7 Types of ADHD | Type 3: Over-focused ADHD

Over-focused ADHD

YafaYafa Crane Luria
Teacher | Author | Positive Discipline Trainer
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I see a lot of clients with over-focused ADD. For a long while, I thought I had this type of ADHD. I was diagnosed before it was even called ADHD, so when new terms came into play, I had a bit of piecing together to do. I knew that I had the diagnosis: it wasn’t like I was diagnosed with glaucoma and then realized I had ADD; I was diagnosed with “Minimal Brain Dysfunction” which came to be called Attention Deficit Disorder.

Here’s what Dr. Amen has to say about Over-focused ADD:

Characteristics of Over-focused ADD
  • For people with this type, the core ADD symptoms are compounded by tremendous trouble shifting attention and the tendency to get “stuck” in negative thought patterns and/or behaviors.
  • This type is frequently found in substance abusers and in the children and grandchildren of alcoholics.


Over-focused ADHDTraits:
  • Inattentive
  • Trouble shifting attention
  • May or may not be hyperactive
  • Frequently gets stuck in loops of negative thoughts or behaviors
  • Obsessive and inflexible
  • Excessive worrying
  • Trouble when things do not “go your way”
  • Frequent oppositional and argumentative behavior


And here are some interesting treatments solutions. Read carefully:

The goal is to boost serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain. Treatment is tricky. People with Over-Focused ADD get more anxious and worried on a stimulant medication. I use supplements first—L-tryptophan, 5-HTP, saffron, and inositol. If supplements don’t help with symptoms, I prescribe Effexor, Pristique, or Cymbalta. I avoid a higher-protein diet with this type, which can make patients mean. Neurofeedback training is another helpful tool.

Here’s a story about one of Dr. Amen’s clients:

Tammy was in fourth grade when she first came to our clinic. A stubborn child, she would throw mammoth tantrums that could go on for hours when she didn’t get her way. Additionally, Tammy was shy around other people, worried a lot, and was having problems in school. She would stare at her work for long periods of time. She craved perfection, and as a result her papers showed evidence of many erasures. Tammy was distracted easily and had trouble sitting still. While Tammy’s attention could easily be diverted from some things, she held on to hurts. If a friend said something she didn’t like, her parents would hear about it for weeks.

Another child psychiatrist diagnosed Tammy with ADD and put her on Ritalin. But the Ritalin aggravated her, making her moody, irritable, and even more anxiousTammy’s brain scan showed that her anterior cingulate gyrus was very overactive – it was clear from a brain biology perspective that she had trouble shifting attention.

Given her poor prior response to medication, the parents and I initially decided to try an herbal approach to treatment and had her engage in a daily exercise program. In addition, her parents had to learn to be very firm and prevent her from arguing or opposing them. It took two months for all of the interventions to work together, but they had a significant positive impact on her behavior and academic activity.

Over-focused ADD in my practice:

People with over-focused ADD tend to be very compassionate and thus, attach themselves (“compassionate” literally means “to feel with”) to not only people but events, objects, feelings, and memories. This is why it’s hard for them to detach.

These are the kids that will have a tantrum for hours when computer or game time is taken away. They may find it harder to sleep because it’s sad to leave the “awake world.” They may hang onto resentments and past hurts, and it’s much harder to get them to be champions for themselves because they often feel like “losers” or “failures.”

They may have attached meaning to objects that go beyond a sentimental attachment. Instead it’s almost like the person they love is part of the object, or that their memories are in the object instead of in themselves. These objects represent friendship and love to them.

One of my former clients, an avid hiker, has a collection of twigs and leaves and dirt from his first hike with his two-year old son. DIRT! Another client, in her 30s still holds a grudge against her 5th grade teacher. One 17 year old client was toilet-trained using Hot Wheels cars®. He can’t give them away to charity, even though he understands that there are poor children who would love to play with them. Another kept his blanket and wouldn’t let his mother wash it for 6 years. Yes, it was gross when he finally relented.

For these ADDers, everything is a transition because every transition can be about loss. For kids with Over-focused ADD, parents need to be very patient, very steady, and very clear about boundaries. Firm but very kind and loving. Your kids will know if you’re merely humoring them, so dig deep and exercise some compassion. Try to feel with your kids instead of trying to get them to stop feeling.


Take this assessment to get some idea of your or your child’s type of ADD/ADHD. This is not a substitute for medication, seeing an Medical Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor, or getting the therapeutic or coaching help that you or your family might need.

