Written by Tara Boustany on
January 10, 2022
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Tara Boustany on:

Do you know someone in your life who is inattentive?

Maybe they are oblivious to their work or inattentive to what other people say. Or perhaps it’s just very difficult for them to stay focused on one thing at a time.

This person might have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and if so, they’re not alone!

ADHD is the most common mental condition in children and adults, affecting about 8.8% of children and 4.4% of adults in the United States alone, as of this writing.

ADHD has three major types: the predominantly inattentive type (previously known as ADD), predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type, and the combined type. 

This blog post will focus on the inattentive ADHD type—you’ll learn about its possible causes, ADHD symptoms, diagnosis, treatment or management options, and more.

So, let’s get started.

What is inattentive ADHD?

Inattentive ADHD is a condition in which one has trouble focusing and staying on task.

It’s important to note that inattention primarily refers to poor concentration, while hyperactivity or impulsivity often refers to excessive movement.

The symptoms of inattentive ADHD are similar in adults and children: difficulty paying attention, disorganization, inattentiveness, and daydreaming.

In adults, inattention is often misinterpreted as laziness or disinterest in the topic at hand.

Unfortunately, these common misperceptions can lead to a delay in diagnosis and treatment—and that’s a big problem! Without proper management of inattentive ADHD, people with the condition can suffer academically, professionally, and emotionally.

What are some possible causes of inattentive ADHD?

There is no definite answer to this question as inattentive ADHD may be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, environmental exposures, and brain injuries.

That said, researchers have found some interesting correlations in inattentive ADHD, such as:

In addition, there is a strong hereditary component to inattentive ADHD—children with one parent who has inattentive ADHD are three times more likely to also have the same condition.

Common Symptoms

Inattention is the primary symptom associated with inattentive ADHD. However, there can be a lot of variability from person to person.

Some people with inattentive ADHD may only have trouble staying focused in certain situations, such as when they’re working on a task that’s not interesting to them or when there is a lot of noise and distractions around them.

Others may struggle with inattention all the time, no matter what the situation is.

In addition to problems with focus, people with inattentive ADHD can also experience:

  • Careless mistakes
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Disorganization
  • Short attention span
  • Poor time management skills
  • Trouble paying attention in class or during conversations
  • Poor listening skills
  • Easily distracted by environmental stimuli
  • Daydreaming a lot
  • “Laziness” or “Apathy”
  • Trouble staying on track
  • Trouble following multi-step instructions 
  • Forgetfulness

Diagnosis

There is no one test for diagnosing inattentive ADHD.

Instead, a diagnosis is typically made after a healthcare professional conducts a comprehensive evaluation that assesses a person’s symptoms and medical history.

The evaluation will likely include interviews with the person in question, parents or other family members, and teachers in order to assess the presence of inattentive ADHD.

It’s also common for healthcare professionals to use standardized rating scales, such as:

  • the SNAP-IV Scale (a questionnaire that asks about behaviors associated with inattention)
  • or Vanderbilt Rating Scales (which are completed by teachers and assess a child’s academic, behavioral, and social functioning)

In order to get a complete picture of the person’s symptoms. 

Treatment or Management Options

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment or management method for ADHD, as people with inattentive ADHD may require different treatment approaches.

That said, some common treatment and management options include:

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy can help people with ADHD in a number of ways.

It helps them develop better organizational and time management skills, cope with stress in an effective way, improve their decision-making ability, set personal goals for themselves (and hold them accountable), and work on other important life skills.

In addition, behavior therapy can help inattentive ADHD patients develop better social skills and become more proactive in their daily lives.

Educational Interventions

Having ADHD, especially the inattentive type can be extremely frustrating for students in school.

But teachers and other educators are in a unique position to help children with the condition by identifying their areas of strength, providing targeted assistance in the classroom (such as more time on assignments), or even changing up how the material is presented in order to make it easier to understand.

Medication Management

There are a number of different medications that can be used in the treatment or management of ADHD.

Some forms may help improve symptoms, such as:

Methylphenidate

Methylphenidate (Ritalin) has been in use for many years and has successfully helped in treating both inattentive ADHD and hyperactivity in children and adults.

While there can be some adverse side effects with this medication, such as loss of appetite or trouble falling asleep at night, it is generally considered to be safe for most people when used in the right dosage and under a doctor’s guidance.

Other forms may help by increasing the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, like dopamine.

There are also different types of medication that may be used in combination with other medications or therapies in order to amplify their effectiveness.  

These can be in the form of:

  • Psychostimulants (such as Adderall and Ritalin)
  • Non-psychostimulant medications (such as Strattera, Intuniv, or Kapvay)

This list is not exhaustive and there are other treatment options available for people with inattentive ADHD.

It is important to work with a healthcare professional in order to find the best treatment plan for you or your loved one.

