Those who experience inattentive ADHD often have difficulties concentrating, focusing on tasks, or remembering important responsibilities. Symptoms vary in presentation, but can cause unique challenges in one’s academic life, relationships, and daily routine. Like other subtypes of ADHD, inattentive ADHD can be treated with medication, therapy, or a combination of both.
What Is ADHD Inattentive Type?
Inattentive ADHD, formerly referred to as attention deficit disorder (ADD), is a subcategory of ADHD characterized by troubles with staying organized, paying attention to detail, and focusing. Unlike the other two subtypes of ADHD, those with inattentive form do not experience ADHD impulsivity or hyperactivity.
The three types of ADHD include:
- Inattentive type: includes difficulties with staying on task, organization, and concentration.
- Hyperactive/impulsive type: includes difficulties with impulse control and ADHD racing thoughts.
- Combined type: A person with combined type ADHD will fall into both categories. This means they will experience all symptoms.
Symptoms of ADHD Inattentive Type
How inattentive ADHD symptoms are experienced will depend on the individual. These may change over time, so learning how to recognize increases in symptom severity in yourself or a child is important.
Symptoms of ADHD inattentive type may include:
- Becoming easily distracted
- Lack of motivation
What Causes ADHD Inattentive Type?
There are many factors that play into the development of inattentive ADHD, including one’s genetics, environment, and even pregnancy complications.1 While having a predisposition to this condition may put a person at higher risk for ADHD, it does not necessarily mean that they will go on to experience it.
ADHD inattentive type may be caused by:
- Genetic factors: Research suggests that having a sibling or parent with ADHD increases a person’s risk for developing it themselves.
- Environmental factors: How a person is raised and the environment they grow up in can influence the likelihood of them developing ADHD.
- Prenatal complications: Being born prematurely may increase a person’s risk of ADHD.
How Is ADHD Inattentive Type Diagnosed?
Receiving an accurate diagnosis is the first step when seeking to manage your inattentive symptoms. A diagnostic process typically includes a variety of tests and reviews of medical, family, and social history. A psychiatrist, primary-care physician, or other qualified mental health professional will walk you through this process.2
A diagnostic process for ADHD inattentive type may include:
- Medical history review
- Psychological tests
- Family history review
- Mental status exam
- Review of school records
ADHD Inattentive Type Treatment
As is the case with any mental health condition, there is no one treatment approach for ADHD that works for everyone. When treating adult ADHD, individuals may be recommended a combination of medication and therapy. Working with a mental health professional to determine what methods best suit your needs is the first step towards symptom management.3
Medication is often considered a frontline treatment for those with inattentive ADHD. While there are many medications for ADHD available, individuals should be aware of possible ADHD medication side effects. Consult with your physician to learn more about the different types of prescriptions, associated risks, and intended benefits. If you would prefer to have an initial consultation at home, there are numerous online psychiatry options to consider.
Medications for ADHD inattentive type may include:
- Stimulants: Stimulants, such as Adderall*, can be helpful as they are designed to help improve concentration and focus.
- Non-stimulants: Non-stimulants can help keep a person calm and grounded when needed.
- Antidepressants: Some individuals may benefit from certain SSRIs**, as they may be struggling with a co-occurring disorder, such as anxiety or depression.
*This medication has a black-box warning, the most serious kind of warning from the FDA for a risk of medication misuse or abuse.
**This medication has a black-box warning, the most serious kind of warning from the FDA for a risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in certain people. You should talk with your doctor about these risks before starting this medication.
There are several benefits of therapy, but finding a neurodiversity-affirming therapist is important when living with inattentive ADHD. These therapists will understand your challenges and how they can best be addressed. There are also online therapy options available if you know that attending in-person sessions may not be possible for you.
Therapy options for ADHD inattentive type include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT for ADHD helps clients learn how their thoughts impact their behaviors. A person will then make efforts to address negative thoughts to make necessary changes.
- Group therapy: Group therapy offers a person the opportunity to connect with others who experience similar issues, learn coping skills, and build a sense of community.
- Family therapy: In some cases, family therapy can be beneficial. Here, family members work together to understand how they can support one another and improve communication.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT): DBT teaches a person how to remain grounded when struggling with their emotions. This can help those with inattentive ADHD recognize when they are being distracted or feeling anxious, allowing them to become better focused.
- Mindfulness based CBT (MBCT): MBCT can help improve overall executive functioning, which is often dysregulated in those with ADHD.
Along with medication and psychotherapy, there are a variety of natural remedies for ADHD that may prove beneficial for some. This can include taking supplements, making certain diet changes, exercising, or biofeedback. However, if you are considering any supplements or vitamins, be sure to discuss these with your doctor before trying them.
How to Cope With ADHD Inattentive Type
Finding ways to cope with and better manage challenging symptoms can help you feel more in control of your day. Maintaining self-care may sound easy, but sometimes we forget to pay attention to our own needs when navigating the many challenges of life. However, staying active, focusing on your diet, and developing healthy coping mechanisms is beneficial when living with inattentive ADHD.
Below are tips for coping with ADHD inattentive type:
- Try meditation: Meditation for ADHD can be beneficial, as it encourages one to become grounded and stay focused. Developing a regular meditation routine can boost your concentration skills and overall ability to stay on task.
- Try body doubling: You may benefit from using body doubling techniques when completing tasks, as it can help you stay motivated. Body doubling involves having a friend accompanying you when completing a task to help improve productivity.
- Change your environment: When working or finishing a project, change your environment to one free of distractions. This may be a physical location, or it could look like removing yourself from a conversation or social situation.
- Adjust your caffeine intake: Focus on limiting your caffeine consumption or opting for an alternative.
- Increase exercise: Having an exercise routine can help you release energy that may be preventing you from staying focused and concentrated.
How to Help a Child With ADHD Inattentive Type
A child with ADHD inattentive type needs love and support from parents or caregivers. This may mean that your family has to make certain changes to your dynamic, such as your eating habits, routines, and communication methods. It’s important to remember that taking these steps will benefit your child in many ways.4
Below are ways to support a child with inattentive ADHD:
- Develop a routine: Developing a routine will help your child stay focused. Having a set schedule allows a child the ability to plan ahead and know exactly what to expect throughout the day.
- Limit distractions: Limiting distractions for your child can help them stay concentrated and on task. This may include turning off the TV, limiting Internet use, or not allowing the use of phones when a child is focusing on something important.
- Encourage movement and play: Engaging in play and physical activity allows a child to release any pent-up energy, which can help them stay better focused later on.
- Foster your relationships: A parent or caregiver who encourages their child to express their emotions shows their child that they are important, valued, and understood.
- Provide clear direction: Be direct and thorough about what your child’s responsibilities are and why it is important for them to keep up with them. For example, explain to your child what tasks they need to tackle and ask them to repeat back your instructions.
ADHD inattentive type can be challenging to cope with, but there are helpful and effective treatments available. Receiving support is important, so exploring the options available to you is essential. There is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment approach, so spending time to discover what works best for you will be beneficial in the long run.
For Further Reading
- 21 Best ADHD Blogs
- 20 Best ADHD Podcasts
- 15 Best ADHD Books
- Adult ADHD – CHADD
- Improving the lives of people affected by ADHD – CHADD
- We’ve Got Answers – ADHD Online