questions:

To know which type of ADHD you have, consider getting a SPECT scan to learn more about your brain activity. Without looking at your brain, mental health professionals can only guess which type you have.

Want more information? Download Amen Clinics’ free Getting to Know the 7 ADD Types eBook.

ADD/ADHD and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. I learned about ADD Overfocused in the early/mid 80s. Who was the man who coined this phrase or diagnosis. No-one else at that time talked of this type ADD.

    Comment by Dodie — December 19, 2017 @ 7:53 AM

  2. I hadn’t heard about this until the late 1990s, even though i had been trying to find out what was wrong with me, and none of the regular ADD sites got it. Dr. Amen was the first info i found at a local bookstore.

    Comment by Tom Minkler — June 22, 2018 @ 1:31 AM

  3. What medicine is normally used to treat overfocused ADD?

    Comment by Son laer — September 10, 2018 @ 9:14 AM

  4. Recent research is mentioning that PCOS is also a brain disorder. The list of symptoms is a mile long, weight gain is one of the most common and least diagnosed. Women would love to hear your take on this.

    Comment by Shelly — October 26, 2018 @ 9:04 AM

  5. I just had a Qeeg. The results showed my brain resembles a dog that won’t let go of a bone, for instance! I saw Dr. Jorandby in Reston in 2016. She found that my scan with you showed a brain injury I had totally forgotten. I’m about to change my meds based on the Qeeg. If anyone there wants to study me further from a distance, I would be glad to send at least the summary of the results of the Qeeg. I can’t afford to come down there anymore, but if I could help others or get advice myself, let me know.

    Sally S. Thompson

    Comment by sally s. thompson — October 27, 2018 @ 6:53 AM

  6. I know someone like that

    Comment by Donna M Munhall — October 27, 2018 @ 12:14 PM

  7. Is it possible to work with someone over the phone for a consult with a child with ADHD and autism?

    Comment by Jamie Kosten — January 6, 2020 @ 2:39 PM

  8. I would like more information regarding ADD Type 3 Overfocused, please. Thank you.

    Comment by Jade — January 4, 2023 @ 7:04 AM

  9. great advice!

    Comment by Douglas Morris — July 13, 2023 @ 2:47 PM

  10. I would like more information regarding ADD Type 3 Overfocused, please. Thank you.Thank you.

    Comment by Julie — July 27, 2023 @ 1:59 AM

  11. I think I am a combination of 3 and 5. Quite possibly that no one knowing I had 3 later caused several encounters that created 5. I am female and over 40. I am also a person of color in America. Social and cultural norms would not allow this type of answer to the problems of children back then. At the same time, there is still a one-size fits all routine for both diagnosing and treating ADD/ADHD today even though it is more readily accepted that it exists and is a problem. It is also still looked at as mainly a male child's problem so females are often overlooked and seen as a person with a problematic personality rather than someone who needs coping skills (I still don't have coping skills). So much heartache and messy rooms could have been saved or fixed with a little bit of notice and instructional care. Thank you for the awareness. On the humorous side of it all, I couldn't read all of this in one sitting and kept jumping from one paragraph to the other because my lips were dry and I was worried if I didn't get any moisture on them, they might crack… If that ain't text-book, what is?

    Comment by Sonya — August 24, 2023 @ 10:46 AM

  12. p.s. Silly me, I saw and thought this was in England… Anyway, all still true. I hope people can relate. Mental health was for crazies back then. So you couldn't seek help that way or people might get afraid that you might do something horrible. I'm glad that has changed and is changing.

    Comment by Sonya — August 24, 2023 @ 3:28 PM

  13. So many of the symptoms of ADHD relate to my childhood days.. The era I was a child in combined "Children should be seen and not heard and being too much in every thing"( i.e. too sensitive, too quiet, ect) My Mother had no time for me, though I felt and knew she loved me… Now, I realise she expected me to be "normal" like my six siblings!!! I never fitted in, and somehow managed my behaviour to make things as good as I could.. and the feeling of being an imposter was the only way of dealing with it!! Having said that, as an 72 year old adult there are still so many symptoms I recognise… So delighted these symptoms are now recognised in Childhood, and help-understanding are available…

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  22. I definitely have this. Sally, you mentioned that you offered to show results of your treatment to others, I'd take you up on that. Here is my question for the clinic, and anybody who knows the answer: What medications work best for Overfocused? I have all the symptoms of both serotonin deficiency and dopamine deficiency. My guess is that a strong dose of a calming and grounding medication may be combined with a small and only small dose of a stimulant since stimulants can make this worse? I need to address the dopamine deficiency but am seeking the medicinal approach since everything else, including exercise and alternate treatments, do not work. What is the most proven med combo?

    Comment by Emanuel Voelker — December 1, 2023 @ 11:06 PM

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