Counseling or Psychological Treatment

Counseling or psychological treatment can help both children and adults deal with inattention symptoms by teaching them strategies to cope more successfully on their own (such as through better organization of daily tasks or time management skills). 

It can also help adults with the inattentive type of ADHD to learn how to better manage their condition and live a more productive life. 

Parent Training and Education

Parents play a particularly important role in the lives of children with the inattentive type of ADHD.

They can provide valuable support and encouragement, help to facilitate effective treatments (such as behavioral therapy), and aid in keeping their child on track for success in school and life.

In addition, there are parent training programs that may be available at local clinics or schools that can provide parents with the tools they need to help their children.

Support Groups

There are a number of ADHD support groups in existence throughout the United States.

These can provide valuable information and emotional support to people with this condition, as well as help in connecting them with others who may be in similar situations.

In addition, there is plenty of online content available in terms of ADHD support. 

In fact, people in this online community are very active in sharing information and helping others in their journey.

This can be a valuable resource for anyone who has ADHD or knows someone with the condition.

ADHD Coaching

ADHD coaching is a relatively new, but growing field that can be beneficial for both children and adults with the inattentive type of ADHD.

This type of service can provide structure and guidance to help individuals learn how to better manage their condition and improve various areas of their life.

Some coaches may specialize in working with students while others work with adults in the workforce.

There are also coaches who work with families as a whole to help everyone in the home learn how to better cope with ADHD.

It is important to find a coach who has experience in working with people who have the inattentive type of ADHD and who understands the challenges that can be faced.

ADHD Music Therapy

People who have an inattentive type of ADHD may find that playing music or listening to it can be calming and help them focus better.

For this reason, some therapists use an approach known as “music therapy” in their practices in order to help people with inattention symptoms feel more on task.

This method is also sometimes referred to as “auditory stimulation” in the ADHD community.

It is not entirely known why this type of therapy can be helpful, but it may work by creating soothing and consistent sounds in order to help focus attention on a specific task (such as homework).

This approach may also be especially effective in children given that they are often more in tune with music than adults.

It is important to note that this approach does not replace any medication or other therapy sessions, but can be used in conjunction with them in order to maximize results.

Some people have found success in using ADHD-specific apps for children on their devices in order to help keep them focused during the school day.

These apps can play music in the background while children complete their assignments or study for tests.

Self-Help

Last but not least is the option of self-help in terms of the inattentive type of ADHD.

There are a variety of options that people with this condition can use to help themselves in managing their symptoms and improving areas where they struggle in life, such as studying for tests at school or work, organizing daily tasks and routines.

Some popular self-help methods include:

  • Organizational tools (such as planners, calendars, or apps)
  • Time management tips
  • Strategies for studying and test-taking
  • Tips for managing stress and anxiety

This is just a small sampling of the many options that are available to people with the inattentive type of ADHD.

ADHD inattentive type can be a difficult condition to manage, but there are many treatment options available that can help in various ways.

It is important to work with a mental health professional to find the best treatment plan or management options for you or your loved one.

Inattentive Type of ADHD in Adults

Inattentive ADHD in adults can be a challenge to diagnose and treat, in part because their inattention may not manifest in the same way that it does in children.

Additionally, they often face different challenges than children do when dealing with this condition (such as increased stress or anger management issues).

There are many reasons why inattentive ADHD may not be diagnosed in adults, but one reason is that many doctors are simply less familiar with the condition in older patients.  

However, inattentive ADHD in adults can be treated in many of the same ways as it is in children.

A professional treatment plan may include medication (such as stimulants), counseling or psychological therapy, or educational interventions to help people with this type of ADHD function more successfully in their daily lives.

It is important to work with a mental care provider so that you can find the best treatment and management plans for you or your loved one.

Inattentive Type of ADHD in Children 

Inattentive ADHD in children may appear in a different way than it does in adults.

For example, an adult with an inattentive type of ADHD may seem to be bored or lack motivation, while a child typically exhibits hyperactivity and disruptive behavior (which can make them difficult to control).

Additionally, some parents may not even realize that their child has ADHD until they start school and have trouble keeping up with the work or making friends.

This is why it is important for parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of inattentive ADHD in both themselves and their children.

Inattentive ADHD can be extremely frustrating for students in school. But teachers and other educators are in a unique position to help children with the inattentive type of ADHD by providing them with extra support.

Concluding Thoughts

Inattentive ADHD can present in many different ways, making it difficult to diagnose and treat.

There are a variety of treatment options available that can help people with the inattentive type of ADHD in various ways.

It is important for people who think they may have inattentive ADHD or for their loved ones to work with a mental health professional in order to find the best treatment and management options for them.

If you want to learn more about ADHD and its types, check out these helpful resources and feel free to join this online community of mental health advocates and professionals

Join The Mental Health Community You've Been Dreaming Of


This discord family is a safe place where we can all (anonymously if we choose) talk about and seek help for what is going on in our heads.

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