Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is inattention, is one of three types of ADHD.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (formerly known as attention deficit disorder, or ADD) tends not to exhibit as many “hyperactivity” symptoms, but instead has difficulty paying attention to details, organizing, and completing tasks.
This article will review the features of ADHD with inattention and how to diagnose and treat the condition.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a disease neurodevelopment, which refers to the nervous system as it develops throughout the lifespan. It may cause inattention, hyperactivity and/or impulsivity.
ADHD usually presents between the ages of 3 and 6, with an average age of diagnosis of 7 years.
About 11 percent of children ages 4 to 17 have ADHD. Although generally considered a childhood disorder, ADHD persists into adulthood. About 4% of Americans over the age of 18 have ADHD.
Although not a separate disorder, ADHD is divided into three manifestations, including:
- Mainly inattentive introduction
- Predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
- Combined presentation (both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsive symptoms are present)
People with ADHD who are inattentive have many symptoms of inattention, such as confusion and difficulty concentrating, but do not often exhibit hyperactive-impulsive behavior.
All people, especially children, have difficulty concentrating at times. Occasional forgetfulness or other inattention is not a sign of ADHD.
People with ADHD who are inattentive often display these traits to the point that it affects their day-to-day functioning in areas such as school, work, and interacting with others.
To meet ADHD criteria for inattentiveness established by the fifth edition Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), over the course of at least six months, children must have at least six (or adults must have five) of the following symptoms, the extent of which affects their level of functioning:
- Inability to pay close attention to details, such as making “careless mistakes” in homework, including missing or inaccurate details on the job
- Difficulty staying focused during tasks or game activities, such as staying focused during lectures, conversations, or reading lengthy projects
- Does not appear to be listening when speaking directly, appears to be daydreaming or “not present”
- Does not follow instructions; has difficulty completing tasks such as homework, chores, or other duties; and may start tasks but lose focus and distraction
- Often difficult to organize, such as managing tasks and keeping work or home spaces tidy, as well as problems with time management and missed deadlines
- Avoiding, disliking, or unwilling to engage in tasks that require constant mental effort, such as homework or homework, preparing reports, and filling out forms
- Lost items needed for tasks or activities, such as pencils, books, tools, glasses, and keys
- Easily distracted by things around you or irrelevant thoughts
- Forgetfulness in everyday activities, may forget to do housework and errands, return phone calls, pay bills or make appointments
Does ADHD with inattention mean that a person has difficulty concentrating all the time?
Will not. While inattentive ADHD symptoms are often present and cause damage overall, that doesn’t mean the person never pays attention.
Often, people with ADHD who are inattentive pay close or constant attention to things they find interesting, such as watching TV, playing sports, creating art, or playing video games.
To diagnose ADHD, a healthcare provider or mental health professional will use a variety of tools, including interviewing the person, reviewing their medical and family history, and conducting a physical exam.
To get a full picture of symptoms, healthcare providers will ask the affected person and/or their parents or guardians:
- Symptoms of ADHD in the Home Environment
- Symptoms outside the home, such as at school, at work, or in the community
- The extent to which these symptoms affect current functioning
Looking back on history
In addition to current symptoms, healthcare providers will ask about:
- Medical history: such as past developments, other health conditions, medications and any other relevant general health information
- Social environment: such as stressors at home or elsewhere and social or economic support
- Family history: such as a history of ADHD or a relative with a related disease
This may include:
- General assessment of overall health
- Heart tests (especially if medication is prescribed)
- nervous system exam
- Vision and Hearing Screening
- Look for or rule out other possible causes of symptoms
A validated ADHD screening test or assessment can be completed by one or more of the following:
- myself (self-report)
- parent or guardian
- A teacher or other relevant adult in the child’s life
ADHD and Gender
In childhood, ADHD diagnoses are 3 times more common in boys than in girls. In adulthood, the ratio is nearly equal.
Because ADHD is thought to begin in childhood but many girls and women are not diagnosed until adulthood, researchers believe girls may be underdiagnosed.
