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What is Inattentive ADHD? Types, Symptoms, & Inattentive ADHD Treatment

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What is Inattentive ADHD?

Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a mental health condition that has long been recognized as affecting a person’s ability to function. Individuals suffering from this disorder show patterns of developmentally inappropriate levels of inattentiveness, hyperactivity, or impulsivity. Although there used to be two different diagnoses of Attention Deficit Disorder vs. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the DSM IV combined this into one disorder with three subtypes: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive, or combined type. 

Inattentive ADHD is a type of ADHD that is characterized by symptoms of inattention. Individuals with inattentive ADHD may have few or no symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Inattentive ADHD manifests as forgetfulness, disengagement, or distractibility, and can be mistaken for anxiety or a mood disorder in adults. Adult ADHD inattentive type can be diagnosed by a mental healthcare provider such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

History of ADHD

ADHD is not a new condition and has been called different names throughout history. It was labeled as ‘minimal brain dysfunction’ in the 1930s and has ever since changed names to ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD, respectively. Its prevalence has increased over time, with a seeming spike in the 1950s. It is important to diagnose and treat the disorder at a young age so that the symptoms do not persist into adulthood and cause other comorbid conditions. The treatment for the disorder is mostly related to stimulants and psychotherapy.

The earliest references to an ADHD-like disorder date back to the late-18th century and Sir Alexander Crichton. Some people even believe that many historical figures could have had ADHD, such as Mozart, da Vinci, and Benjamin Franklin. Work on ADHD is more often thought to begin in the early 20th century, though.

What Causes ADHD Inattentive Type in Adults?

The causes of ADHD inattentive type adults aren’t fully understood, but it probably can’t be attributed to a single factor. Genes play an important role. Research has shown that, in children with ADHD, the chemical messenger dopamine is transported differently between the nerve cells of the brain, especially in the regions that are used for memory and learning. And there are other biological differences that may be involved in the development of ADHD.

Some experts disagree with the view that ADHD inattention is only linked to physical or genetic factors. Instead, they consider changes in our society to be just as important. They believe that predominantly inattentive ADHD symptoms and inattentive ADHD symptoms adults also result from overstimulation coupled with lack of exercise, modern society’s emphasis on achievement, and changes in a child’s family situation. Hardly any good-quality studies have tested these theories, though.

It’s also not clear what factors might play a role in the risk of developing ADHD. Studies have shown that a person is at greater risk if their mothers smoke, drank alcohol, or consumed other drugs while pregnant. There’s also a possible link between inattentive-type ADHD and very low birth weight or other childbirth-related problems like a lack of oxygen at birth. Genetic factors and external circumstances probably both play a role.

Inattentive ADHD is associated with cognitive and functional deficits that relate to diffuse abnormalities in the brain. The anterior cingulate gyrus and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLFPC) are found to be small in individuals who are suffering from ADHD inattention. It is thought that these changes account for the deficits in goal-directed behavior. It is important to remember that predominantly inattentive ADHD Adults is a clinical diagnosis. There are no standard laboratory or imaging results among patients with predominantly inattentive ADHD adults. 

ADHD Inattentive vs Hyperactive ADHD

What Are the 3 Types of ADHD? The three types of ADHD are primarily hyperactive and impulsive, primarily inattentive, and combined. Each presentation is characterized by a set of behavioral symptoms outlined in the DSM-5 that physicians use to diagnose the condition.

ADHD Inattentive Type

Individuals with inattentive ADHD also known as “ADHD predominantly inattentive “make careless mistakes because they have difficulty sustaining attention, following detailed instructions, and organizing activities and tasks. They have weak working memory, are easily distracted by external stimuli, and often lose things. Inattentive ADHD is more commonly diagnosed in adults and girls and was formerly known as ADD.

Hyperactive and Impulsive Type ADHD

Individuals with hyperactive ADHD feel the need for constant movement. They often fidget, squirm, and struggle to stay seated. They often appear to act as if “driven by a motor” and run around excessively. Individuals of all ages may talk non-stop, interrupt others, blurt out answers, and struggle with self-control. Hyperactive and Impulsive type of ADHD is more recognizable and more often diagnosed in children and men.

Combined Type ADHD

Individuals with combined-type ADHD demonstrate six or more symptoms of inattention in ADHD, and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity.