(My information comes from ADDitude Magazine, Smart Kids with LD, Amen Clinics, and from my own experience as a former teacher and school counselor, and current ADHD Coach and Strategist.

xo, Yafa

Copyright 2017 Yafa Crane Luria All Rights Reserved

Yafa Crane LuriaAbout Yafa Crane Luria

Yafa Crane Luria is a 30-year veteran teacher and school counselor, a Positive Discipline Trainer, and the author of the Mom’s Choice Award®-Winning book: How To Train Your Parents in 6 ½ Days and the Amazon Kindle Best Seller: Getting Schooled: 102 Practical Tips for Parents, Teachers, Counselors, and Students about Living and Learning with ADHD. She was diagnosed with ADHD (then called “Minimal Brain Dysfunction”) in 1980, one of the first to be diagnosed as an adult. Yafa specializes in helping ADHD families who have tried everything and are still frustrated by their child’s or teen’s Blocked but Brilliant brain. Fun fact: Yafa’s nickname as a child was “Mountain Goat” because she climbed on EVERYTHING! She can be reached at her website: BlockedToBrilliant.com

To read about the other types of ADHD view all posts by Yafa Crane Luria here.



Over-focused ADHD

19 Comments on “7 Types of ADHD | Type 3: Over-focused ADHD”

  1. My child has been diagnosed adhd for 6 months. This is the first time I have heard of over focussed adhd and it sounds like this is exactly her. She is on Methylphenidate. At first it seemed to help but now I think it is causing worse violence and aggression. The situation is very bad. I feel very alone. The system seems unable to support. We are in the UK. I would be so grateful if you would advise me on a medication available in the UK that is the same as the medication you would advise for over focussed adhd in USA.

    1. Look into Dr. Amen and his books on Adhd…he explains very clearly if you are struggling with depression and go on medicine for ADHD it will cause aggression and anger, or if your child is bipolar, it will only make things worse.

  2. I have an 8-year-old girl diagnosed with ADHD. My problem is that I have not found a cure for her to solve her speech, language and concentration problems, although she is taking Strattera treatment, but there is no progress in her case. PleaseI I want help

  3. Thank you so much for your article!
    I think my 7yo son is an over focused ADD. He can’t stop reading a book till he knows the end. He needs to take a book every time he goes to the table. He is very sensitive but stubborn at same time. Gets irritated easily, has no patience. He is an excellent reader despite we don’t speak English at home. He loves science. Can talk about many details about dinosaurs, the periodic table… but what is not interesting to him like maths and reading he really hates.
    He is hypermobile and studies shows that this syndrome is connected to anxiety. What natural supplements I should try?

    1. Hi Amy, I’m no expert on OCD but from what I do know, OCD involves repetitive thinking and action as opposed to focus on a single action and not be able to stop that action, without some skills training. For example, someone with over-focused ADHD might not be able to stop reading a book til the end or not be able to stop playing a computer game until he or she finally just falls asleep. I believe that someone with OCD would be might be reading but be distracted by thoughts about other things. I would say that OCD is less like over-focused and more like distractibility, although again, I’m not an expert, and this article is based on research from other sources that might be worth checking out. Best to you, Yafa.

  4. Hi

    Your article is so interesting. I’m just wondering can you use supplements if you are already on cymbalta for over focused adhd. I’m reducing my dose and would like to take natural supplements eventually.



    1. Hi Nivi,
      I cannot comment on medication and supplements, except to quote the experts. I would suggest finding a Naturopathic Doctor who can advise you.
      Thanks for your question, Yafa

  5. What’s the difference between over-focused ADD comorbid with Social-Emotional Processing Disorder (SEPD) and Asperger’s? I read subtype 3 often may meet criteria for SEPD.

    If persons with SEPD partially meet “social” criteria for Asperger’s: may the over-focused ADD meet criteria for restricted and repetitive behaviours, and at the same time having sensory integration disorders, without any real autism spectrum disorder?

    1. Hi Unknown, I don’t know the answer to your question. I’m not an expert in Autism and wouldn’t want to steer you the wrong way. My guess is that you would want to speak to someone that is a diagnostician, which I am not. Hope this helps some, Yafa

  6. My husband and I went to the same highschool that focused on learning disabilities. I was diagnosed with ADD. My husband always thought he had an Auditory Processing issue. Now we know his over focusing, is also a sign that he actually had ADHD.

  7. These are some very useful information. One of my close friend was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Will surely pass this article to her. Thanks for sharing.

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