Home Blog

Inattentive Type of ADHD in Adults: Symptoms and Treatment

Inattentive ADHD type and symptoms
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology


Medical Disclaimer
The medications listed on this website are provided for informational purposes only. Their inclusion does not guarantee that they will be prescribed to any individual, as treatment decisions are ultimately at the discretion of healthcare providers. This list is not exhaustive, and healthcare providers may prescribe other medications, including non-stimulant options, based on the patient’s unique health circumstances and needs.Read more

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental condition that usually starts in childhood and can continue into adulthood. Generally, ADHD is characterized by two types of behavior: inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive. However, according to the American Psychiatric Association, there are three types of this condition, with the combined type being the third.

In this post, let’s learn more about the predominantly inattentive type of ADHD (previously called ADD, attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity), its symptoms, causes, and treatment methods.

ADHD diagnosis is made based on standard criteria. Consult with medical providers at MEDvidi to know if you have ADHD.

Types of ADHD

DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) outlines two categories of ADHD symptoms, with nine symptoms in each. Based on the number of signs from each category, a healthcare provider makes a diagnosis and identifies one of the following types of the disorder:

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

Inattentive ADHD: Symptoms

While hyperactivity makes one restless and hyper-focused, inattentive adult ADHD makes it difficult for a person to pay close attention for an extended period and causes other challenges. According to the DSM, there are nine primary symptoms of ADHD inattentive subtype:

  1. Failing to pay attention to details and making careless mistakes at work.
  2. Difficulty sustaining attention in activities.
  3. Difficulty in listening when spoken to directly.
  4. Failing to follow through with instructions and complete duties at work.
  5. Trouble organizing tasks.
  6. Disliking or avoiding activities that require mental effort.
  7. Often misplacing or losing items like mobile phones and wallets.
  8. Forgetting routine tasks like regular chores and paying bills.
  9. Being easily distracted by the surrounding activities.

How Can Inattentive ADHD in Adults Affect Daily Life?

A person with primarily inattentive ADHD may face many challenges, including:

  • 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, and that doesn’t mean you have ADD. According to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), a person with ADD must have a persistent pattern of inattentiveness that directly affects social, academic, and occupational functioning.

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

How Is Inattentive ADHD Diagnosed?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder usually begins in childhood, so a healthcare professional must ensure some symptoms are present before age 12. Otherwise, the symptoms can indicate another mental condition. However, it’s also common for adults with ADHD to have comorbid depression and anxiety [1*] , so accurate diagnosis is essential.

In addition to assessing the above-mentioned inattentive symptoms, healthcare practitioners must evaluate additional criteria from the DSM to diagnose ADHD of inattentive type. These include:

  • At least six 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 [2*] 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 social life.

To diagnose adult patients with inattentive ADHD, providers can also use several types of tests. Clinical interviews and observations from the patients and their close associates are some of the possible assessment methods. Information regarding symptoms and day-to-day functioning is often gathered using standardized instruments such as the Conners’ Adult ADHD Rating Scale [3*] and the Adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS [4*] ).

Do you think you have symptoms of ADHD? Contact us today to go through a professional mental health assessment online.

Causes of Inattentive ADHD in Adults

There are different causes and risk factors for ADD. According to studies by several researchers, such as Grimm, Kranz, Reif [5*] , Taylor [6*] , Thapar [7*] , Tistarelli, et al [8*] , genetic variables account for 70–80% of the heritability of ADHD, with estimations that range from 64–90%.

Scientists believe other causes of ADHD to be:

  • Brain injury [9*] .
  • Genetic mutations.
  • Use of alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy [10*] .
  • Premature birth.
  • Exposure to environmental toxins such as lead during pregnancy or at a young age.
  • Being underweight at birth.

Moreover, 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.

ADD Treatment

Most treatments for the three subtypes of ADHD are similar. First, a correct diagnosis is necessary to tailor a treatment plan to individual needs. The healthcare practitioner interviews the person and may also consult with their partner or other family members. It’s also important to check the family’s 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 attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, medical intervention becomes necessary.

The most common treatment options for ADHD of inattentive type involve a combination of medications and behavioral therapy. Medications help deal with the symptoms more quickly but short term, while talk therapy has more long-term effects. Behavior therapy involves regular sessions with a therapist to reduce negative behavior patterns and strengthen positive ones.

