Understanding ADHD Inattentive Type

Written by Erica Roth and Rena Goldman | Published on February 27, 2015
Medically Reviewed by The Healthline Medical Team on February 27, 2015

If you suffer from ADHD inattentive type, you most likely have a hard time with organization and paying attention. Learn more about this ADHD type.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder most common in children and adolescents. Neurobehavioral means there are both neurological and behavioral components to the disorder.

There are three types of ADHD:

  • predominantly hyperactive-impulsive
  • predominantly inattentive
  • combined type

The predominantly inattentive type has a group of nine symptoms of inattention or distraction.

You probably have a hard time with organization and paying attention if you have ADHD inattentive type.

Causes of ADHD

It’s not completely known what causes ADHD. Some studies published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology show a genetic link. Other possible causes of ADHD include:

  • exposure to drugs
  • nicotine
  • drinking alcohol during pregnancy
  • low birth weight
  • premature birth
  • nutritional (such as food additives)

Brain injury and exposure to lead paint could also increase your risk of developing ADHD.


The inattentive type of ADHD isn’t what most people picture when they think of someone who’s hyperactive. People who have the inattentive type are usually less disruptive and active than those who have the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type.

Symptoms of inattentive type include:

  • missing details and becoming distracted easily
  • trouble focusing on the task at hand
  • becoming bored quickly
  • difficulty learning or organizing new information
  • trouble completing homework or losing items needed to stay on task
  • becoming confused easily or daydreaming frequently
  • seeming not to listen when spoken to directly
  • difficulty following instructions
  • processing information more slowly and with more mistakes than peers


A doctor will observe your behavior to diagnosis you with the inattentive type of ADHD. You have to show at least six of the nine symptoms of inattention to be diagnosed. Your symptoms must be severe enough that they stop you from completing everyday tasks and activities.

Your doctor will probably also do a medical exam to rule out other possible causes. According to the National Resource Center for ADHD, more boys are diagnosed with ADHD overall. However, girls are more likely to have the inattentive type than boys.


Treatment for ADHD can include medication and behavioral therapy. Parents of children with inattentive symptoms can use intervention strategies. These help children learn organizational skills and stay on a predictable schedule by earning rewards for behavioral goals.

Seeing a therapist or counselor may also be helpful if you or your child experiences emotional difficulties because of inattention issues.


Stimulants are the most common type of drugs used to treat inattentive type ADHD. Stimulants help your brain focus on tasks if you have inattentive symptoms.

Medications don’t cure ADHD. However, they can help manage and reduce symptoms. Many ADHD drugs, including Adderall (amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) and Concerta or Ritalin (methylphenidate), have long-acting versions. These can help you focus for long periods of time. They could possibly help you through an entire work or school day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 70 and 80 percent of people with ADHD who take stimulant medications respond well to treatment. However, possible side effects of stimulants include:

  • facial or vocal tics
  • sleep problems
  • decreased appetite
  • dry mouth
  • mood changes with irritability

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is sometimes called behavioral intervention. It helps people with inattentive type ADHD function at school, work, or home. Getting rid of distractions and unpredictability is a key factor in leading a successful life with inattentive type ADHD.

Here are some tricks to help you do this for yourself or your child:

  • Create a routine and stick to it.
  • Turn off televisions, radios, and other electronic devices when doing work or homework to cut down on distractions.
  • Be brief and clear when giving instructions to someone with ADHD.
  • Start a behavior chart to help your child work toward a reward for good behavior.

Looking Forward

Inattentive type ADHD may be a lifelong condition. However, it doesn’t have to slow you down. People with this type may be seen as lazy or apathetic. This is often far from the case. Properly treating your ADHD can help you showcase your intelligence, talents, and interests, allowing you to shine.

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