What to Know About Inattentive ADHD in Women

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Inattentive attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a type of ADHD that has many characteristics. Some of its challenges can include difficulty with focusing and concentrating, as well as impulsivity. While inattentive ADHD is often thought of as a childhood disorder, it can persist into adulthood.

Inattentive ADHD Is More Prevalent in Women

Inattentive ADHD is more common in women than men. In women, inattentive ADHD often goes undiagnosed because some of its traits are confused with signs of stress or anxiety.

In some cases, inattentive ADHD can also co-occur with other mental health conditions, such as autism, anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse.

What Is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a type of neurodivergence that affects people of all ages. It has many features, including increased energy and hyper-focus. Many people with ADHD are naturally curious and creative.

ADHD can also present challenges such as difficulties with focus, impulsiveness, and/or hyperactivity. People with ADHD may have unique requirements to help them thrive in social, academic, and work settings.

There are three types of ADHD:

  1. Inattentive type: Difficulty sustaining attention and concentration
  2. Hyperactive-impulsive type: Difficulties with impulsiveness and/or hyperactivity
  3. Combined type: Difficulties with all three areas—sustaining attention, impulsiveness, and hyperactivity

What Is Inattentive ADHD?

Inattentive ADHD

Inattentive ADHD is a form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). People with inattentive ADHD may need to find unique ways to sustain their attention, as they struggle to focus on certain tasks. They may also experience impulsive behavior and/or hyperactivity.

Though it is often thought that ADHD is most impactful during childhood, inattentive ADHD traits still occur in adulthood and can be even more distressing without the right accommodations.

Inattentive ADHD may manifest differently in women than it does in men. Without adaptive coping mechanisms, women with inattentive ADHD may have difficulty with work, school, or personal relationships. They may also struggle with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Having inattentive ADHD means that your mind works uniquely. In general, people with ADHD have a unique perspective of the world around them. With the right strategies, those with inattentive ADHD can find more ease and efficiency with the daily tasks they may struggle with.

Traits of Inattentive ADHD

The traits of inattentive ADHD can vary from person to person. Common ones include the following:

  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Being interested in many things simultaneously
  • Creativity
  • Difficulty sustaining attention on just one thing
  • Disorganization
  • Fast-paced thinking
  • Feeling extremely energetic
  • Forgetfulness
  • Losing track of time
  • Moving on to another task without finishing the first
  • Procrastination
  • Seeing the world in unique ways
  • Trouble following instructions

While the traits of inattentive ADHD are the same for men and women, they may be more difficult to identify in women. This is because some of the traits of inattentive ADHD can be similar to those of other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.

In addition, women with inattentive ADHD may be more likely to internalize their traits, which can make them less obvious to others.

How Does Inattentive ADHD Impact Daily Life?

There are both benefits and challenges that inattentive ADHD presents. Some of the benefits of inattentive ADHD (as well as other types of ADHD) include:

  • Being adventurous: When ADHD is managed effectively, impulsivity can make life exciting and inspiring. People with ADHD may use this trait adaptively to explore their curiosities and interests in life.
  • Creative thinking: People with ADHD are often naturally creative, seeing the world in unique ways and coming up with inventive solutions to problems.
  • Increased energy: There are times when increased energy is beneficial. People with ADHD may thrive while performing certain tasks or engaging in certain activities that require a lot of energy.
  • Self-awareness: People with inattentive ADHD may find that they are tuned in to how they're feeling at any given moment, which can help them fulfill their needs—whether it's time away from a task when they're feeling distracted or learning a new skill when they're feeling energetic.

There are also challenges that people with inattentive ADHD may face. These challenges may be made more difficult because schools, jobs, and social norms often don't account for people who are neurodivergent. It can feel frustrating to constantly have to advocate for yourself if you have inattentive ADHD.

Women with inattentive ADHD may also struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.

Below is a list of the potential challenges:

  • School: The traits of inattentive ADHD may make it harder to focus during long lectures and/or complete assignments on a deadline. People with inattentive ADHD may benefit from taking breaks during the day, getting help outside school, and/or receiving other academic accommodations.
  • Work: Inattentive ADHD may make it challenging to complete work tasks or adjust to the social norms of an office setting. But people with inattentive ADHD can still thrive at work. They may benefit from speaking with their manager about ways that will help them complete their work the most efficiently, perhaps by eliminating unnecessary distractions.
  • Personal relationships: Maybe you tend to forget plans with friends, or your family feels that you're not fully present. Communicate honestly with loved ones. Let them know how you're doing your best to show up for them; you may offer ways they can help support you, too.
  • Anxiety: Women with inattentive ADHD may be at risk for anxiety disorders. The traits of inattentive ADHD can contribute to feelings of anxiety and worry. In addition, women with inattentive ADHD may be more likely to internalize their traits, which can lead to increased anxiety.
  • Depression: Women with inattentive ADHD may also be at risk for depression. The traits of inattentive ADHD can contribute to feelings of sadness and isolation. Internalizing your traits can lead to increased depression.

If you are feeling anxious or depressed, try speaking to a mental health professional who can help you address uncomfortable feelings and reframe negative thoughts.

Inattentive ADHD Treatment

There is no one approach to treating inattentive ADHD. The best course of treatment will vary from person to person. Some people with inattentive ADHD may benefit from medication, while others may benefit from therapy or a combination of both.

Below are some common treatments for inattentive ADHD:

  • Medication: Medication can be used to treat some of the challenging traits of inattentive ADHD. Commonly prescribed medications include stimulants, such as methylphenidate (Ritalin) and amphetamines (Adderall). Non-stimulant medications, such as atomoxetine (Strattera), may also be effective.
  • Therapy: Therapy can be used to help people with inattentive ADHD manage some of the traits that may be disruptive to their daily life. While there are a multitude of therapy options helpful for ADHD, the relationship you have with your therapist/professional plays a significant role in therapeutic change versus the model of therapy itself.
  • Coaching: ADHD coaching is another support option that is helpful for managing ADHD. Getting involved and being around other ADHD folks (and just neurodivergent folks in general) is critical. Having a sense of community is incredibly important when the world isn't designed for your brain.
  • Self-Help: There are also many self-help resources available for people with inattentive ADHD. Books, websites, YouTube channels, and support groups can provide information and support. In addition, there are many apps available that can help with task management, organization, and time management.

A Word From Verywell

There are many benefits and challenges that are linked with the traits of inattentive ADHD. When you experience an ADHD-related challenge, know that many resources are available to help. Start by speaking to a doctor or mental health professional who can help you find ways to feel more comfortable at work, in school, or in personal relationships.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."