What is ADD vs ADHD in female adults? Though males are more commonly diagnosed with ADHD vs ADD than females, it’s becoming clearer that ADHD does not affect one gender more than the other.
What is ADD vs ADHD in female adults? Though males are more commonly diagnosed with ADHD vs ADD than females, it’s becoming clearer that ADHD does not affect one gender more than the other.

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ADHD Inattentive Type Statistics

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is very common. The subtypes of attention deficit disorders are found to have a different rates of prevalence in a group of individuals suffering from the disorders. There is some evidence that ADHD is more prevalent in the United States than in other developed countries. 


It is found that inattentive ADHD is prevalent in about 18.3% of the total patients while hyperactive/impulsive and combined represent 8.3% and 70%, respectively.

Source: NCBI

2:1 male-to-female ratio

It is also found that inattentive ADHD is more common among the female population. The disorders (collectively) are found in a 2:1 male-to-female ratio as per different studies

Source: NCBI

3% to 6%

Inattentive ADHD is prevalent in around 3%-6% of the adult population

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

DSM-5 Inattentive ADHD Facts

Inattentive Type ADHD

Disorder Class: Neurodevelopmental Disorder

Inattentive ADHD is a persistent pattern of inattention that interferes with functioning or development. DSM 5 is a resource that can be used by many different health professionals to assist in the diagnosis of mental health disorders.

Inattentive ADHD Treatment

Support group: A place where those pursuing the same disease or objective, such as weight loss or depression, can receive counseling and exchange experiences.

Cognitive behavioral therapy: A conversation treatment that aimed to change the negative attitudes, actions, and feelings connected to psychiatric discomfort.

Counseling psychology: A subfield of psychology that handles issues with the self that are connected to work, school, family, and social life.

Anger management: To reduce destructive emotional outbursts, practice mindfulness, coping skills, and trigger avoidance.

Psychoeducation: Mental health education that also helps individuals feel supported, validated, and empowered

Family therapy: psychological counseling that improves family communication and conflict resolution.

The causes of Inattentive ADHD  are unclear, but the condition often runs in families. There appears to be a genetic and neurobiological basis for ADHD.
The causes of Inattentive ADHD are unclear, but the condition often runs in families. There appears to be a genetic and neurobiological basis for ADHD.

Symptoms of Inattentive ADHD

For adult inattentive ADHD, at least five inattentive ADHD symptoms adults are required. The inattentive ADHD symptoms adults are not solely a manifestation of oppositional behavior, defiance, hostility, or failure to understand tasks or instructions.

a. Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities (e.g., overlooks or misses details, work is inaccurate).

b. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities (e.g., has difficulty remaining focused during lectures, conversations, or lengthy reading)

c. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (e.g., the mind seems elsewhere, even in the absence of any obvious distraction).

d. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., starts tasks but quickly loses focus and is easily sidetracked).

f. Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (e.g., schoolwork or homework; for older adolescents and adults, preparing reports, completing forms, reviewing lengthy papers).

g. Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).

h. Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (for older adolescents and adults, may include unrelated thoughts).

i. Is often forgetful in daily activities (e.g., doing chores, running errands; for older adolescents and adults, returning calls, paying bills, and keeping appointments).

Source: NCBI – DSM-IV to DSM-5 Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Comparison

Inattentive ADHD Women

The fastest growing group of individuals to be diagnosed with inattentive ADHD is women and in particular, mothers.  Inattentive ADHD in adult women is somewhat overshadowed by male ADHD –  we know that males are two times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD as females. But the fact is women still do have inattentive type of ADHD and a staggering 50% to 75% of women with inattentive ADHD go undiagnosed. Women go undiagnosed due to a combination of factors, such as diagnostic criteria that are based on observations of men as well as a lack of understanding of inattentive ADHD symptoms in women.

Women are more often diagnosed with predominantly inattentive ADHD type. The ADHD predominantly inattentive type is similar to the other presentations of ADHD except that it is characterized primarily by problems with inattention or a deficit of sustained attention, such as hesitation, procrastination, and forgetfulness. It differs in having fewer or no typical symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsiveness.

What Causes Inattentive ADHD in Adult Women?

There are several psychological and physiological theories on what causes inattentive ADHD symptoms in women. It may be due in part to the structure of the female brain in which the hippocampus is generally larger than it is in males. The hippocampus plays a major role in learning and memory and is vulnerable to impairment or injury by any number of stimuli or substances.

