Adult ADHD with an inattentive predominance is a major overlap with being distractive. This website prefers terms that are accessible to the general public, rather than terms that are only understandable to trained psychologists. However, some of us are also diagnosed with ADHD, and it is useful to understand what it is and what the symptoms are.
As I understand it, ADHD is under-developed working memory or attention regulation. I see this as the inability to both do something and think about what I am doing at the same time. I can compare it to being near-sighted, but rather with regard to time and meta-cognition rather than eyesight.
It just so happens that the official definition in the DSM V is easily understandable. Adults are necessarily ADHD as children. Many cases, such as my own, were undiagnosed as children probably because were were already of the inattentive type when we were young. The DSM definition is reprinted below for reference.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (314.0X) (F90.X)
[This is a near-verbatim copy of the DSM V description of ADHD both for adults and children. Titles between square brackets have been added.]
A. [Predominence Inattentive, Hyperactive or Combined]
A persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development, as characterized by (1) and/or (2).
A1. [Predominance Inattentive]
Six (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities ( Note: The symptoms are not solely a manifestation of oppositional behavior, defiance, hostility, or failure to understand tasks or instructions. For older adolescents and adults (age 17 and older), at least five symptoms are required.) :
- a. Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, at work, or during other activities (e.g., overlooks or misses details, work is inaccurate).
- b. Often has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities (e.g., has difficulty remaining focused during lectures, conversations, or lengthy reading).
- c. Often does not seem to listen when spoken to directly (e.g., mind seems elsewhere, even in the absence of any obvious distraction).
- d. Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish schoolwork, chores, or duties in the workplace (e.g., starts tasks but quickly loses focus and is easily sidetracked).
- e. Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities (e.g., difficulty managing sequential tasks; difficulty keeping materials and belongings in order; messy, disorganized work; has poor time management; fails to meet deadlines).
- f. Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort (e.g., schoolwork or homework; for older adolescents and adults, preparing reports, completing forms, reviewing lengthy papers).
- g. Often loses things necessary for tasks or activities (e.g., school materials, pencils, books, tools, wallets, keys, paperwork, eyeglasses, mobile telephones).
- h. Is often easily distracted by extraneous stimuli (for older adolescents and adults, may include unrelated thoughts).
- i. Is often forgetful in daily activities (e.g., doing chores, running errands; for older adolescents and adults, returning calls, paying bills, keeping appointments).
A2. [Predominance Hyperactivity / Impulsivity]
Six (or more) of the following symptoms have persisted for at least 6 months to a degree that is inconsistent with developmental level and that negatively impacts directly on social and academic/occupational activities (Note: The symptoms are not solely a manifestation of oppositional behavior, defiance, hostility, or a failure to understand tasks or instructions. For older adolescents and adults (age 17 and older), at least five symptoms are required.):
- a. Often fidgets with or taps hands or feet or squirms in seat.
- b. Often leaves seat in situations when remaining seated is expected (e.g., leaves his or her place in the classroom, in the office or other workplace, or in other situations that require remaining in place).
- c. Often runs about or climbs in situations where it is inappropriate. (Note: In adolescents or adults, may be limited to feeling restless.)
- d. Often unable to play or engage in leisure activities quietly.
- e. Is often “on the go,” acting as if “driven by a motor” (e.g., is unable to be or uncomfortable being still for extended time, as in restaurants, meetings; may be experienced by others as being restless or difficult to keep up with).
- f. Often talks excessively.
- g. Often blurts out an answer before a question has been completed (e.g., completes people’s sentences; cannot wait for turn in conversation).
- h. Often has difficulty waiting his or her turn (e.g., while waiting in line).
- i. Often interrupts or intrudes on others (e.g., butts into conversations, games, or activities; may start using other people’s things without asking or receiving permission; for adolescents and adults, may intrude into or take over what others are doing).
B. Prior to Age 12
Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms were present prior to age 12 years
C. Two or More Settings
Several inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive symptoms are present in two or more settings (e.g., at home, school, or work; with friends or relatives; in other activities).
D. Interference with Quality of Life
There is clear evidence that the symptoms interfere with, or reduce the quality of, social, academic, or occupational functioning.
E. Not Explained by Other Disorder
The symptoms do not occur exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder and are not better explained by another mental disorder (e.g., mood disorder, anxiety disorder, dissociative disorder, personality disorder, substance intoxication or withdrawal).
- 314.01 (F90.2) Combined presentation: If both Criterion A1 (inattention) and Criterion A2 (hyperactivity-impulsivity) are met for the past 6 months.
- 314.00 (F90.0) Predominantly inattentive presentation: If Criterion A1 (inattention) is met but Criterion A2 (hyperactivity-impulsivity) is not met for the past 6 months.
- 314.01 (F90.1) Predominantly hyperactive/impulsive presentation: If Criterion A2 (hyperactivity and impulsivity) is met but Criterion A1 (inattention) is not met over the past 6 months.
Specify if: In partial remission: When full criteria were previously met, fewer than the full criteria have been met for the past 6 months, and the symptoms still result in impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning.
Specify current severity:
- Mild: Few, if any, symptoms in excess of those required to make the diagnosis are present, and symptoms result in only minor functional impairments.
- Moderate: Symptoms or functional impairment between “mild” and “severe” are present.
- Severe: Many symptoms in excess of those required to make the diagnosis, or several symptoms that are particularly severe, are present, or the symptoms result in marked impairment in social or occupational functioning.