Inattentive ADHD: The Subtle Symptoms People Ignore

This type of ADHD is not always as easy to spot.

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Usually when you think of ADHD, you think about the H, or hyperactive. This is especially true when you think of ADHD in children, fidgeting in class or getting restless during a long movie.

In fact, there are three types of ADHD: hyperactive, inattentive, and combined, says psychiatrist Susan Samuels, MD, of New York Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine.

People with inattentive ADHD may struggle with forgetting everyday items, experiencing low arousal, getting to work on time, staring off into space, and misplacing phones, wallets, or important papers.  This may lead others to perceive them as flighty or scattered, which can take a toll on their self-image.

Women and girls may be more affected by inattentive ADHD than by hyperactive ADHD, but their inattentive ADHD is often underdiagnosed because problems with focusing tend to be less conspicuous than hyperactivity. Doctors may also misdiagnose such women with anxiety or depression, says Dr. Samuels, making it even more of a challenge for them to find the right treatment.

But thankfully, that treatment does exist. Adult women with inattentive ADHD can regain control of their life with a multipronged approach including medication, therapy, stress management, coaching, professional organizing, and lifestyle habits like yoga or meditation. (Here’s how exercise can help treat ADHD symptoms.)

For more simple habits to improve organization, here’s how to simplify your morning routine and how to improve focus in the evenings for ADHD.