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Inattentive Type of ADHD in Adults: Symptoms and Treatment

ADHD inattentive type

Inattentive Type of ADHD in Adults: Symptoms and Treatment

Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed



Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental condition that usually starts from childhood and continues into adulthood. ADHD is characterized by two types of behavior: inattentive and hyperactive. According to the American Psychiatric Association [1*] , there are three types of ADHD, depending on which behavior set is dominant. These are:

  • Predominantly inattentive. A person has more signs of inattention with a few or without symptoms of hyperactivity.
  • Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive. A person has more signs of hyperactivity and few or none of inattention.
  • Combined presentation. A person has signs of both inattention and hyperactivity.

In this post, let’s learn more about the predominantly inattentive type, its symptoms, causes, and treatment methods.

ADHD diagnosis is made based on certain criteria. Consult with MEDvidi doctors to know if you have ADHD.

What Is Involved in the Inattentive Type of ADHD?

Inattentive ADHD is also called attention deficit disorder (ADD). In fact, it was the official name of ADHD before the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) was published.

While hyperactivity makes one restless and hyper-focused, inattentiveness makes it difficult for a patient to pay close attention for an extended period. To make an ADHD diagnosis, mental health professionals follow the American Psychiatric Association’s guidelines, DSM-5. According to it, there are nine ADD symptoms in adults:

  • Failing to pay attention to details and making careless mistakes at work.
  • Problem sustaining attention in activities.
  • Difficulty in listening when spoken to directly.
  • Failing to follow through with instructions and complete duties at work.
  • Trouble staying organized.
  • Disliking or avoiding activities that require mental effort.
  • Often misplacing or losing items like mobile phones and wallets.
  • Forgetting routine tasks like finishing chores and paying bills.
  • Being easily distracted by the surrounding activities.

In addition to the above guideline, mental health practitioners must apply additional criteria from the DSM-5 to avoid misdiagnosis. For a psychiatrist to conclude that one has ADD, the following must be true:

  • At least five symptoms are present in adults aged 18 years and above.
  • These symptoms have been present for at least six months.
  • Several ADD symptoms have been present before the age of 12.
  • Other mental issues likely to cause similar symptoms are ruled out.
  • The symptoms are severe enough to affect the person’s social life and work.
  • The symptoms have been present in different settings, such as at home, work, and in social life.

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Causes of Inattentive ADHD in Adults

It’s not clear what causes ADD, but scientists continue their research, and now they believe most people with ADD get it from their parents. Studies show that parents with ADHD have a 57% [2*] chance of getting a child with the condition. there’s an approximate 55% [3*] chance one of the parents has the disorder.

Scientists believe other causes of ADHD to be:

Scientists say there’s not enough evidence to prove one can get ADHD from the style of parenting and the home environment. But such factors can make symptoms worse.

ADHD inattentive symptoms

Inattentive ADHD and Adults: What to Know

ADD doesn’t start in adulthood; it begins in childhood. That’s why a psychiatrist must ensure some symptoms were present before age 12. Otherwise, the symptoms can indicate a related mental condition, such as anxiety. However, it’s also common for adults with ADD to have depression and anxiety in addition to their disorder.

When it comes to daily life, the ADHD inattentive symptoms make people face many challenges, which include:

  • Losing jobs because of careless mistakes
  • Procrastination
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Unstable relationships
  • Problems with financial management
  • Poor social life and losing friends

It’s normal to forget your keys once in a while, but that doesn’t mean you have ADD. According to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) 11th revision, a person with ADD must have a persistent pattern of inattentiveness that directly affects social, academic, and occupational functioning.

Furthermore, the symptoms must be beyond the limit of normal behavior variations of the person’s age group.

Fortunately, that doesn’t mean adults with ADD can’t live normal lives. Though it’s impossible to cure ADD, there are treatment options to help cope with the condition.

Receive a personalized treatment plan for ADHD from a certified doctor.

ADD Treatment

Most treatments for the three subtypes of ADHD are similar. First, a diagnosis is necessary by a specialist psychiatrist. The mental health practitioner interviews the person and may also consult with their partner or parents. Then the doctor checks the family medical history to determine the possibility of having inherited ADHD.

Additional tests are necessary to rule out conditions with similar symptoms. If there’s enough evidence one has ADHD, medical intervention becomes necessary.

The best treatment plan for ADHD inattentive type involves a combination of drugs and behavior therapy. Drugs help deal with the symptoms immediately, while talk therapy has more long-term benefits. Behavior therapy involves regular talk with a therapist to reduce negative behavior patterns and strengthen positive ones.

Medical treatment for ADD involves prescribing some of the following drugs:

  • Stimulants. They provide immediate stimulation to the nervous systems, which helps relieve symptoms almost instantly. Examples include Adderall, Ritalin, Metadate, and Concerta.
  • Non-stimulants. They work slower than the stimulants but their effects last longer. Doctors use them when a patient has side effects from stimulants or doesn’t respond to them. Examples include Strattera, Intuniv, and Tenex.
  • Antidepressants. They’re alternative meds that help relieve some symptoms of ADHD. Doctors use them off-label since they’re not approved by the FDA to treat ADHD. Examples include Wellbutrin and Effexor.


Diagnosing ADHD in adults isn’t always easy. That’s because ADHD symptoms can be mistaken for other mental issues like depression, anxiety, autism, learning disability, and bipolar. Still, once the right diagnosis is made, it makes it possible to find appropriate treatment.

If left untreated, ADD in adults can disrupt normal life significantly. So, visit a mental health specialist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Though adults with inattentive ADHD may have challenges in various aspects of life, effective therapy or medication management can help them cope with the condition.


+5 sources
  1. What is ADHD?
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  2. Other ADHD Related Data
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  3. Familial Clustering of Symptoms and Disruptive Behaviors in Multiplex Families With Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. (2000)
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  4. Mild traumatic brain injury and ADHD: a systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis. (2014)
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  5. The effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol and environmental tobacco smoke on risk for ADHD: A large population-based study. (2015)
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Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology

Umar Javed

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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.