What my inattentive ADHD is like

Another frequent question I am asked is what inattentive ADHD is like and though I have written about this before, in this blog I want to explain my symptoms using the DSM-5 for ADHD inattentive type.

Inattention: Six or more symptoms of inattention for children up to age 16 years, or five or more for adolescents age 17 years and older and adults; symptoms of inattention have been present for at least 6 months, and they are inappropriate for developmental level:

  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
  • Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
  • Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
  • Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
  • Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
  • Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
  • Is often easily distracted
  • Is often forgetful in daily activities.
In addition, the following conditions must be met:
  • Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present before the age 12 years old.
  • Several symptoms are present in two or more settings, (such as at home, school or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).
  • There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, school, or work functioning.
  • The symptoms are not better explained by another mental disorder (such as a mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, or a personality disorder). The symptoms do not happen only during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder.

source: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/diagnosis.html

My experience:

Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or with other activities.
This particular trait in me presents in varying ways and in varying parts of my life. It’s not as simple as something like reading a recipe and skimming over to turn the oven on first. But it is often that simple it’s just occurring in lots of places in my life. And I know this is often because of issues with working memory. This can have some seriously negative outcomes and has caused me costly mistakes in the past and probably future.

Often has trouble holding attention on tasks or play activities.
I’ve had comments my whole life, like in my report cards “struggles to settle to task”. I struggle to give anything attention that doesn’t tickle my attention. If it’s not interesting it will not hold my attention but even things I love I sometimes can’t do or sustain energy at. It doesn’t really discriminate.

Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly.
Sure, but sometimes, I did hear, I’m just buffering. It takes me a moment to process what was just said. I heard it real time but it’s like the information taking a long time to load in my brain. And then sometimes I am just off and my brain switches off and hears nothing. Kinda like muffled talking registers and I realize “oh no I zoned out again”. And it’s not that I don’t care my brain just wants to do it’s thing..

Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., loses focus, side-tracked).
Again if it’s not stimulating it can be very hard to take interest and “just get on with things” sometimes I literally do not have the mental stamina. Sometimes I get distracted because I am following thoughts around the room and half action things all at once. It can be hard to just do one thing. I often clean my house like this, just doing what takes my fancy.

Often has trouble organizing tasks and activities.
For me this is not so much that I cannot see the big picture. It’s more the execution of all it’s parts and it is hard to prioritize this kind of thing in my head. So this is why many people with ADHD need to externalize thoughts with to-do lists etc or they will forget. This impacts a persons ability to prioritize what to do next too. It’s not like I don’t know what needs to be done, it’s just literally doing it that is hard.

Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to do tasks that require mental effort over a long period of time (such as schoolwork or homework).
As it says “often avoids” because sometimes if I am really stimulated by something that requires significant effort I can sustain interest on it for days, weeks, years. It really depends on what it is. But I do definitely have an aversion to lots of work on my mental plate. There’s a fine balance between wants enough for my mental health and what is necessary to survive and what I gotta do to pay bills etc..

Often loses things necessary for tasks and activities (e.g. school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
Of all my symptoms this one here has presented in a couple of different ways for me. It’s often instructions or materials I struggled to have and it may be because I missed the note on it. In my every day life it’s more things like my medication, remembering to eat, hand in things by a certain deadline, appointment times, losing things doesn’t have to be literally your wallet, it can be short term memory and long term memory that gets lost in the ether some how for us. That is the heart of ADHD.

Is often easily distracted
When am I not distracted, in reality I think I am always on, no matter if I have medication, medication just helps me not drift off as often but I am still doing it most of the time. But that’s my hyperactivity too I think, the hyperactivity is internalized for inattentive ADHDers is how I see it. Or at least feels that way for me.

Is often forgetful in daily activities.
Again it’s more a combination of things and often my environment doesn’t help accommodate what I need to do or remember, so I take medication for this. But remembering to take my meds themselves can be tricky. Even with several alarms. I do things like: I forget my washing is in the machine all the time. Forget to text people back. Forget to get something from the store. etc.

I meet all the other conditions as evidenced by my school reports and personal accounts from those who knew me before age 12.

Published by Jenn has ADHD

Jenn Parker, New Zealand. ADHD Advocate and Peer. jennhasadhd.com

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