Yeah, so at first, it was like… Um…like…wait.. It’s happening again. The words are right there at the tip of your tongue, but you can feel them rapidly slipping from your mind. This isn’t the first time you trailed off in the middle of a thought, but it certainly is an annoying and often stressful struggle. Your friend furrows their brows as they stare at you looking off into the distance, squinting your eyes to try and bring it back as quickly as you can. Damn, you think, they probably think I’m a complete idiot. “Uh… heh…. Wait um … what was I just saying?” you ask. Occurrences of forgetfulness like this aren’t just embarrassing but can be a complicated struggle every day. Forgetting keys, important assignments, text messages, and more are only one aspect of Inattentive ADHD (sometimes referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD) that can frustratingly complicate the lives of people that have it.
When many people think of ADHD, their minds instantly go to the stereotypical depiction of a hyperactive child, fidgeting and frequently talking out of their turn. This perception is more aligned with the Hyperactive type of ADHD, where individuals may experience difficulty sitting still, always feeling as if they need to be “on the move”, and impulsivity (ADHD Hyperactive-Impulsive Type). While this certainly could be what ADHD looks like in some people, an often forgotten type is Inattentive ADHD. In this type, key symptoms include forgetfulness, trouble focusing/learning information, and frequent daydreaming (Understanding ADHD Inattentive Type). While symptoms of the hyperactive type are typically observable, thus increasing the likelihood of diagnosis at an early age, symptoms of the inattentive type often end up flying under the radar, leading to either late diagnosis or none at all. Even worse, symptoms that are recognized are considered negative attributes of the person as lazy, careless and disorganized.
For many people with Inattentive ADHD, completing tasks and focusing is not as easy or cut-and-dry as it is for people without ADHD. It does not mean that they don’t put in the effort to accomplish assignments or that they don’t care about what’s going on around them but that it is honestly quite hard. They may experience episodes of brain fog that inhibit focus on the task at hand; for example, spending large quantities of time to read through just one page of an assignment. The symptom of boredom adds an additional barrier, making it easy to deviate from prioritized tasks to completely unrelated activities. It does not necessarily mean that they don’t find the task important, but rather they may get intensely distracted or have the strong urge to do something else. Forgetfulness can cause them to miss important deadlines and due dates. These difficulties can interfere in academic and occupational performance, even if the person had previously excelled before, leading to the perception that they are lazy and do not apply themselves well.
Symptoms of Inattentive ADHD can also hinder interpersonal relationships between friends, family and other loved ones. Forgetting important dates such as birthdays, anniversaries, and events may be misconceived as disinterest or carelessness. Losing a train of thought or zoning out in the middle of someone else speaking can be perceived as rudeness and disregard when, in reality, it may just be a representation of Inattentive ADHD. It is important to distinguish that Inattentive ADHD is not a personality type. Symptoms do not necessarily mean that a person is lazy and careless, but they can be an explanation for presented traits.
Inattentive ADHD is often an understated disorder that can significantly affect those with it. Misconceptions and misperceptions can add to the stress that symptoms may already cause, possibly degrading relationships and other aspects of their lives. It is vital to take a step back and realize that your experiences may not be the same as someone else’s. Regardless of the connotations of certain behaviors, steps must be taken in order to increase both awareness and accessible treatment for Inattentive ADHD. It is imperative that we recognize, destigmatize and ultimately understand that a situation may not be what you think it is, and it can be Inattentive ADHD.
ADHD Hyperactive-Impulsive Type. Web M.D. (n.d.). https://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/childhood-adhd/adhd-hyperactive-impulsive-type
Understanding ADHD Inattentive Type. Healthline. (n.d.). https://www.healthline.com/health/adhd/inattentive-type#behavioral-therapy