Ring of Fire ADHD: A Quick Guide to Understanding the Curious and Intense ADHD Subtype

Julia Ovcharenko, CEO of Numo
January 4, 2024

Imagine a vibrant, intense, and unpredictable barrage of thoughts inside the brain. This is what living with Ring of Fire ADHD can feel like. 

Ring of Fire is an ADHD subtype that's as fascinating as it is challenging, standing out with its unique set of symptoms and complexities. But what exactly sets it apart from other types of ADHD, and why does it matter?

In today’s read, we’ll answer all these questions (and a bit more!)

Stick around to learn such fascinations as: 

  • The Basics of Ring of Fire ADHD: Understand what Ring of Fire ADHD is and how it differs from other types of ADHD.
  • The Seven Types of ADHD According to Dr. Daniel Amen: Explore the controversial classification system proposed by Dr. Daniel Amen, including a detailed look at each type.
  • Symptoms and Challenges: Delve into the specific symptoms of Ring of Fire ADHD and understand why it's considered the most intense and challenging subtype.
  • Ring of Fire ADHD vs. Bipolar Disorder: Learn about the similarities and differences between these two conditions and why they are often confused.
  • Possible Causes: Examine the proposed causes of Ring of Fire ADHD and why understanding these is crucial for treatment and management.
  • Treatment Strategies: Discover the recommended approaches for managing and treating Ring of Fire ADHD, from medication to lifestyle changes.

[ADHD Subtypes] A little bit on ADHD subtypes

Before we fully dive into the subject matter, let’s spend a hot minute talking why there are ADHD subtypes in the first place

Despite this individuality, certain tendencies within the ADHD community allow doctors to categorize folks with ADHD into several types. 

This classification not only provides a valuable framework for understanding the diversity of ADHD but is also crucial for doctors to figure out the needed treatment for their patients, as each type needs a different approach.

In the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), three distinct types of ADHD are officially acknowledged. Each of them is tethered to distinctive attributes associated with inattention, hyperactivity, or a blend of both.

Folks with inattentiveness usually have problems organizing their thoughts following directions and tend to grow bored and distracted quickly. 

On the other side of the spectrum, the hyperactive-impulsive type is characterized by incessant fidgeting, being super impatient, chatting up a storm, often interrupting other people, and generally not being very good at engaging in quiet and calm activities

Combined type means a mixture of symptoms from both of the categories are present. Seems fairly clear, right?

Yes. However, not all medical scientists are in unanimous agreement regarding the existing ADHD typology. Dr. Daniel Amen, an American psychiatrist and a best-selling writer who is popularizing the use of SPECT scans for diagnostic purposes, created his own system of ADHD types. 

It’s worth pointing out that Dr. Daniel Amen’s classification system remains unrecognized officially, raising eyebrows among many medical scientists and doctors who question its accuracy and deem Dr. Amen's methods controversial (1). They point out that the SPECT scans rely on unproven claims and expose patients to harmful radiation unnecessarily, so take his system with a big grain of salt. 

Yet his classification is extremely curious - Dr. Daniel Amen claims that there are seven distinct types of ADHD, with one of them being the most complicated and difficult to treat - the Ring of Fire ADHD. Understanding these classification systems is key to a well-rounded perspective on diagnosis and intervention.

[Seven ADHD Types] What are the seven types of ADHD according to Dr. Daniel Amen?

In his best-selling book, “Healing ADD: The Breakthrough Program That Allows You to See and Heal the 7 Types of ADD,” Dr. Daniel Amen introduces an intricate understanding of ADHD by delineating seven distinct types. To identify these types, he uses detailed physical and psychiatric assessments, and SPECT scans to evaluate blood flow and activity in the brain (2).

The first type, Classic ADHD, manifests with hyperactivity, distractibility, and impulsivity. Rooted in dopamine deficiency and reduced blood flow in the prefrontal cortex, cerebellum, and basal ganglia (a key dopamine-producing region), it forms the foundation of Dr. Amen's typology.

