ADD vs. ADHD: What’s the Difference?

shutterstock_124561228What’s the difference between ADD and ADHD? Both terms are used frequently in conversation to refer to the common disorder that affects over five million children in the United States alone, but only one is still used in the medical community.

Today, ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) is the preferred term, with ADD (attention deficit disorder) considered out of date. Read on to learn about the difference between ADD and ADHD, and the inattentive subtype of ADHD.

Do you think your child may have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder? Discover the six types of ADHD and the most effective psychiatric treatments for people that have ADHD in our Learn About Attention Deficit Disorder course.

What’s the difference between ADHD and ADD?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, an estimated 5.4 million children in the United States alone suffer from ADHD. Although ADHD is generally thought of as a childhood developmental problem, many people suffer from ADHD as adults.

One in 25 American adults suffers from ADHD in some form or another. About 60% of people that experienced symptoms of ADHD as children continue to experience them in adulthood, often requiring medication in order to focus and concentrate.

While many people think off ADD and ADHD as unique disorders, the two are now thought of as the same condition. Today, ADD (attention deficit disorder) is thought of as an outdated term for the inattentive form of ADHD.

How is ADHD diagnosed in children and adults?

New changes to the American Psychiatric Association’s Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders have changed the process by which people are diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

People with ADHD often have trouble paying attention for long periods of time and are fidgety and easily distracted. While these are symptoms of ADHD, they aren’t a guarantee – many children without ADHD are also easily distracted or fidgety.

In order to be diagnosed with ADHD, children need to show a consistent pattern of behaviors such as hyperactivity, impulsivity and inattention. There are three types of ADHD: Predominantly Inattentive ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD and Combined ADHD.

The DMS-5 lists some symptoms of ADHD, divided into inattentive and hyperactive and impulsive categories. In order to be diagnosed, children under 17 need to show at least six symptoms, while children 17 and above need to show at least five.

Children that show the following behaviors may have inattentive ADHD symptoms:

  • Is forgetful, even in daily activities
  • Ignores speakers, even when spoken to directly
  • Is easily distracted
  • Fails to give close attention to details in school work
  • Has trouble with organization
  • Has trouble keeping attention on tasks
  • Does not follow instructions and fails to finish schoolwork
  • Dislikes and avoids tasks that require long periods of mental effort
  • Loses vital items for activities such as books, keys, wallets and phones

The DSM-5 uses a different range of symptoms to diagnose hyperactive or impulsive ADHD symptoms. Children may have hyperactive or impulsive ADHD if they:

  • Talk excessively
  • Are “always on the go”
  • Fidgets or squirms in their seat
  • Have trouble waiting their turn
  • Runs or climbs in inappropriate situations
  • Are unable to play quietly
  • Answers questions before they are finished
  • Gets up from their seat when not expected to
  • Interrupts others and intrudes on conversations

In both categories, children under 17 years of age need to show six or more of the above symptoms in order to be diagnosed with ADHD. Children over 17 must show at least five. All children diagnosed with ADHD need to meet the following criteria:

  • Symptoms must be present in multiple settings, such as t home, at school, with friends and during other activities
  • Some (but not all) symptoms must begin to appear before 12 years of age
  • Symptoms must clearly interfere with the child’s ability to function at their school or in work, or reduce their ability to interact with other people
  • Symptoms must not be explained by another psychiatric condition such as anxiety disorders or mood disorders

Does your child show several of the symptoms above? Learn more about how ADHD affects people, the most effective treatments for ADHD and scientific information on the disorder in our course, A Rough Guide to ADHD From a Guy Who Lives With It.

How is ADHD treated in childhood and adulthood?

There are a variety of ways to treat ADHD. Current treatment options are typically made up of a combination of medications and psychotherapy, along with behavior and lifestyle changes.

The most common medications used to treat ADHD are methylphenidate (sold as Ritalin in most countries) and various amphetamines. In the United States, one of the most common amphetamines is Adderall – amphetamine mixed salts.

Although these drugs are stimulants, and would seemingly have a negative effect on calmness and concentration, these types of stimulant actually have a positive effect on the parts of someone’s brain circuitry that produce focus and concentration.

Almost all ADHD treatments include Ritalin or Adderall, typically in moderate doses for optimum concentration. Many children with ADHD respond most positively to a specific medication, and several might be tested before finding a good treatment.

In addition to medication, psychological therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat ADHD and improve behavior over the long term. A variety of different types of psychotherapy are effective in treating ADHD, including behavioral therapy, positive reinforcement and feedback and help with organization and life structure.

Would you like to learn more about treating ADHD? Enroll in our Master Your ADHD Brain course to learn how to master focus and productivity and combat ADHD using a combination of medication, psychological exercises and behavioral changes.

Do you think you might have ADHD?

Do you think you (or your child) might suffer from ADHD? Millions of people in the United States alone suffer from ADHD in varying levels, and a combination of drugs and behavioral therapy often produces very positive results.

However, a growing number of medical experts are concerned that many people are erroneously self-diagnosing themselves with ADHD. Everyone can feel distracted at times, and struggling to concentrate on boring topics doesn’t always mean you may have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

If you need help staying focused and productive at work or in school, check out Entrepreneurship: Overcoming the Distractions and Chaos. However, if you believe you might have ADHD, speak with a psychiatrist as soon as possible.

Learn more about ADHD

From young children to adults, ADHD affects over 10 million people in the United States alone and significantly more worldwide. Untreated ADHD can make simple tasks almost impossible due to a lack of focus, interest and motivation.

If you’d like to learn more about ADHD, its correlation with other disorders, and the most effective ways to treat your ADHD, make sure you read our blog posts on diets for people with ADHD and the effects of ADHD and anxiety.