The hippocampus of females, compared to males, is populated with more estrogen receptors. These are cellular triggers that are activated by the female hormone estrogen. This is vital because hormone fluctuations that happen during a woman’s can life dramatically impact the brain functions and may contribute to the onset of inattentive ADHD in women symptoms.

What are the Inattentive ADHD Symptoms in Women?

Let’s go over some common experiences and inattentive ADHD symptoms in women, and the unique struggles they face. For inattentive ADHD in adult women, Adult ADHD inattentive symptoms are often more noticeable in a structured environment, such as the workplace. Inattentive ADHD in women often manifest with symptoms like:

  • Inability to multi-task or manage multiple relationships.
  • Being repeatedly called out on careless mistakes
  • Missing deadlines
  • Difficulty keeping organized or tidy at school, home, or work.
  • Procrastinating and rushing to complete tasks at the last minute
  • “Spacing out” at meetings or in conversation.
  • Frequently misplacing or losing things, such as your phone or glasses
  • Frequently missing appointments or forgetting to return calls
  • Trouble making decisions or building manageable strategies
What are the symptoms of ADHD inattentive type? Examples of overt inattentive behavior are difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities, being easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli, and frequently interrupting ongoing tasks to attend to trivial noises or events that are usually ignored by others.
What are the symptoms of ADHD inattentive type? Examples of overt inattentive behavior are difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities, being easily distracted by irrelevant stimuli, and frequently interrupting ongoing tasks to attend to trivial noises or events that are usually ignored by others.
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Inattentive ADHD Symptoms

Many individuals struggling with ADHD has ongoing ADHD inattentive symptoms also known as predominantly inattentive ADHD symptoms. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), while males are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD in general, females are more likely to have inattention type.

What are the signs of inattentive ADHD? To be diagnosed with inattention type ADHD, you must experience 6 or more of the following ADHD inattentive type symptoms for 6 months or longer. See the following ADHD inattentive symptoms checklist.

  • You have a hard time paying close attention to details.
  • You find it difficult to stick with or finish a task.
  • It’s hard to listen or pay attention (it may seem like your “head is in the clouds”).
  • You have trouble following instructions.
  • It’s challenging to stay organized or manage your time.
  • You often avoid tasks that require a lot of focus or mental effort.
  • You lose things frequently.
  • You’re easily distracted by your surroundings or thoughts.
  • You’re forgetful.

Inattentive ADHD in adults can look like trouble finishing work tasks on time, keeping up with bills, or getting organized. These ADHD inattentive symptoms may intrude and interfere in their daily functioning at work, with family members or in social situations. 

Adults may have predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD if they:

  • Experience serious or chronic problems due to five or more of these ADHD-inattentive symptoms.
  • Have no other mental health disorder that could be the cause of these ADHD inattentive symptoms.

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Inattentive ADHD and Anxiety

Can inattentive ADHD cause anxiety? Is anxiety one of the symptoms of inattentive ADHD in adults? Although anxiety alone is not included in the diagnostic criterion for ADHD, the link between the two mental health conditions is strong. People with inattentive ADHD are more likely to have an anxiety disorder than are people without the condition, with rates approaching 50 percent.

Can inattentive type ADHD be mistaken for anxiety? ADHD inattentive type symptoms do often overlap and resemble with those of other conditions like anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, leading to misdiagnosis but also incomplete diagnosis when unrecognized comorbidities exist. Inattention ADHD can also mask the symptoms of anxiety. It’s important to identify both conditions to get the best treatment for inattentive ADHD and anxiety.

What is anxiety disorder? An anxiety disorder is more than just feeling occasionally anxious. It’s a mental health condition that’s serious and long lasting. It can make you feel uneasy, distressed, and excessively frightened in benign or regular situations. The symptoms of inattentive ADHD are slightly different from those of anxiety. Inattentive ADHD symptoms mainly involve issues with focus and concentration. Anxiety symptoms, on the other hand, involve issues with nervousness and fear.

How Can You Tell the Difference Between Inattentive ADHD and Anxiety Disorder?

Ideally, a professional evaluation is necessary, loved ones may be able to tell the difference between inattentive ADHD and anxiety disorder. The key is to watch how your symptoms present over time. If a person has anxiety disorder, he or she may be unable to concentrate in situations that cause them to feel anxious. On the other hand, if a person has inattentive ADHD, he or she will find it difficult to concentrate most of the time in any situation.