Pharmacological treatment may involve prescribing some of the following ADHD medications:

  • Stimulants. They relatively quickly stimulate the nervous system, which helps relieve symptoms. 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 medications that help relieve some symptoms of ADHD. Doctors use them off-label since they’re not approved by the FDA to treat ADHD, yet they still can be effective for some patients. Examples include Wellbutrin and Effexor.

Self-help Methods

Besides the medications and therapy, adding a few simple habits to manage inattentive behavior can complement your treatment:

  • Establish an organized routine. For organization and stability, create a daily timetable that includes designated tasks and hours for specific activities.
  • Employ visual cues to remember things. Use calendars, to-do lists, and visual aids to improve task organization and deadline monitoring.
  • Divide the work into smaller steps. To make bigger activities more manageable and easier to focus on, break them down into smaller, simpler-to-accomplish pieces.
  • Cut down on distractions. Reduce the amount of distractions in your surroundings by identifying them, shutting off unnecessary notifications, and finding a quiet place to work.
  • Establish reasonable goals. To prevent feeling overburdened, prioritize your duties and set attainable goals. Appreciate the little victories you have along the way.
  • Use relaxation and mindfulness techniques. Use techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, or meditation to help you focus better and feel less anxious.
  • Make use of technology and tools. Use time-management aids such as alarm clocks, reminders, and special applications to help you stay focused and productive.
  • Regular breaks. While working, take brief breaks to avoid becoming mentally exhausted. Include regular exercise to improve cognitive performance in general.
Receive a personalized treatment plan for ADHD from medical professionals.

In Conclusion

Diagnosing ADHD in adults isn’t always easy. While there are certain diagnostic criteria, its symptoms can be mistaken for other mental issues like mood disorders, anxiety, autism, learning disability, or bipolar disorder. Still, finding appropriate treatment is possible once the right diagnosis is made.

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. Contact MEDvidi today to have a video appointment within a few days, go through a detailed professional assessment, and receive personalized recommendations along with an online prescription, if deemed necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

The symptoms of inattentive ADHD can be mistaken for those of anxiety, depression, and others. People with inattentive ADHD may struggle with focus and organization for many reasons, and since they may have few or no symptoms of hyperactivity, it may take more time to make an accurate diagnosis.

Inattentive ADHD is not rare. It is one of the three subtypes of ADHD, and although estimates of prevalence vary, it is thought to impact a sizable percentage of the general population with this disorder. However, given that its symptoms can be less obvious than those of hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, it may go undiagnosed, particularly in adults.
Inattentive ADHD symptoms can be made worse by several factors, such as excessive stress, an imbalanced diet, a lack of organization, and poor sleep. Distractions from the surroundings and a lack of coping mechanisms can also make concentrating and staying organized harder.
It can be more difficult to diagnose inattentive ADHD in women. From the standard nine symptoms, men might present more impulsive and externalized behaviors while women tend to internalize symptoms and come out as dreamy or spacey. Because their inattentive symptoms do not fit the stereotypical expectations of ADHD behavior, women may not get diagnosed with the disorder as soon as they should.

Adults with untreated inattentive ADHD could find it challenging to continue with their studies, relationships, jobs, and any day-to-day activities. The likelihood of acquiring co-occurring disorders like depression and anxiety is also higher. Chronic stress brought on by a lack of attention and poor organizational skills may be linked to health problems.


10 sources
  1. Association of ADHD symptoms, depression and suicidal behaviors with anxiety in Chinese medical college students
    Source link
  2. Adult ADHD and comorbid disorders: clinical implications of a dimensional approach
    Source link
  3. Diagnostic Accuracy of the Conners' Adult ADHD Rating Scale in a Postsecondary Population
    Source link
  4. The World Health Organization Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Self-Report Screening Scale for DSM-5
    Source link
  5. Genetics of ADHD: What Should the Clinician Know?
    Source link
  6. A twin study of genetic and environmental contributions to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder over time
    Source link
  7. Discoveries on the Genetics of ADHD in the 21st Century: New Findings and Their Implications
    Source link
  8. The nature and nurture of ADHD and its comorbidities: A narrative review on twin studies
    Source link
  9. Mild traumatic brain injury and ADHD: a systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis
    Source link
  10. The effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol and environmental tobacco smoke on risk for ADHD: A large population-based study
    Source link
Show more
Written by:

Rabia Khaliq

MSc in Applied Psychology


Prioritize your mental well-being

Consult a healthcare professional online and receive a treatment plan tailored to your needs.

Recommended Articles

Join our newsletter

Sign up to receive mental health news and tips delivered right in your inbox every month.


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.