What Is Inattentive ADD?


Do you know anyone who constantly loses her car keys? Or maybe their glasses? You know the type – the potential absent-minded professor type or the chronic daydreamer who appears forgetful, careless or even apathetic. We all know someone like that.

At Amen Clinics, we prefer the term Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) because ADHD highlights the hyperactive component of the condition (H), and ignores half the people who have it, who are not at all hyperactive.

Yet, too many people who suffer from Inattentive ADD (the Type 2 subset of ADD) are never diagnosed because the symptoms can be so subtle and restrained. If you can check off most of these symptoms on a family member or a friend, he or she may in fact have Inattentive Attention Deficit Disorder– a subtype of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

ADD Typically Shows Up Early in Life

Most people don’t realize that ADD is a developmental disorder – it’s not something that magically appears in middle age. If you have ADD symptoms, but never had them as a child, it could be due to something else, such as depression, chronic stress, hormonal changes, a head injury, or some form of toxic exposure.

It’s critical to know that ADD is a not a single, simple, or separate disorder. Based on our extensive brain SPECT imaging work at Amen Clinics, we have discovered that there are seven different types of ADD:

  1. Classic ADD (ADHD)
  2. Inattentive ADD
  3. Over-focused ADD
  4. Temporal Lobe ADD
  5. Limbic ADD
  6. Ring of Fire ADD
  7. Anxious ADD

Understanding which type or types you have is critical to getting the right treatment. One treatment does not fit all, and treatments for one type of ADD often make the other types worse, sometimes dramatically so.

Each of the ADD subtypes has its own set of symptoms because of the abnormal blood flow patterns in the brain specific to each subtype.

However, most people who suffer from ADD share these characteristics:

  • Organization problems (a cluttered and disorganized bedroom or office)
  • Distractibility
  • Chronic tardiness
  • Procrastination
  • Forgetfulness
  • Tendency to lose things
  • Trouble listening
  • Problems with follow-through
  • Poor impulse control (saying or doing something before thinking it through)

People with Inattentive ADD Often Get Misdiagnosed

When most people think about ADD, they think about Classic ADD. People with Classic ADD are hyperactive, restless, impulsive, disorganized, distracted, and have trouble concentrating.

The second most common type of ADD is Inattentive ADD. Unfortunately, many of these people never get diagnosed. Instead they are labeled slow, lazy, or unmotivated. While people with Classic ADD bring negative attention to themselves with their hyperactivity, constant chatter, and conflict-driven behavior, Inattentive ADD folks tend to be quiet and distracted.

Rather than cause problems in class, they are more likely to daydream or look out the window. They are not often impulsive and are less likely to blurt out inappropriate things. They are frequently thought of as couch potatoes who have trouble finding interests or motivation in life. Girls seem to have this type as much, or more, than boys.

Inattentive ADD is the perfect example of why the general term “ADHD” does not fit all ADD types. If clinicians and parents are looking for hyperactivity to reach a diagnosis, the condition may be left untreated.

Untreated or incorrectly treated ADD affects nearly every aspect of your life and has been associated with:

The good news is that Inattentive ADD is usually very responsive to treatment. It is often possible to change the whole course of a person’s life if the disorder is properly diagnosed and treated. Then it’s imperative to know which type you have so that you know how to implement the most targeted interventions possible for your specific type.

Amen Clinics has helped tens of thousands of people with ADD from all over the world and we can help you, too. To learn more or schedule a comprehensive evaluation, contact an Amen Clinics Care Center today, or call (888) 288-9834.

Amen Clinics has developed a free and confidential questionnaire to help you know if you (or a loved one) has ADD and which type you might have. Take our fascinating questionnaire and gain some clarity on ADD, and how it may affect you or someone you love.


  1. I have inattentive add and have been yelled at my whole life because of issues surrounding it. Little things like asking people to repeat themselves because my brain is focused on other things, and people responding by yelling as if I’m deaf. To people berating me while I’m in the middle of a focused spell trying to work, because I haven’t completed something that they asked me to do, like dishes. Please help me to understand how to change these interactions. I am 39 years old and was brought up in the days of Ritalin, getting yelled at has been my reality my whole life .