If a person has both ADHD primarily inattentive type and anxiety disorder, the symptoms of both conditions may seem more extreme. For instance, anxiety can make it even more difficult for someone with inattentive ADHD to pay attention and follow through on tasks.

Medication for Inattentive ADHD and Anxiety

Treating ADHD with inattention and anxiety disorder simultaneously may be challenging because some medications for ADHD can exacerbate anxiety disorder symptoms. Both mental health conditions need to be treated, though. Your doctor may focus first on the condition that’s the most disruptive to your quality of life. They may also give you suggestions for ways to manage the other condition. The treatment for inattentive ADHD and anxiety a doctor may recommend for both inattentive ADHD and anxiety disorder in adults can include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or prescription inattentive ADHD medication such as stimulants.

Inattentive ADHD Test Adults

Though inattentive ADHD is commonly diagnosed in children and teens, inattentive ADHD in adults can also be diagnosed. Physicians use the symptoms described in the DSM-V to identify ADHD. The DSM-V lists nine symptoms that suggest ADHD Primarily Hyperactive and Impulsive, and nine that suggest ADHD Primarily Inattentive. Not everyone has the same ADHD symptoms or experiences them in the same way. In some instances, ADHD inattentive type symptoms may not be as intense, while you could also experience bad ADHD days for many reasons.

If you think you might have inattention ADHD, consider taking our Inattentive ADHD quiz. This brief ADHD inattentive test will help determine if you may need to see a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment for inattentive ADHD. Only a mental health professional or psychiatrist can accurately diagnose inattention ADHD, and if needed, recommend a inattentive ADHD in adults treatment plan.

Do I have Inattentive ADHD? Take the Inattentive ADHD Quiz

Take our ADHD inattentive type test. The Inattentive ADHD Quiz is a 1-minute exercise to enable you to learn more about your personal ADHD symptoms inattentive. If your “Inattentive ADHD Quiz” questions responses score 50 points or more, feel free to reach out to one of our specialists for further support.

This brief test will help determine if you may need to see a mental health professional for the diagnosis and treatment for Inattention ADHD. Only a mental health professional can accurately diagnose ADHD inattentive adults, and if needed, recommend a treatment plan.

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Inattentive ADHD Treatment Adults

While most people are diagnosed as kids, some people with ADHD aren’t diagnosed until adulthood. Still, ADHD doesn’t start in adulthood. While they may not have been recognized or diagnosed, you’ll have had ADHD inattentive type symptoms as a kid. Inattentive ADHD in adults is also more likely to experience certain mental health conditions. For adults these include:

Adults with ADHD may also be more likely to have another neurodevelopmental condition, like autism spectrum disorder.

What is ADHD inattentive type? People with ADHD of the inattentive type have trouble paying attention to details, are easily distracted, often have trouble organizing or finishing tasks and often forget routine chores.
What is ADHD inattentive type? People with ADHD of the inattentive type have trouble paying attention to details, are easily distracted, often have trouble organizing or finishing tasks and often forget routine chores.

How To Get an ADHD Diagnosis?

If you recognize ADHD symptoms in either your loved ones or yourself, you can start by reaching out to a mental health professional for a screening. If you’re not sure where to start, you can also take our Inattentive ADHD Quiz. Please remember that only a licensed healthcare professional can give you a diagnosis, so you’ll still want to reach out.

To receive an ADHD diagnosis as an adult, you must experience symptoms:

  • before age 12
  • that show up in at least two settings: home, work, school, or other activities
  • that aren’t due to other mental health conditions like anxiety disorders or depression
  • that can’t be better explained by an underlying health condition such as a thyroid condition.

ADHD Inattentive Adult Medications

Once you are diagnosed with ADHD inattentive and distractible type, you can discuss treatment options and coping tools that fit your needs. One option to consider is Inattentive ADHD medications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stimulant medications lessen symptoms in 70–80%.

ADHD inattentive type medication is often the first line of defense against the symptoms of inattentive ADHD. When you find the right medicine, you can experience substantial improvements in your Inattentive ADHD symptoms. With the right medication and the optimal dosage, the success rate is high.

