January 22, 2019

What is the Difference Between ADD and ADHD?


Attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are terms that most people have heard, in part because attention/hyperactivity disorders are very common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 6.4 million children in the U.S. who are diagnosed with this condition. However, the difference between the two terms can be confusing.

The Difference Between ADD and ADHD

In short, since 1994, ADHD has been the accepted term for the condition. While ADD is still used in casual conversation, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) and healthcare providers use ADHD.

Three Types of ADHD

There are three types of ADHD:

  • ADHD, Primarily Inattentive Type. People with this form of the condition have trouble maintaining attention and focus but are not particularly hyperactive or impulsive. For that reason, the term ADD (as compared to ADHD) is often incorrectly applied.
  • ADHD, Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive Type. This is what many people think of as the “classic” presentation of ADHD, with the person fidgeting, blurting out answers in class, being easily distracted and having trouble sitting still.
  • Combined Type ADHD. People with this type have both difficulty in staying focused and impulsive behavior.

Understanding which type of ADHD a person has is helpful in finding the right treatment.

Symptoms of ADHD, Primarily Inattentive Type

Doctors diagnose ADHD, Primarily Inattentive Type if a person demonstrates at least six of the symptoms below.

  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Frequently fails to give close attention to details and makes mistakes
  • May not appear to be listening when spoken to
  • Frequently does not follow through on instructions and does not finish projects
  • Struggles with organizing tasks and activities
  • Dislikes and attempts to avoid tasks that require sustained focus and mental effort
  • Frequently loses items necessary for tasks/activities
  • Often is easily distracted
  • Tends to be forgetful regarding daily activities

Symptoms of ADHD, Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

A diagnosis of ADHD, Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive Type may be made if a person demonstrates six or more of the symptoms below.

  • Often is restless or fidgets in their seat
  • Gets out of their seat when expected to remain seated
  • Struggles to play quietly
  • Frequently runs or climbs in situations where it is inappropriate
  • Talks excessively
  • Often appears to be “driven” in their activities
  • Blurts out answers in class
  • Has difficulty waiting their turn
  • Often interrupts or intrudes on teachers or classmates

Combined Type ADHD may be diagnosed if a person has six or more symptoms of each of the other two types.

Treating ADHD

There are a variety of treatments for ADHD, from talk therapy to medication. The approach taken depends on a number of factors, including the type and severity of the condition. But in any case, actively addressing the disorder can produce positive results. In fact, some authorities believe that the condition, when properly managed and channeled, can be turned into an asset.

Find a Baptist Health Behavioral Health Provider for more information.

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