Inattentive-type ADHD (formerly called ADD) causes struggles with managing time, losing or misplacing things, and attending to details (resulting in careless mistakes), among other symptoms. Over time, a higher level of mental fatigue and forgetfulness, and lower sustained energy throughout a task may develop.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists nine core symptoms of ADHD, predominantly inattentive presentation. In practice, it was found that the following five signs are the most commonly overlooked.

5 Signs of Inattentive ADHD (ADD)

Difficulty Completing Tasks

The first overlooked sign of inattentive ADHD is difficulty completing tasks. People with inattentive ADHD are not lazy, stupid, unwilling, or oppositional. They are creative, outside-the-box thinkers whose minds stray from uninteresting tasks. They have a biologically based challenge with attending to an uninteresting task, maintaining their focus, and sticking with it until finished. All too often, their brains tire more quickly.

Sometimes a lack of focus doesn’t indicate a lack of interest, but it could reflect a learning disorder, a lack of clarity on what to do, or a preoccupation with something else. Sadly, it’s commonly confused with lower intelligence and general capabilities when it really reflects challenges with working memory or how someone processes information.

Easily Distracted

People with ADHD inattentive type are often pulled away to think about something other than the task at hand; their brains just naturally stray. I call it “Going to Bermuda.” You could be sitting in class or at your computer working. Suddenly, you drift — maybe you think about lunch, or something captures your attention, like the snowfall outside.

Many people with inattentive ADHD judge themselves negatively for this freewheeling thinking. The problem isn’t that you gaze off, but rather that, when you come back from drifting, you feel disorganized, lost, and confused. Then panic sets in, and you wonder what you missed and how to catch up.


The third overlooked sign of inattentive ADHD is forgetfulness. This may be due to a deficit in working memory, which is a common challenge for people with all ADHD subtypes (inattentive, hyperactive, and combined). Working memory is a crucial executive functioning skill that acts like the computational space in your brain. It helps you retain information and perform an action on it. When something has emotional salience, it sends material into long-term memory. It also pulls up past experiences and applies them to our current situation to guide actions and thoughts.

Trouble Listening or Following Directions

The fourth overlooked sign of inattentive ADHD is having trouble listening or following directions. This often appears to the outside world like carelessness or laziness, but it is actually a neurological nuance of the ADHD brain.

Many people with inattentive ADHD have a slower processing speed; they get overwhelmed quickly and shut down. It takes them longer to sort through and digest information, which may look like poor listening or follow-through skills. Again, this has nothing to do with intelligence.


The final overlooked sign of inattentive ADHD is disorganization. Disorganization often causes people with inattentive ADHD to feel overwhelmed. They have no idea where to begin organizing or how to engage in a productive process. Reaching the end may seem impossible. Plus, it can be very challenging for people with inattentive ADHD to keep track of stuff and they, like so many others, probably lose or misplace items more than they care to admit. Creating practical organization systems and breaking old habits that lead to piles, messes, and overwhelm can be daunting.

Neurofeedback Therapy at NHA

Here at Neurohealth Associates, we specialize in Neurofeedback therapy. Neurofeedback may be helpful for training your mind, especially if you are unsure about putting yourself or your child on medication. This easy, noninvasive therapy can painlessly improve your mental health condition and outlook on life. Schedule a consultation with NeuroHealth Associates today and find out how we can help you.

Full article originally published in ADDitude Mag.

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