    Comment by Landon D Chappell — June 24, 2018 @ 12:45 PM

  2. Landon,

    At 39 you can still get help. Medicine may help some but you also have to try to set up routines to deal with the issue.

    It won’t be easy and you can’t change yourself totally but you can improve what you are showing others.

    So you will have to set up habits to help you complete things on time.

    You will have to consciously work hard to focus and limit distractions.

    I’m not a doctor I’m just someone like you also struggling to overcome this. It won’t happen overnight.
    Others won’t understand that you are simply missing chemicals in the brain that they have. It is a legit condition.

    Let people know. Don’t apologize for it. Just tell them that this is what you are like and they need to know that it isn’t intentional.

    My wife thought for years that I was a lazy slob. Bosses thought I was a disorganized idiot. I am. I just can’t help it. I am working on trying to improve things now that I know I can consciously attempt to do so every day.

    I am also brilliant and smarter than most of them. Shame is I found out that I had this much later in life than you.

    So you need to find something that your ADD inattentive is a good fit for.

    Others will have to realize that they have to cope with your disability. It is a disability.

    Cope doesn’t mean you don’t have to do the dishes. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to be on time. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay attention. It means that when you don’t do those things they should be more understanding because it isn’t an intentional act on your part.

    People can tell you to be there at 8 instead of 815. They can make sure they snap their fingers when talking to you and look you in the eye to make sure you hear them. Meetings at work can be made shorter, more interesting and more to the point. You should always sit in the front.

    Others may not know you have this issue. It is a hidden affliction. Let them know if you are sure they won’t discriminate against you and will work with you.

    Again I’m no expert. I’m trying to learn more. More books to read. There are professionals that can help you.

    Fyi if you have kids it is genetic and may pass it on. Maybe a parent of yours has it. A sibling or cousin might.

    Good luck.

    Comment by Ken — October 18, 2018 @ 6:54 AM

  3. Try L-Tyrosine. I’ve got the same. It changed my life

    Comment by John — November 6, 2018 @ 2:30 PM

  4. WOW! I’m so bothered by seeing nothing but “adHd” talked about, and this automatically makes the association with hyperactivity!!

    For me, it’s almost as if ADD is the OPPOSITE of hyperactive. And you bring up such a valid point about those with ADD are sometimes called “lazy” and “couch potato.”

    This further invalidates that ADDADHD is real, as there’s STILL controversy that it exists. They blame it on lack of will power, laziness, a cop out, etc.

    I was diagnosed when I was In 2nd grade. They had my hearing checked, in order to rule out or determine why it seemed I couldn’t /didn’t hear the teacher. It was determined after my hearing was fine that it was likely ADD.

    Anyway, I have been tested /evaluated two times for ADD on two separate occasions by separate professionals. I take medication.

    Despite the fact that I absolutely struggle with severe procrastination, misplacing things, time management, organizing /remaining organized, plan an event, underachieving, list goes on – despite all of this-
    I STILL question as to whether or not it’s ADD or if it’s literally me being lazy, and dumb.

    But who would CHOOSE to be lazy if there wasn’t ANYthing “off” in the first place? What would be the reason anybody would intentionally wish to make their life more difficult than it has to be? That to me is proof to the closed minded arrogant people who think ADD/ADHD is fake.

    I went way WAY off topic. I’m sorry ! I just really am glad to be reminded that I’m not just lazy and rude and underachieving just for the hell of it.

    Comment by Chelsea — April 22, 2019 @ 10:09 AM

  5. Since inattentive ADHD   is often missed, it can languish for years without treatment. But treatment is critical, no matter the stage of life. Medication can be a lifesaver for some, tackling underlying attention issues while you work on coping strategies. For individuals who can’t — or choose not to — take ADHD medications, there are other treatment options available.

    Comment by Promedos — April 23, 2020 @ 9:56 AM

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