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ADHD vs. ADD: Understanding the Difference and What You Need to Know

red twine unraveling to spell "ADHD"


ADHD or ADD? The terminology surrounding attention-related disorders has evolved over the years, confusing many people about the differences between the two. In this blog post, we'll clarify the distinction between ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and. ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), explore the evolution of diagnostic terminology, and delve into the various types of ADHD. Whether you're a parent concerned about your child's behavior or an adult struggling with attention-related challenges, understanding these conditions is crucial for seeking the proper treatment and support.

The Evolution of Diagnostic Terminology:

ADHD and ADD have been used interchangeably in the past, but it's essential to know that ADD is an outdated term. It first appeared in the third edition of the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-3)" to describe attention-related challenges. However, experts later divided the condition into two subtypes:

  1. ADD with Hyperactivity: Characterized by attention difficulties combined with hyperactivity.

  2. ADD without Hyperactivity: Focusing on attention difficulties without the hyperactive component.

In 1987, when the American Psychiatric Association released a revised edition of the DSM, they consolidated these subtypes into a single condition known as ADHD.

Understanding ADHD:

Today, ADHD is one of the more prevalent childhood mental health conditions, affecting approximately 9.4 percent of children and adolescents in the United States. It's essential to note that ADHD is not confined to childhood, as nearly 2.6 percent of adults worldwide have persistent ADHD from childhood, and about 6.7 percent of adults exhibit symptoms of adult ADHD. Some experts believe these estimates may be conservative, as many cases go undiagnosed.

Types of ADHD:

ADHD presents in three main types, each characterized by specific symptoms:

  1. Inattentive Type: Formerly known as ADD, this type primarily involves difficulties with attention and focus. Symptoms include distractibility, forgetfulness, trouble following instructions, and difficulty staying organized.

  2. Hyperactive Type: This type is marked by hyperactivity and impulsivity, with symptoms such as excessive talking, restlessness, and difficulty waiting patiently.

  3. Combined Type: People with combined ADHD exhibit symptoms from both inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity categories. This type is relatively common, especially among adults.

Diagnosing ADHD:

A diagnosis of ADHD requires more than just identifying key symptoms. To be diagnosed with ADHD, individuals need to meet specific criteria, including:

  • Having at least six symptoms (five or more for adults) for at least six months.

  • Demonstrating some symptoms before the age of 12.

  • Displaying symptoms in at least two settings, such as school, home, work, or social situations.

  • Experiencing symptoms severe enough to interfere with daily functioning, school, work, or social relationships.

Symptoms in Childhood vs. Adulthood:

ADHD symptoms often remain consistent throughout life. However, their impact can differ based on age and responsibilities. For example, forgetting dates or losing keys may have fewer consequences in childhood, but as an adult, such actions can lead to significant challenges at work or in daily life.


ADHD and ADD are not separate conditions but rather different terms for the same set of symptoms. Understanding the various types of ADHD and the diagnostic criteria is crucial for seeking appropriate treatment and support. Whether you're a child, adolescent, or adult dealing with attention-related challenges, getting the proper diagnosis can pave the way for effective management and improved quality of life.

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