ADD vs ADHD: differences and symptoms in children and


You may have heard the terms ADD (attention deficit disorder) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ) used interchangeably. They are considered the same, but ADD is no longer used by doctors. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) stopped using the term ADD in 1987.

ADHD is one of the most common developmental problems of the nervous system.   childhood disorders, but they can also affect adults. It can affect emotions, behavior, and the ability to learn new things. There are approximately 6.4 million children diagnosed with ADHD in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

ADHD is divided into three different types:

  • Inattentive type (the type more commonly known as ADD)
  • Hyperactive / impulsive ADHD
  • Combined type: when a person has symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Learn more about the difference between ADHD (inattentive ADHD) and hyperactive / impulsive ADHD, including symptoms in children and adults, their causes, and treatments.

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Differences between ADHD (inattentive ADHD) and ADHD

ADD (inattentive ADHD) means that the person has sufficient symptoms of inattention (or mild distraction), but is not hyperactive or impulsive. People with hyperactive / impulsive ADHD exhibit a persistent pattern of inattention and / or hyperactive impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development.

ADD (inattentive ADHD)

  • Details are missing and easily distracted

  • Difficulty concentrating on the task at hand

  • Difficulty learning or organizing new information.

  • Difficulty keeping attention on tasks, even fun ones.

  • Resist, avoid, and postpone tasks that require mental energy.

  • Lose things often

Hyperactive / impulsive ADHD

  • He constantly squirms and wiggles his hands and feet.

  • Staying seated is difficult

  • Will rush or climb in situations where it is not appropriate

  • He rarely participates in leisure activities or quiet games.

  • It is often described as "in motion" or "driven by a motor".

  • It's hard to take turns

ADHD has long been considered a disease that affects men. But as understanding of this condition deepens, girls are diagnosed.

Girls are more prone to inattentive ADHD, in which daydreaming and shyness are common, while boys are more likely to have hyperactive-impulsive ADHD or a combination.

Symptoms of ADHD in Adults

Because ADHD is a developmental disorder, it is believed that it cannot develop in adults without first appearing in childhood. But it is known that ADHD symptoms often persist from childhood into adulthood.

ADHD can manifest itself differently in adults than in children and adolescents. Symptoms include:

  • Poor organizational skills
  • Inability to focus or prioritize
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Mood swings, irritability, and irritability
  • Inability to cope with stress.
  • Extreme impatience

Causes of ADHD

Researchers suspect that there may be several factors that go into determining whether someone may have ADHD. There is no single reason, but a combination of genes and environmental factors seems to play a role:

  • Genetics : Children with ADHD usually have a parent, brother, or other close relative with ADHD. One study suggests that at least a third of parents who have or have had ADHD will have children who will be diagnosed with ADHD.
  • Child abuse / neglect : Research has shown that children with ADHD have higher rates of abuse / neglect compared to children without an ADHD diagnosis.
  • Toxins : Exposure to lead (even in small amounts) can cause hyperactivity and inattention. Lead can be found in a wide variety of places, such as paint on houses built before 1978.
  • Exposure to substances in the uterus : There is evidence to suggest that substance use during pregnancy increases a child's risk of developing ADHD. A 2018 study found a significant relationship between smoking during pregnancy and a child's likelihood of having ADHD.
  • Neurotransmitters : Neurotransmitters are chemicals that carry messages between nerves. One of those neurotransmitters, dopamine, plays an important role in maintaining attention, and research has shown that lower levels of dopamine are associated with ADHD.
  • Brain damage : In a small percentage of the population, ADHD symptoms will manifest as a result of brain damage, such as early brain damage, trauma, or another obstacle to normal brain development.

What Doesn't Cause ADHD?

Research does not support popular theories that high-sugar diets, too much television time, or poor parenting are the cause of ADHD.

Diagnosis of ADD (inattentive ADHD) and ADHD

ADHD cannot be diagnosed with physical tests such as blood tests or X-rays. Instead, healthcare providers use the guidelines in the APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) to help diagnose ADHD. This diagnostic standard helps ensure that people are properly diagnosed and treated for ADHD.

ADD (inattentive ADHD)

Children under 16 must have six or more symptoms of inattention, and people 17 and older must have five or more symptoms. These symptoms must be present for at least six months to suggest a diagnosis of ADHD:

  • You often make careless mistakes or don't pay attention to details.
  • Difficulty staying in tune with certain tasks or activities.
  • Doesn't seem to listen when spoken to
  • Can't complete tasks or follow directions
  • Organization complexity
  • Avoid or dislike long-term tasks
  • You often lose sight of important items (wallet, school supplies, etc.)
  • Easily distracted
  • Often forgetful

Hyperactive / impulsive ADHD

Children under the age of 16 must have six or more symptoms of inattention, and people over 17 must have five or more symptoms. These symptoms must be present for at least six months:

  • Moving or squirming regularly
  • Ignores instructions to stay still or stay in one place
  • You move or feel anxious in situations where such movement is inappropriate.
  • It is impossible to participate calmly in leisure.
  • Talking excessively
  • Show the answers before the question is finished.
  • Trouble waiting in line
  • Often interrupts or interferes with conversation.

