ADHD But Not Hyper

ADHD But Not Hyper

ADHD without hyperactivity is recognized as the Predominantly Inattentive Presentation of ADHD. Individuals with this type may not exhibit the physical restlessness often associated with ADHD but will display significant attentional difficulties, disorganization, and easy distractibility.

Published on
Updated on
estimated reading time

Written by

Alice Gendron

Founder of The Mini ADHD Coach

Reviewed by

In this Article

Reviewed by

A word form our expert

Can You Have ADHD Without Being Hyperactive?

Despite what ADHD stereotypes might have us believe, you can have ADHD without being hyperactive. 

  • ADHD includes presentations that don't necessarily involve hyperactivity, such as the Predominantly Inattentive Type, which may manifest as distractibility and difficulty sustaining attention rather than overt physical restlessness.

  • Understanding and recognizing inattentive ADHD is crucial. The misconceptions around ADHD only being present if we have hyperactive symptoms can mean those of us with inattentive presentations go undiagnosed and miss out on support.
  • Managing inattentive ADHD often involves medications along with behavioral therapies to help improve focus and reduce inattention symptoms.

Back in the 1960's, The American Psychiatric Association (APA) introduced the term' hyperkinetic reaction of childhood' in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). By the time the third edition of the DSM came out in 1980, the APA updated the terminology to 'attention deficit disorder' (ADD) and broadened the definition to include two subtypes: ADD with hyperactivity and ADD without hyperactivity. 

Finally, in 1987, the APA revised the condition's name again to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), integrating the characteristics of inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity into one unified diagnosis.

Over the years, it's become more and more apparent to medical professionals that not everyone with ADHD is visibly hyperactive. ADHD is a diverse condition, and its wide range of symptoms is why the APA's recognition of different types, like inattentive type and combined type ADHD, is crucial. It helps everyone understand that ADHD isn't a one-size-fits-all situation. ✅

It's not all about excessive energy; it's about a unique pattern of attention that can vary from one person to another. So, even though the term 'hyperactivity' is in the name, it's not a must-have symptom for an ADHD diagnosis. 

Each individual with ADHD may experience a different mix of symptoms, and that's perfectly okay. Whether you're dealing with a whirl of thoughts or a calm exterior, ADHD can look different for everyone, and that's part of what makes the understanding of this condition ever-evolving.

To fully grasp this idea, it's essential to consider a few crucial aspects when examining ADHD and its relation to hyperactivity. ⬇️

Visualize your ADHD traits!

Take our fun online quiz to visualize your ADHD traits and learn more about your brain!


ADHD Has Three Different Presentations

ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, presents in three primary forms, each with its own unique set of behavioral symptoms. 

According to the criteria set out by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, these include:

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

This type of ADHD includes signs such as trouble staying seated, difficulties focusing on one task, and acting without thinking. Those with a hyperactive-impulsive presentation may have trouble waiting their turn during activities, often interrupt others, and may show a pattern of impulsive behavior.

Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD 

Here, inattentive symptoms dominate. Individuals might struggle with following through on instructions, have trouble organizing tasks, and frequently make careless mistakes. They might have difficulty listening and staying focused on tasks that require sustained mental effort. Historically, this presentation has been referred to as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but is now more commonly included within an ADHD diagnosis.

Combined Type ADHD

This is a mix of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive symptoms, making it a more complex presentation to manage. Those with combined type ADHD might display a spectrum of behaviors from both the inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive categories, often making it challenging to pinpoint their symptoms.

When seeking an ADHD diagnosis, understanding an adult or child's behavior and whether it aligns with these categories is crucial. It requires a comprehensive evaluation by a qualified mental health professional, who may use behavioral therapy, medications for ADHD, or a combination of both to treat the condition. Treatments are not one-size-fits-all, and what works for one person might not work for another.

Inattentive Symptoms Might Mean We Go Undiagnosed

When we talk about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), it's easy to picture the hyperactive, impulsive type: the kids who can't stay in their seats or the adults who talk a mile a minute. 😂But for children with ADHD that have the inattentive type of ADHD, the experience can be different. They might be quieter, and, unfortunately, this can mean a child’s symptoms are missed and they slip through the cracks.

Predominantly inattentive ADHD includes symptoms that are very different from the physical restlessness seen in the typical hyperactive-impulsive type. This can manifest as trouble keeping track of tasks, making careless mistakes, or difficulty maintaining focus. 

For girls and women, these issues often lay hidden beneath a veil of quiet daydreaming, forgetfulness, trouble paying attention, and problems with organization. Because these behaviors aren't as disruptive, they're less likely to be flagged by a child's doctor or family members. 🙋

The American Psychiatric Association recognizes this type as one of three distinct presentations of the disorder. Yet, the subtlety of inattentive ADHD means it's not only underdiagnosed in childhood but can also lead to a lifetime of unexplained difficulties. As adults, those of us who are undiagnosed might struggle to complete tasks, stay organized, and manage time, affecting work, relationships, and self-esteem. 💕

The Hyperactive Stereotype of ADHD Can Be Harmful

Years of the persistent stereotype of a kid with ADHD bouncing off the walls has meant that people with inattentive ADHD are missed because they don't fit the hyperactive mold. As a result, those with inattentive ADHD often struggle silently, missing out on the early intervention and support that could make a world of difference in their lives. 😞

When adults with ADHD don't get the help they need, over the years, it can create a snowball effect in the following ways. 👇


Mental Health

Struggling to stay focused and manage those impulsive decisions can make us vulnerable to things like anxiety and depression. 

Substance Misuse

When treatment isn't an option, some undiagnosed adults self-medicate with substances that do more harm than good. It's a shortcut that can lead to substance use disorders, especially since ADHD can come with an increased risk of addiction.

