On the spectrum of ADHD symptoms, perhaps the least understood is the inability of children and adults to pay attention to the world around them. They “space out” in the middle of conversations or are clueless about the recently revealed details of a new project at work.

That “space cadet” inattentive presentation of ADHD can drive friends, partners, spouses, teachers and bosses crazy. They think the ADHD person doesn’t care about the relationship or the job or they may believe the ADHD person is slow witted or even stupid.

The truth is that ADHD brains pay more attention to the world, taking in minute details that neurotypical brains filter out as unimportant. ADHD brains have compromised ability to prioritize information; everything is Priority One. That leads to staggering sensory overload in the ADHD brain.

The hyperactive ADHD child or adult expresses that overload outwardly; they talk fast or have lots of physical energy. Inattentive ADHD children or adults try to manage the overload by processing and reprocessing it on the inside. Their brains are overwhelmed with information. Often their constant mental chatter becomes chronic anxiety and worry - an internal version of hyperactivity. They tend to ruminate over perceived criticism and are easily distracted, not only by external shiny objects but by their own thoughts!

This intense internal concentration is the equivalent of an invisible shower curtain pulled around the external persona of the ADHD child or adult. They literally build their own mental world behind that curtain. They are preoccupied with sorting out the data that assaults them from the outside world.

Inattentive ADHD folks are often lethargic. They wish they had more “get up and go” but they simply can’t muster the energy to move. They talk less and can be introverted. Inattentive ADHD is more common among girls and women, but it also shows up on the male side of the ADHD equation.

For those living or working with inattentive ADHD, it is important to remember that lack of response or distractions are not personal. That ADHD brain is not balking at answering questions on purpose. There is simply too much going on to add in one more byte of data. The best approach is to use visual queues often (email, written notes) and to set appointments to discuss important topics with strict limits on time (the longer the time commitment, the more likely the ADHD person will begin to get overloaded with information and glaze over).

Inattentive ADHD: it’s not personal any more!

Author's Bio: 

Linda Roggli is an author, retreat facilitator and professional ADHD coach for adults. She created the ADDiva Network for ADHD Women in 2007 and moderates support groups and regular educational webinars. She is the vice president of ADDA and blogs regularly for ADDitude magazine.