People with ADHD of the inattentive type have trouble paying attention to details, are easily distracted, often have trouble organizing or finishing tasks and often forget routine chores (such as paying bills on time or returning phone calls). Although there is no cure for the disorder, it can be successfully treated with a combination of medication and behavioral therapy.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neuropsychiatric condition that makes it difficult to pay attention, control impulsivity (taking action before fully thinking things through) or manage excitable behavior (the person is squirming/fidgeting or “hyperactive”). The disorder interferes with the quality of life by intruding on day-to-day functioning.
The American Psychiatric Association has identified three different types of ADHD. These are:
Adults with significant problems with inattention — but who exhibit few or no symptoms of hyperactivity — are said to have the predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD. People with this type of ADHD have trouble paying attention to details, are easily distracted, often have trouble organizing or finishing tasks and often forget routine chores (such as paying bills on time or returning phone calls).
The causes of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are unclear, but the condition often runs in families. There appears to be a genetic and neurobiological basis for ADHD. Usually, adults with the predominantly inattentive form of ADHD first developed it during childhood and adolescence. They were likely reprimanded in elementary or middle school, were consistently distracted and turned in incomplete work. However, because children with this form of ADHD usually aren't usually hyperactive, the disorder may have gone unrecognized until they reached adolescence or adulthood. This is especially true for girls and women with inattentive ADHD. Girls may be more quiet and passive than those who don't have the disorder, and thus don't stand out in the classroom. At times, adult women can go undiagnosed until one of their children is diagnosed with ADHD. At this point they might recognize similarities in their own behavior patterns and seek professional help.
Researchers are studying environmental trauma (the personal and social interpretation of trauma and responses to the trauma) and other issues related to pregnancy or early life exposure (environmental toxins, alcohol and tobacco use during pregnancy, premature birth, low birth weight) as other possible factors that may play a role in ADHD.
According to the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic criteria, there are nine symptoms associated with inattention. Although nearly everyone experiences inattention problems at times, people with the predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD frequently experience the following symptoms. These symptoms may intrude and interfere in their daily functioning at work, with family members or in social situations. The nine symptoms associated with the predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD are:
Adults may have predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD if they:
There is no single medical or genetic test for the predominantly inattentive type of ADHD. Diagnosis of ADHD requires a careful review of symptoms. A qualified mental health professional, often a physician (psychiatrist or neurologist) or clinical psychologist, evaluates you. The evaluation consists of these three steps:
Your healthcare provider:
Technically, to be diagnosed with ADHD inattentive type, adults (age 17 and older) must have:
Although there is no cure for the disorder, it can be successfully treated. There are several different approaches for treating adults, but generally some combination of medication and behavioral therapy yields the best results.
Prescription drugs that are used to treat ADHD in children usually are effective for most adults with the predominantly inattentive form of ADHD. However, the dosage and frequency of medications may have to be adjusted early during the course of treatment. It is important to match the needs of the person with ADHD with the characteristics of the drug.
The major classes of prescription medications that are prescribed for ADHD are psychostimulants, antidepressants, and nonstimulant drugs. These treatments affect the neurotransmitters that send signals to brain cells.
Various approaches may be used to treat adults with inattention problems. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) helps patients identify problem behaviors and create and implement strategies to self-regulate (control your behavior, emotions and thoughts), change behavior and achieve goals. With CBT, patients identify automatic or irrational thoughts that may result in negative behavior and replace them with positive thoughts and behaviors. Acceptance Commitment Therapy is another form of therapy designed especially to empower individuals to pursue personal values and engage in behavior consistent with their values as opposed to trying to change the individual. Other programs have been developed to enhance self-management, but these are not yet widely available. Group therapy may be effective for adults with ADHD, especially for women.
Coaching is a relatively new approach that has become more popular over the past few years. Coaches help people with ADHD handle the challenges of daily life by providing feedback, recommendations and encouragement, and directing the individual to attend to their own solutions to problems. They also offer practical solutions to address certain issues — such as time management and organization — and help their clients achieve goals.
To help manage distractions:
To help stay organized:
To prevent losing or misplacing important items:
To help stay focused:
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/25/2019.
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