The inattentive type usually comes with a short attention span, procrastination, disorganization, and a tendency to daydream. Dr. Daniel Amen claims it is caused by dopamine deficiency and low activity in the prefrontal cortex. 

Overfocused ADHD, the third type, interweaves classic symptoms with challenges in attention shifting, multitasking, and recurrent negative thought patterns. Driven by dopamine and serotonin deficiencies and heightened activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus, it presents a distinctive profile affecting cognitive flexibility.

Temporal lobe ADHD also manifests with the cardinal symptoms of Classic ADHD, but folks with this type also show learning and memory problems, anger issues, and paranoia. Dr. Daniel Amen attributes this type to abnormalities in the temporal lobe and decreased activity in the underside of the prefrontal cortex, cerebellum, and basal ganglia.

In the Limbic type, the classic ADHD symptoms are intertwined with chronic melancholia, moodiness, low energy, frequent feelings of helplessness or guilt, and low self-esteem. It is reportedly caused by overactivity in the deep limbic part of the brain (the mood control center) and decreased prefrontal cortex activity, both during concentration or at rest.

The sixth type is Ring of Fire ADHD, which is caused by a ring of pervasive hyperactivity around the brain (the entire brain is overactive, with too much activity across the cerebral cortex and other areas) and has some pretty intense symptoms. We will return to this type in a bit and dive into the intricacies of it in detail.

The last type is Anxious ADHD, and it reportedly includes classic ADHD symptoms with additional anxiety, physical stress symptoms like headaches and stomachaches, and an overall quite pessimistic outlook on life. It is said to be caused by low activity in the prefrontal cortex simultaneously with overactivity in the basal ganglia. 

Returning to Ring of Fire, ADHD's reputation as the most complex and difficult to treat beckons us to delve into its nuances and intricacies. 

[What are Ring of Fire Symptoms] What are the symptoms of Ring of Fire ADHD?

Ring of Fire ADHD seems to be the most intense of all 7 types of ADHD, as besides the classic ADHD symptoms, it also includes:

It already feels too much to deal with, but the symptoms don’t end there.

Folks with this type of ADHD can also struggle with racing thoughts and rapid speech. They might have difficulty relaxing, and even sleep can become elusive because their mind continues to be super active even when they are extremely tired. 

Sometimes, people with this type have grandiose thinking and demand things to be done in a certain way they consider right. It is only natural that they have trouble changing their opinion and perspective. 

Ring of Fire ADHD can also spark some other behavioral issues. Folks with this type of ADHD can have outbursts of cruel and unempathetic behavior and can react disproportionately to the situations. So, they can also directly grapple with problems in their interpersonal relationships from these symptoms.

To sum it up, Ring of Fire ADHD is like the turbocharged version of the ADHD family, blending the usual traits with extra intensity in emotions, sensory reactions, and thinking styles. There's a whole extra layer of complexity.

[Ring of Fire ADHD vs. Bipolar Disorder] Ring of Fire ADHD vs. Bipolar Disorder: why are they similar?

Some people may confuse Ring of Fire ADHD with bipolar disorder. Honestly, it makes a lot of sense. After all, both bring intense mood swings, irritability, impulsivity, and thoughts that race like they're on a mission.

Though people with bipolar disorder usually have distinct cycles of high (mania) and low (depression) mood, compared to folks with Ring of Fire ADHD who have consistent mood and behavior issues over long periods of time, bipolar disorder can also be quite sneaky. For example, depression and mania can occur at the same time, making it difficult for doctors to nail down an accurate diagnosis.

Hold on, there's more. Some people can have both bipolar disorder and ADHD, and it’s not even super rare. According to one study, 1 in 13 patients with ADHD had bipolar disorder, and nearly 1 in 6 patients with bipolar disorder were later diagnosed with ADHD (4). It sure doesn’t make identifying Ring of Fire ADHD any simpler.

[Ring of Fire ADHD Causes] What Causes Ring of Fire ADHD?

We previously touched upon Ring of Fire ADHD being caused by the ring of overactivity across the various areas of the brain. But why does it occur? Are there any illnesses that can spark this overactivity?

