Tell Me More About ADD Inattention

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Attention Deficit Disorder looks different in adults than it does in children. While adults who do not have ADD are able to tune out distracting sights and sounds, adults who deal with inattentive type ADD lose focus when they hear someone’s conversation in the hall. Dealing with routine reports becomes a major struggle. Find out more about the description and definition of adult ADD, inattentive type.

Common Signs

For adults living with ADD inattention, the inability to remain focused on the task at hand has a potentially serious effect. Because inattention and distractibility aren’t as obvious as hyperactivity, adults, family members and medical professionals may overlook it unless it is specifically addressed.

Some common signs of adult ADD, inattentive type, include:

√ “zoning out,” or losing focus on an activity or conversation

poor listening skills; difficulty following directions or remembering conversations

√ wandering attention and extreme distractibility

√ lack of attention to details, which leads to incomplete work or errors

√ difficulty paying attention when listening to others or when reading

√ difficulty in completing simple, routine tasks

In addition, the adult with ADD may become easily bored and move quickly from one activity to another, writes Helpguide. [1]

Picture of ADD, Inattentive Type

The adult with ADD, inattentive type may typically leave home for university classes or work, having forgotten a critical assignment or project, if he completed it at all. As he was working on the project, he had to force himself to maintain focus, getting distracted by the sound of the television in the family room or a dripping faucet in the kitchen.

As he was doing research, he found himself losing focus on the research and being sidetracked by interesting websites as he searched for needed information. The research, while it may have been simple, was made difficult by his inability to maintain focus for more than a few moments at a time; this also may have led to overlooking critical information, which caused him to make mistakes.

The adult may have had a hard time remembering instructions for completing his project. If he received any written directions, he can’t find them to jog his memory.

As he gets to his class or office, he realizes he left his work at home, dashes in to explain to his professor or supervisor and rushes home to get it. [1]

DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria

For an adult diagnosed with ADD inattention may be one of the biggest hurdles he has to deal with daily. To receive a diagnosis of ADD, inattentive type, the adult must have displayed symptoms consistently from the age of 7 years. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) states that adults must present with six or more of the following symptoms for at least six months:

√ overlooks details, making careless mistakes;

√ often forgetful in routine and daily activities;

√ has difficulty maintaining attention with tasks;

√ easily and often distracted by unimportant stimuli;

√ does not appear to be listening when directly spoken to;

√ frequently loses tools and items necessary for tasks at home or work;

√ fails to follow through on instructions, failing to complete work projects or tasks at home–not due to failure to understand or oppositional behavior;

√ frequently tries to avoid or dislikes activities requiring sustained mental effort;

√ difficulty organizing activities and tasks–has a hard time prioritizing.

These symptoms must be present to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with the adult’s developmental level. [2]


While lack of attention may not seem to be an issue for some adults, for those who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, inattentive type, this issue leads to persistent problems at home, in the workplace and in relationships with others. The adult with attention problems does not intend to zone out and ignore people or responsibilities–the ADD literally makes it impossible to attend to the degree necessary at all times.

This article is not intended to diagnose. If you think you may suffer from adult ADD, please consult with a medical professional.


[1] Melinda Smith, M.A. and Jocelyn Block, M.A. Adult ADD/ADHD. Helpguide, retrieved at

[2] H. Russell Searight, PH.d, et al, Adult ADHD: Evaluation and Treatment in Family Medicine. American Family Physician. Nov. 2000, retrieved at