Part of this may be because ADHD in girls and women tends to manifest as inattention, which can be harder to spot because it’s more disruptive than the hyperactive trait common to boys with ADHD.
Note that research on ADHD in men and women is often based on sex assigned at birth and may not accurately reflect gender identity.
The cause of ADHD is unknown, but research highly suggests a genetic link. About three-quarters of children with ADHD have relatives who also have ADHD.
Generally, adults and children are prescribed similar types of medications for ADHD, but the dosage, exact medication, and frequency will vary.
- Medications commonly prescribed for ADHD
- Effective in 70%–90% of ADHD patients
- The most commonly used type is Adderall (dextroamphetamine–amphetamine) Ritalin and concerto (methylphenidate) and Metadate CD (methylphenidate hydrochloride)
- Can be prescribed if psychostimulants are ineffective or cannot be taken
- May include: three rings antidepressants, such as Pamelor (nortriptyline), monoamine oxidase inhibitor such as Nardil (phenelzine), Wellbutrin (bupropion) or Effexor (Venlafaxine)
- Not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat ADHD, but used off-label
- Can be used if stimulants are ineffective or cannot be taken
- May include: Strattera (atomoxetine) or Intuniv and Tenex (guanfacine)
ADHD medications often need to be adjusted, especially at the beginning. Work with your healthcare provider to find the best option for you.
There are several types of therapy that can help relieve ADHD symptoms. Treatment is often combined with medication and can be used alone.
- Discussion on ADHD and its effects
- Helping people understand being diagnosed with ADHD and teaching how to cope
- Use reward systems to help with behavior management
- Including learning how to plan and organize activities, giving praise and encouragement even when children make small progress
Parent/Guardian Training and Educational Programs
- Help parents or guardians learn specific ways to talk, play and cooperate with their children to improve their concentration
- Usually arranged in groups of about 10-12 parents/guardians
- Typically consists of 10-16 sessions of up to two hours each
social skills training
- Situations Involving Role Playing
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- A form of psychotherapy (talk therapy)
- Available for children and adults
- Involves identifying wrong or unhelpful thinking and turning it into more productive and functional thinking
- Can be done individually or in groups
Coaches for people with ADHD:
- provide feedback
- make a suggestion
- give encouragement
- Help people find and apply their own solutions to problems
- Provide practical solutions to certain problems, such as time management and organization
- Help people achieve their goals
The most effective treatments for ADHD with inattention are therapy and medication, but beyond these measures, there are other ways to help.
You can try or encourage your child to try the following:
- Exercise regularly.
- Adopt healthy eating habits.
- Get the right amount of sleep.
- Create and follow routines.
- Use notebooks, apps, and other organizers to jot down and track assignments and reminders.
- For your child, be clear and follow the rules and instructions.
- For your child, praise and reward your child frequently, as children with ADHD are often more disciplined and criticized than other children.
- Minimize distractions, such as working in a quiet room or sending calls to voicemail.
- Do one task at a time, breaking large tasks into smaller ones.
- Set reminders, such as using visual lists or sticky notes.
- Set up automatic bill payment.
- Designate designated locations for frequently lost items.
- Take handwritten notes at meetings, schools, or similar venues, use a recording device as a backup, and fill in the details later.
ADHD is one of the three types of ADHD. This type tends to have more inattention symptoms, such as disorganization and inattention, but usually does not exhibit hyperactive-impulsive behavior. If you suspect you or your child has this type of ADHD, see your healthcare provider for counseling and diagnosis. ADHD can be treated with a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.
When we hear “ADHD,” we often think of a child running around, full of energy, and unable to sit still. While this may be true for some, ADHD can also look like a child quietly daydreaming in class, or an adult forgetting to pay a bill.
Not everyone with ADHD has ADHD, but if you notice any of the behaviors mentioned in this article such as confusion, inability to maintain concentration, and other behaviors that affect your life or your child’s life, talk to your healthcare provider Or, to see if inattention ADHD might be the cause.