What Does ADHD Look Like Without Hyperactivity?

Most people are familiar with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but what does ADHD look like without hyperactivity?

While the term ADD is no longer used by medical professionals, it is still sometimes used to refer to someone who has difficulty staying focused but does not experience symptoms of hyperactivity. In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), ADD is officially known as “attentional deficit/hyperactivity disorder, predominantly inattentive presentation.”

Generally, people with ADHD, with or without hyperactivity, have difficulties focusing on schoolwork, keeping up with assignments, following instructions, completing tasks and activities, and with social interaction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ADHD is typically diagnosed during early childhood, and issues continue into adulthood. However, ADHD can be diagnosed in adults as well.

Symptoms of ADD (Inattentive Type ADHD)

ADD (inattentive type ADHD) doesn’t manifest itself in the same way that predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD or combined type ADHD do. Some symptoms of inattentive type ADHD include:

  • Being easily bored or daydreaming
  • Sluggishness
  • Struggles with listening skills
  • Overly self-conscious and withdrawn
  • Introverted or shy in social situations

Children with ADHD without hyperactivity may seem bored or disinterested in daily classroom activities. Their assignments, desks and lockers may be disorganized. They may be frequent daydreamers, work at a slow pace, turn in incomplete work or not turn in work at all.

ADHD vs. ADD: What’s the Difference?

Generally, people with ADD are easily bored as opposed to distracted. Their struggles lie more in motivation than in self-control. A challenge or a risk, something to get their adrenaline pumping, can be key to keeping their attention.

Individuals with ADD, although typically more introverted and shy, may engage in thrill-seeking activities to experience a level of social engagement they have difficulty sustaining in their daily lives. ADD and ADHD brains also respond differently to different medications, as different parts of the brain are affected by each disorder.

While many people continue to use the terms ADD and ADHD interchangeably, it’s important to recognize that they are not the same. Here are some key differences according to National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):


There is no cure for ADHD, but treatment can help children and adults manage their symptoms and improve their daily lives. Treatment for ADHD often involves medications, behavioral therapy or a combination of the two depending on the person’s symptoms and needs.


ADHD is often treated with one of three types of medication: psychostimulants, antidepressants or non-stimulant drugs. These medications can help people with inattentive type ADHD (ADD) stay focused.

  • Psychostimulants: Psychostimulants affect neurotransmitters in the brain and may help to boost energy and increase alertness. The extended-release form is often recommended (instead of the immediate-release form).
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants also affect neurotransmitters in the brain, and may help to improve mood and attention.
  • Non-stimulant drugs: Non-stimulant medications can be helpful for those who experience unwanted side effects from stimulants. Non-stimulants affect a specific neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, and may help to regulate emotions and improve focus on specific tasks.

Behavior Management

A behavior management plan can help teach children who suffer from ADHD adaptive behavior skills to cope with their symptoms, regardless of if the therapy is in conjunction with medication. These therapies may provide lasting improvements in concentration skills that medication cannot provide.

A combination of different methods is typically used, including:

  • Behavior therapy: A behavioral therapy session often includes a therapist facilitating a conversation with the child or providing them with an activity to help them express their feelings. Sometimes, family therapy is recommended so all members of the family can learn healthy ways to manage the child’s condition.
  • Parent training in behavior management: Typically recommended for parents of children under 12 years old, a therapist will train the parent to work through their child’s behavior changes. You will learn strategies such as play therapy and talk therapy to allow your child to freely express their feelings and help them adopt healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Behavioral interventions at school: Your child may meet the criteria for extra assistance under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Accommodations may include extra time on tests, additional break time, changes to their environment, positive reinforcement and assignments made specifically for your child.
  • Behavioral peer interventions: With this approach, a therapist or trained professional will lead a group of children in activities that teach them how to interact constructively with their peers. Skills are taught such as having conversations, coping with teasing and making friends.

A Word From Us

If you think that you or your child may have ADD, it is important to talk to a doctor about the symptoms of inattentive type ADHD. Effective medical advice, diagnosis and treatments are available that can help those who struggle with inattention.

Early intervention can prevent the disorder from taking a detrimental toll. By getting treatment, you can help yourself or your child develop new skills and ways of coping with the symptoms of ADHD.

Reach out to our team today, and we would be happy to assist you in taking the first steps toward the treatment plan that’s right for you or your child.

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