ADHD inattentive type medication isn’t a magic bullet. It helps manage some ADHD symptoms, but it does not cure the disorder. Every medication has side effects for some people. Balancing those with the positive effects of medication is a trial-and-error process. It will take time for you or your child to find the optimal medication and dosage with minimal or zero side effects. Supplementing medication with behavioral therapy and/or ADHD coaching is often a more effective strategy than managing ADHD with one or the other alone.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Inattentiveness ADHD

Clinicians and researchers noticed that many patients with ADHD carried symptoms over into adulthood, adversely affecting their socio-occupational functioning.  ADHD in adulthood is a valid, prevalent, distressing, and interfering condition. Although medications help treat this disorder, there are often residual symptoms after medication treatment, and, for some patients, they are contraindicated.

CBT for ADHD intervenes to improve daily life struggles, such as procrastination, time management, and other common difficulties. But CBT is used not to treat the core symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. CBT for ADHD sessions focuses on identifying the situations in which poor planning, disorganization, and poor time and task management create challenges in a patient’s day-to-day life.

Sessions may help an individual deal with responsibilities such as paying bills or completing work on time and encourage endeavors that provide personal fulfillment and well-being, such as sleep, exercise, or hobbies. Most adults with ADHD say, “I know what I need to do; I just don’t do it.” Despite having plans for what they want or need to do, they do not carry them out. CBT for ADHD concentrates on embracing coping strategies and managing negative expectations and emotions. The therapist uses takeaway reminders, follow-up check-ins, and other ways of applying new coping skills, so they are eventually used outside the consulting room.

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We Level Up FL ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Treatment

Adults with ADHD can experience depression or anxiety, problems with family, sexual behavior, work, and substance abuse. It is crucial to obtain an assessment to learn ADHD symptoms in women and treatment options to best support your loved one with ADHD. [5]

Behavioral therapy can help you develop coping strategies to manage your symptoms. It may help improve your focus and build your self-esteem. Talk therapy can also relieve symptoms of depression and other comorbidities common with ADHD and the stress of managing a chronic health condition. Leading a healthy lifestyle is also essential. For instance, try to get enough sleep, eat a well-balanced diet, and exercise regularly.

We Level Up FL offers an ADHD treatment program at our mental health treatment center in Florida. Here, clients participate in clinical and experiential therapies as part of our comprehensive curriculum. If your loved one is struggling with their depression diagnosis or other comorbidities, we can help them understand their disorder and teach them the skills they need to reach their full potential. 

Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.

What is the best treatment for ADHD inattentive subtype? Since inattentive ADHD is often missed, it can languish for years without treatment. But treatment is critical, no matter the stage of life. 
What is the best treatment for ADHD inattentive subtype? Since inattentive ADHD is often missed, it can languish for years without treatment. But treatment is critical, no matter the stage of life. 
Search We Level Up FL “What is Inattentive ADHD? Causes, Symptoms, & Inattentive ADHD Treatment” Topics & Resources

[1] Mental Illness – NIMH/National Institute of Mental Health

[2] Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – NIMH/National Institute of Mental Health ADD ADHD treatment center and ADHD treatment guidelines

[3] Magnus W, Nazir S, Anilkumar AC, et al. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. [Updated 2022 Aug 15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available:

[4] Núñez-Jaramillo L, Herrera-Solís A, Herrera-Morales WV. ADHD: Reviewing the Causes and Evaluating Solutions. J Pers Med. 2021 Mar 1;11(3): jpm11030166. PMID: 33804365; PMCID:

[5] Manwell LA, Barbic SP, Roberts K, Durisko Z, Lee C, Ware E, McKenzie K. What is mental health? Evidence towards a new definition from a mixed methods multidisciplinary, international survey. BMJ Open. 2015 Jun 2;5(6):e007079. b : 10.11362014-007079. PMID: 26038353; PMCID: PMC4458606.

[6] National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK). Common Mental Health Disorders: Leicester (UK): British Psychological Society (UK); 2011. (NICE Clinical Guidelines, No. 123.) 2, COMMON MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS. Available from:

[7] Krystal JH, State MW. Psychiatric disorders: diagnosis to therapy. Cell. 2014 Mar 27;157(1):201-14. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.02.042. PMID: 24679536; PMCID: PMC4104191.

[8] National Institutes of Health (US); Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. NIH Curriculum Supplement Series [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Institutes of Health (US); 2007. Information about Mental Illness and the Brain. inattentive ADHD testing from:

[9] Malla A, Joober R, Garcia A. “Mental illness is like any other medical illness”: a critical examination of the statement and its impact on patient care and society. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2015 May;40(3):147-50. DOI: 10.1503/jpn.150099. PMID: 25903034; PMCID: PMC4409431.

[10] About Mental Health – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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