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Difference Between ADD And ADHD

By Brad On April 8, 2011 Under ADHD

The short answer to the question of “what is the difference between ADD and ADHD?“, is that officially the term “ADD” no longer exists! It was abandoned by the medical community in 1994 when the term “AD/HD” was adopted.

So is there a difference between ADD and ADHD?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version 4 (DSM-IV) put out by the American Psychiatric Association in 1994, the official name of the disorder is “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder”, or AD/HD, although many people, and even some professionals, still incorrectly call it ADD or A.D.D. (the name given in 1980 but abandoned in 1994).

(For simplicity, it is often commonly written as “ADHD” instead of “AD/HD”.)

The disorder’s name was changed in 1994 as a result of scientific research and advances in our knowledge of what ADHD really is and is not. There is now strong evidence to support the position that AD/HD is not one specific disorder, but in fact, one with different variations and symptoms.

AD/HD is now officially divided into three subtypes according to the main features associated with the disorder.

The three AD/HD subtypes are:

  • AD/HD Predominantly Inattentive Type
  • AD/HD Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type
  • AD/HD Combined Type

These subtypes take into account that some people with AD/HD may have great difficulty getting or staying focused on a task or activity (predominantly inattentive), but may have little or no trouble sitting still or inhibiting behavior.

Others with AD/HD may be able to pay attention to a task but they lose focus because they have trouble controlling impulse and activity (predominantly hyperactive-impulsive).

By far the most prevalent subtype is the Combined Type. These people will have significant symptoms of inattention and also hyperactivity and impulsivity.

Why the confusion about the difference between ADD and ADHD?

Even though the term ADD was abandoned in 1994, is still seems to have stuck in some people’s minds even after all these years.

Some folks seem to use the term “ADHD” when talking about the symptom of physical hyperactivity or excessive restlessness–that’s the “H”. These people then talk about “ADD” (without the “H”)  as attention deficit disorder without the hyperactivity. But according to the DSM-IV, this so-called “ADD” (ADHD without hyperactivity) is properly called “ADHD predominately inattentive” type.

While we’re talking about the hyperactivity part of ADHD…The “non-hyperactive” version of ADHD is often said to be found in girls and women more often, but in fact it also occurs in boys and men too. In fact, sadly, an inattentive type ADHD diagnosis is often missed completely, because the absence of hyperactivity leads others to assume the person is simply shy, quiet, “spacy” or slow.

So again, what’s the difference between ADD and ADHD?

Well, one of them (ADD) no longer exists as a medical diagnosis. While the other one (ADHD) is the proper name of a medical diagnosis and condition.

So if you want to be correct, forget about the term “ADD” and use the proper term “ADHD” as the broad medical diagnosis, and then speak about one of the three sub-types if you want to be more specific about the particular symptoms that a person may or may not have.



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