Regardless of the specific manifestations of ADHD (inattentive, hyperactive / impulsive, or combined), several conditions must be met to make an official diagnosis:

  • Some symptoms are present before the age of 12.
  • Symptoms appear in different settings (at home, at school, at work).
  • Symptoms interfere with or impair daily functioning.
  • The symptoms are not better attributed to other mental illnesses.

Comorbid conditions

Almost two-thirds of children with ADHD have one or more coexisting or comorbid conditions. The most common are behavior problems, anxiety , depression , and learning and language disorders.

Adults with ADHD may also experience depression, bipolar disorder , substance use disorders , anxiety disorders, or eating disorders.

Watch out

ADHD is incurable, but symptoms can be successfully managed and treated , usually with therapy, medication, or a combination of both.


Medication is the most common treatment for ADHD. It can help control symptoms in daily life and can help control behaviors that cause difficulties in relationships with family, friends, and at school.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several different types of medications for the treatment of ADHD in children 6 years and older:

Stimulants are the best known and most widely used drugs for ADHD. They are used to improve your ability to ignore distractions and focus your thoughts. The most widely used psychostimulants are Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (dextroamphetamine).

Research shows that 70% of adults and 70% to 80% of children with ADHD have fewer ADHD symptoms while taking these medications.

Non- stimulants approved for ADHD include Strattera ( atomoxetine ), Intuniv (guanfacine), and Kapvay (clonidine). They don't work as fast as stimulants, but they can last up to 24 hours.

If you or your child are prescribed medication, it is important to monitor your symptoms and report any side effects to your doctor.


Several treatments can be helpful in treating ADHD in children, adolescents, and adults:

  • Behavioral therapy supports children with ADHD and may include teachers and caregivers. Behavior therapy generally involves behavior management, which uses a reward system to encourage your child to try to control his ADHD.
  • Parent training can teach you how to effectively structure your child's daily routine and how to use quality time, stress management techniques, and other tools to relieve stress and improve your relationships.
  • Counseling and Psychotherapy : Research has shown that cognitive behavioral therapy is effective for people living with ADHD. This is helping the world find new ways to cope with ADHD symptoms. Counseling or psychotherapy can also be helpful for people living with coexisting conditions such as depression and anxiety.


To lower your child's risk of ADHD:

  • During pregnancy, avoid anything that can harm the developing fetus, such as smoking.
  • Protect your child from exposure to pollutants and toxins, including cigarette smoke and lead paint.


ADD is an outdated term for a form of ADHD now called inattentive ADHD, in which a person is not hyperactive. The causes of ADHD are still unclear, although genetics play a role. ADHD is diagnosed according to the DSM-5 criteria. Treatment usually consists of medications, but may include therapy.

Get the word of drug information

Many people (including doctors) use the term ADD to refer to inattention and ADHD to describe a person with hyperactivity. Some people use ADD and ADHD interchangeably. However, if you use the correct term, ADHD, it will help avoid potential confusion.

Both inattentive and hyperactive / impulsive ADHD are treatable, so it's important to seek help rather than letting the symptoms overwhelm you or your child's life.

Frequently asked questions

Is ADD Still Existing?

The group of behaviors that make up ADHD has been recognized since 1902, although the name has changed over time. Attention deficit disorder was first identified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980, when hyperactivity was not considered a key component of the disorder.

In 1987, when more research was done, the name was changed to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to reflect the hyperactive / impulsive symptom cluster.

ADD is now an outdated term, although it is still sometimes used to describe people who have attention problems but are not hyperactive.

How to differentiate ADHD from ADHD?

ADD is now an outdated term commonly used to describe the inattentive type of ADHD that has symptoms including disorganization, inattention, and forgetfulness. Hyperactive / impulsive ADHD is characterized by impulsive and hyperactive behaviors.

When do adults develop ADHD symptoms?

Although it is called ADHD in adults, symptoms begin in early childhood and continue into adulthood. In some cases, ADHD is not recognized or diagnosed until the person becomes an adult.

The symptoms of ADHD in adults may not be as clear-cut as the symptoms of ADHD in children. In adults, hyperactivity may decrease, but the fight against impulsivity, anxiety, and attention difficulty can continue.

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