This type of ADHD is not always as easy to spot.
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.)
Dr. Samuels is an assistant professor of clinical psychiatry and clinical pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine and an assistant attending psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
- Patient education: Symptoms and diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children (Beyond the Basics). Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2020. (Accessed on January 1, 2021 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/symptoms-and-diagnosis-of-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-in-children-beyond-the-basics
Glaser Holthe ME, and Langvik E. The strives, struggles, and successes of women diagnosed with ADHD as adults. 2017 Mar;7(1). Available from: SAGE Open. (Accessed on January 1, 2021 at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2158244017701799)Women and girls. Location: Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. (Accessed on January 1, 2021 at http://www.chadd.org/Understanding-ADHD/For-Adults/Living-with-ADHD-A-Lifespan-Disorder/Women-and-Girls.aspx.)