Work Issues

For those juggling untreated ADHD, difficulty completing tasks can mean work performance can suffer, leading to missed deadlines, conflict with colleagues, and even job loss.

Relationship Issues

Relationships are hard enough without ADHD in the mix. Without treatment, those with the condition might seem disengaged or overly impulsive, causing tension and misunderstandings in partnerships.

Financial Difficulties

Impulse buying and forgetting to pay bills can lead to financial woes for those with untreated ADHD, leading to increasing debt and going without vital resources and essentials. 💰

Some People Mask Their Hyperactive Traits

Many people with the predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD learn to mask their inner hyperactive traits, especially as they grow older. When this happens, masking isn't just about resisting the urge to fidget or sit still - it's also about what's going on in their brain. 🤯

Due to inattentive symptoms such as difficulties regulating attention, inner hyperactivity often includes racing thoughts, overthinking, and rumination - all of which can be just as exhausting and difficult to hide as physical hyperactivity. They need to devote a considerable amount of mental effort to appear calm and focused, even though they might visibly excel in completing tasks at work or school. 

Masking ADHD traits, particularly the hyperactive or combined type of ADHD, requires constant vigilance and behavior management, which can take a significant emotional toll. When individuals with ADHD use so much energy to control their symptoms, it can lead to burnout, increased anxiety, and even contribute to depression. 

The emotional labor involved in keeping up appearances is significant. Without supportive interventions like behavioral therapy, talk therapy, or the help of a mental health professional, masking can have devastating consequences on our wellbeing in the long term.

Treating ADHD & Managing Inattention Symptoms

If you're living with the predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD, it's essential to understand that the stereotypes of ADHD being all about hyperactivity are just those - stereotypes. Your experience is real and valid, even if it's quieter or less visible than the hyperactive-impulsive type. Inattention can sneak up on you, and just because you aren't bouncing off the walls doesn't mean your ADHD isn't there - it's just wearing a different disguise. 

So, how do you treat ADHD, particularly if you're on the inattentive side of the spectrum? 

Luckily, there are lots of options available. ⬇️

ADHD Medications

Medications for ADHD, which often involve psychostimulants that affect neurotransmitters, can help you harness your concentration skills and improve focus. 💊 If you're sensitive to stimulants, peer-reviewed studies have continuously found non-stimulant drugs as effective for treating inattentive ADHD.

Behavioral Interventions

This is about learning strategies through behavior therapy to help you stay focused while learning to manage symptoms and regulate emotions. Whether it's through one-on-one sessions with a mental health professional or an ADHD coach in groups, you can pick up the skills that will empower you to thrive and manage your ADHD effectively. 💪

Lifestyle Tweaks

Although treating ADHD often involves the use of medications, don't forget the power of lifestyle changes - exercise, diet, sleep, and stress management can all play a big part in managing symptoms.

There's no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, but a detailed history and assessment with your doctor can help tailor the right path for you. And remember, treatment is not just about managing symptoms - it's about empowering you to be your best self.

Remember, your ADHD is as real as it gets, hyperactivity or not. If you've ever felt dismissed because your symptoms aren't as apparent as others, remember that your struggles are valid. 💕

Key Takeaways

  • Not everyone with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) exhibits the classic signs of being hyperactive or impulsive. It's essential to acknowledge that this condition is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder with a spectrum of symptoms that can vary significantly from person to person.

  • A predominantly inattentive presentation might not catch the eye like its hyperactive counterpart, but its impact is just as significant. Many people with inattentive ADHD often struggle silently, dealing with inattention symptoms that can make daily tasks and staying focused a huge challenge.

  • The spectrum of ADHD includes the combined type, which merges symptoms of hyperactivity with inattention. However, it's the inattentive type that often gets overlooked. 

  • Treating ADHD, particularly inattentive ADHD, might involve medications for ADHD or other interventions tailored to manage the unique challenges it presents. 

  • Whether it's a hyperactive, combined type, or an inattentive type of ADHD, your diagnosis is just as valid as anybody else's. Our struggle is not just about the symptoms we present but how we feel on the inside. So, don't hesitate to reach out for help, even if you think that not being hyperactive makes you less in need - you have the right to be heard and supported, too. 🥰

What’s Next?

If you have inattentive ADHD, you might find some of these articles helpful in learning how to understand and manage your unique symptoms.

‍Let's Talk About Inattentive ADHD Symptoms

Why Listening Can Be a Struggle for People with ADHD

Oops, I Lost Track Of The Present Moment… Again

Daydreaming or Distraction? The Connection Between Maladaptive Daydreaming & ADHD

Start your ADHD diagnosis journey!

Visualize and assess 25 ADHD traits and understand how they affect your life.

Learn more

ADHD But Not Hyper: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Do people with ADHD always exhibit hyperactivity?

Despite having the “hyperactivity” in the name of the disorder, a person can be diagnosed with ADHD even though they are not physically hyperactive. After all, there are three presentations of ADHD: Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive, Predominantly Inattentive, and Combined. 

Why do some people believe that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder always has hyperactive symptoms?

It mainly has something to do with the way ADHD was first discovered. You see, initially, it was observed in hyperactive people. Moreover, the inattentive symptoms are easier to miss than the hyperactive symptoms, like running around and fidgeting.

What could be the reasons why Inattentive ADHD is difficult to diagnose?

There could be two reasons why: the first is what we discussed, being inattentive is easier to miss. Secondly, the person may have learned to mask their hyperactive symptoms to avoid conflicts or judgment.

Share this article on Social Media

Help us raise awareness around ADHD, let's spread ADHD love and support to all that need it.

If you liked this article you are going to like these ones:

Check out more content about similar topics: