Types of ADHD

  • Before diving into the specifics of inattentive ADHD, it helps to understand what the three types of ADHD are:
  • Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD: This type of ADHD primarily involves constant movement and fidgeting as well as issues with self-control and impulsive behaviors.
  • Inattentive ADHD: Difficulties with maintaining focus and problems with organization are some of the key symptoms of this type of ADHD.  
  • Combined type ADHD: This is diagnosed when a significant number of both hyperactive-impulsive symptoms and inattentive symptoms are present. It’s the most common type of ADHD.

History of Inattentive ADHD

In 1980, ADD was first introduced in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). There were two subtypes at the time: ADD with hyperactivity (what we now call hyperactive-impulsive ADHD) and ADD without hyperactivity (what we now call inattentive ADHD). ADHD actually wasn’t introduced as an official diagnosis until 1987, when a revised version of the DSM-III was released. At that point, ADD without hyperactivity simply became known as ADD.

Then in 1994, the DSM-IV introduced the three subtypes of ADHD. This eliminated ADD as a separate diagnosis. Instead, ADD became inattentive type ADHD.

Symptoms of Inattentive ADHD

There are a number of ADHD symptoms that are specifically associated with the inattentive type. Each inattentive ADHD symptom is listed below along with some examples of how it might present in a person with this type of ADHD.

Short attention span: Trouble maintaining focus on a task or activity, struggling to sustain attention during long meetings or lectures.

Making careless mistakes: Missing important details when given instructions, rushing through school or work assignments, trouble slowing down and paying attention.

Easily distracted: Daydreaming or getting lost in another train of thought, doodling instead of taking notes, losing focus quickly when noticing something else.

Frequently forgetful: Missing or being late for appointments and deadlines, forgetting to return messages or pay bills.

Loses track of things: Misplacing important items (keys, phone, wallet, etc.) on a near-daily basis and sometimes finding them in odd or unexpected places.

Disorganization: Cluttered or messy surroundings, inability to keep track of important items, struggling to meet deadlines.

Poor listening skills: Not listening when spoken to directly, failing to absorb information when first hearing it, not remembering names shortly after being introduced.

Lack of follow-through: Leaving assignments or reading materials unfinished, dropping new hobbies or projects shortly after starting them.

Avoiding tasks that require sustained mental effort: Not wanting to undertake involved activities, often misinterpreted as laziness or apathy.

To be diagnosed with inattentive ADHD, a child must exhibit at least six of these symptoms. In adults, the minimum requirement is five of these symptoms.

Potential for Inattentive ADHD Diagnosis

When people think of a stereotypical presentation of ADHD, they usually think of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD. They may picture a child who can’t seem to sit still, interrupts people often, and can’t stick with one activity for very long.

Because inattentive ADHD presents differently, it can sometimes go on for years without treatment. In children, it’s sometimes mistaken for a learning disorder. In adults, some of the symptoms overlap with mood disorders or anxiety, which can potentially lead to a misdiagnosis.

If you think you or your child may have inattentive ADHD, you may need to be proactive in seeking a diagnosis. Try to find a healthcare provider with expertise in ADHD who can help you rule out other possible causes and determine whether or not the symptoms can be attributed to inattentive type ADHD.

Treatment for Inattentive ADHD

As with all types of ADHD, the most effective treatment for inattentive ADHD is usually medication. This can be a game changer for someone who struggles with inattentive symptoms. Both stimulant and non-stimulant options can be useful for people with this type of ADHD, so it’s important to work closely with your healthcare provider to find the best fit for your needs.

In addition to medication, therapy can be helpful for dealing with inattentive ADHD. For children, behavior therapy can help encourage positive behaviors and set expectations. For adults, cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is considered the best type of therapy to pursue. This can be especially helpful with reorienting your thought processes about ADHD and overcoming emotional challenges associated with the disorder.

Tips for Living with Inattentive ADHD

Implementing some coping strategies in your daily life can be a great way to overcome some of the challenges that your inattentive symptoms create. Here are a few of the top tips for managing inattentive type ADHD:

  1. Set timers to help you stay focused and avoid moving on to something new too quickly.
  2. Build occasional breaks into long tasks so they don’t seem as overwhelming.
  3. Split up projects into small chunks and mark your progress along the way.
  4. Minimize distractions by decluttering and using noise-canceling headphones.
  5. Ask a loved one to check in with you periodically to make sure you’re staying on track.
  6. Create a designated area where you keep necessities like keys and wallets.
  7. Talk to teachers or managers about getting reasonable school or work accommodations.

If you need some help making these types of changes, consider working with an ADHD coach. This is a specialist who can help you with the practical struggles associated with ADHD, like working on your organizational skills, memory, and attention span.

At Done, we’re here to help you live your best life by facilitating an accurate diagnosis from an ADHD expert, setting you up with the right treatment plan, and providing you with helpful tips for dealing with your symptoms. If you want to get started, simply take our one-minute online assessment. If you’re a good fit for our services, you’ll be able to connect with one of our licensed clinicians to get started on the path to managing your ADHD. Reach out to us today to learn more about our mission.