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What does attention deficit mean in ADHD?

Constance Mofunanya, DNP
Pediatric Nursing

Attention deficit means inability to pay attention. In people with this disorder, inattention appears when they are involved in a task that requires vigilance, rapid reaction time, visual and perceptual search, and systematic and sustained learning. This disorder impedes development of academic skills, thinking and reasoning strategies, motivation for school, and adjustment to social demands. People with this disorder tend to be hands- on learners and have difficulty in passive learning situations that require continuous performance and task completion. Diagnosis of attention deficit requires at least 6 of the 9 possible symptoms. DSM-IV criteria require that symptoms criteria must be present in at least at two settings (home and school) and present before age 7.

Specific symptoms of inattention are

  • Dose not pay attention to detail
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention at school
  • Dose not seem to listen when spoken to
  • Does not follow through on instructions or finish task
  • Has difficulty organizing task
  • Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that requires sustained mental effort
  • Often losses things
  • Is easily distracted
  • Is forgetful
Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
The term attention deficit refers to people who have a hard time paying attention to details or sticking with an activity for an extended amount of time. People with attention deficit may not appear to listen well, might be forgetful, and can be easily distracted. Other problems for people with attention deficit include having trouble following instructions and completing tasks. 

When people have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they usually fall into one of three groups. Some people with ADHD have problems with hyperactive and impulsive behavior. These people are the primarily hyperactive-impulsive type. Others with ADHD have a great deal of trouble paying attention and are considered the primarily inattentive type. Some people struggle with all of the ADHD symptoms: hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattention. They are in the category of combined type.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.