Dr. Daniel Amen claims that inflammation, infection, or allergies are the factors that can contribute to the development of Ring of Fire ADHD. But once again, remember that there is not much research on this type of ADHD, and it’s not officially recognized by the scientific community. So, while these factors are proposed, we're in a bit of a gray zone regarding concrete causes.

Now, let's widen the lens to ADHD in general. Even for the broader ADHD spectrum, the causes remain somewhat elusive. While we understand that genetics greatly influence this disorder, the complete picture remains blurry. The scientific community is actively exploring potential risk factors for ADHD, including brain injuries, exposure to alcohol, premature delivery, maternal obesity, and gestational diabetes (5). These are the puzzle pieces researchers are trying to fit together, but the full picture is still taking shape. 

[Ring of Fire ADHD Treatment] How is Ring of Fire ADHD treated?

It may seem that due to such a range and intensity of symptoms, life with Ring of Fire ADHD must be extremely challenging, if not unbearable. Especially considering that Dr. Daniel Amen claims that stimulant medication, regularly prescribed for keeping ADHD symptoms at bay, can make Ring of Fire ADHD even worse. With an already overstimulated brain, further stimulation might not be the best course of action.

However, amidst these challenges, Dr. Daniel Amen remains optimistic, asserting that it's possible to lead a fulfilling life with Ring of Fire ADHD. According to his approach, effective symptom management involves a multi-faceted strategy. He recommends supplements to boost neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin, as well as anticonvulsants or blood pressure medications like guanfacine and clonidine to target hyperactivity (6).

In the realm of nutrition, an elimination diet is considered as well. This allows individuals with Ring of Fire ADHD to pinpoint specific foods that may trigger allergies and inflammation, empowering them to make informed dietary choices. While trying to steer clear of some risky foods, it is also advised to incorporate certain foods with a positive impact. Berries, beans, fish, leafy greens, dark chocolate, and whole fruits can play a role in reducing the emotional instability associated with Ring of Fire ADHD.

Dr. Daniel Amen recommends folks with Ring of Fire ADHD add regular physical exercise to their agenda to help them deal with hyperactivity. It's valid advice, even if you don’t have this type of ADHD. So consider taking up cycling, dancing or just walking to enhance your overall well-being. Gardening and housework, like vacuuming, also counts!

[Conclusion] Conclusion

If you feel that this type of ADHD is similar to what you experience, you may be excited that you’ve finally found what is going on with you. But it's essential to approach the information with a discerning eye. Dr. Daniel Amen's research methods and their conclusions have faced skepticism within the mainstream medical community.

What he has a point about, though, is that ADHD is an extremely complex condition, and a personalized approach is necessary to treat it properly. So, we recommend you contact a qualified medical specialist to get a valid diagnosis and determine the treatment you need. 

We know that getting an official diagnosis can take some time, but you can make your ADHD life easier right now by trying out our Numo ADHD app.  Numo has a bunch of pretty cool tools that will help you to deal not only with disorganization, bad time management, and procrastination but also with anxiety, emotional rollercoasters, and outbursts. Our app provides daily tips spanning various facets, including relationships, motivation, and emotional regulation. Each nugget of advice is tailored to the specific issues folks with ADHD commonly encounter. 

Sometimes, getting information from doctors and online articles or apps is not enough, you need genuine support and encouragement. That's why we are fostering a vibrant and cozy little community where folks with ADHD can share their experience, offer insights, and seek advice from those who understand the nuances of the ADHD journey. Connection is what saves us!


Daniel Amen is the most popular psychiatrist in America. To most researchers and scientists, that’s a very bad thing. - The Washington Post
Healing ADD Revised Edition: The Breakthrough Program that Allows You to See and Heal the 7 Types of ADD: Amen M.D., Daniel G.
ADD & ADHD Treatment | Attention Deficit Disorder Therapy
Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. Comorbidity of ADHD and adult bipolar disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis
PMC. Pre- and Postnatal Risk Factors for ADHD in a Nonclinical Pediatric Population
How to Identify and Treat ADD Type 6
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