Understanding ADHD: Predominantly Inattentive Type in Adults

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ADHD Without Hyperactivity

Many people mistakenly believe that ADHD always includes the traditional understanding of hyperactivity as its primary symptom. For many people suffering from ADHD, this is not the case at all. Adults who struggle with inattentive-type ADHD often do not exhibit any outward symptoms of hyperactivity, though they may find themselves experiencing a sense of inner agitation or fidgeting which may be associated with this element of their disorder.

While some people still prefer the term ADD, for Attention Deficit Disorder without hyperactivity, this term was officially retired in 1994 in favor of the more inclusive Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Predominantly Inattentive Type. Two other subset types of ADHD are also recognized. They are the Predominantly Hyperactivity/Impulsive Type and the Combination Type.

Symptoms and Characteristic of Inattentive Type ADHD

The following list of symptoms are common among ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Type in adults:

  • Tendency to overlook details
  • Difficulty staying on task
  • Trouble listening for sustained periods of time
  • Tendency toward chronic tardiness
  • Poor organizational skills at home and at work
  • Difficulty following through with instructions and duties
  • Avoidance of large projects which require sustained mental effort
  • Tendency to lose things, including items necessary to complete tasks
  • Easily distracted by environment and stimuli
  • Often forgetful regarding basic tasks, appointments, and deadlines
  • Tendency to procrastinate
  • Tendency to underestimate the time needed to complete a task
  • Tendency to hyperfocus on topics of interest

Workplace Side-Effects for Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD

Due to these common characteristics, ADHD-Predominantly Inattentive Type in adults often causes severe difficulties in the workplace. As individuals struggle to remember details, pay attention to instructions, and generally stay on task, errors are easily made. This is often interpreted as laziness and can lead to poor performance reviews, recommendations, and even job loss. Many adults who suffer with ADHD have a tendency to bounce from job to job, until the symptoms of their disorder become problematic enough for them to either lose their jobs or become depressed or despondent enough to quit or simply stop showing up for work. This reaction is in part related to depression or anxiety which can present as an associated disorder related to the symptoms of ADHD.

Another related work-related issue for adults suffering with ADHD-Predominantly Inattentive Type is failure to advance within their careers. Avoidance of large projects which require attention to detail, diligence, persistence, organizational abilities, and sustained mental effort can result in being overlooked when promotions become available. Similarly, continual tardiness, procrastination, and forgetfulness can result in unexpected disappointment by supervisors and an unintentional thwarting of personal plans for upward mobility.

What is Hyperfocus?

While the most notable characteristic of ADHD-Predominantly Inattentive Type in adults is an inability to remain focused, these same individuals are capable of hyperfocusing on that which interests them. In practical terms this means that work deemed necessary by an outside party is harder for adults with ADHD to focus on than projects or work for which they show a personal interest. Adults with ADHD- Predominantly Inattentive Type will often find themselves devoting all of their time and energy to a task, project, or hobby that they feel is stimulating or rewarding and ignoring tasks that don’t interest them. This can be problematic both at work and at home as routine tasks are ignored in favor of more enjoyable projects.

The ability to hyperfocus is actually a coping mechanism for eliminating distractions. By focusing on a single task, whether it is a project, something on the computer, a television show, or a book, an individual can lose sight of time and important activities while focusing on their preferred task. There are times when hyperfocusing can be useful, if channeled into productive activities; but it can also be disruptive and result in poor performance in other areas.


ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Type in adults is a very challenging disorder to detect, identify and understand. Because of its side effects both in the workplace and at home, it is very important for individuals with this disorder to seek medical attention, become educated about the condition, and learn behavioral techniques to help reduce and manage the symptoms of this illness.


National Resource Center on ADHD at https://www.help4adhd.org/about/what/WWK8.

E-medicineHealth - Adults with ADHD at https://www.emedicinehealth.com/adhd_in_adults/page3_em.htm.

WebMD - Types of ADHD at https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/types-of-adhd.

Flippin, Royce, ADDitude Magazine Online - Learn About ADHD: Focus on Hyperfocus at https://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/612.html.