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What’s the Difference Between ADD and ADHD?

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Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also referred to as attention deficit disorder (ADD), but the ADD is an outdated term. The term ADD refers to someone who had trouble concentrating but was not hyperactive. That’s why ADD labelled as ADHD, even if the individual is not hyperactive. This condition is also called ADHD, inattentive type, ADHD, hyperactive/impulsive type, or ADHD, combined type.

What is ADHD?

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a brain-based condition. At home and at school, it can interfere with the daily activities of your child. Children who have it have difficulty paying attention and regulating their behaviour and are hyperactive. You’ll want to take care of your child’s signs before they are diagnosed. For children, the CDC provides an ADHD checklist that can help you keep track of them.

Types of ADHD

There are three types of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder:

Inattentive: Inattentive ADHD is what it means when someone uses the term ADD. This implies that an individual shows sufficient signs of inattention (or easy distractibility) but is not hyperactive or impulsive.

Hyperactive/impulsive: This type happens when a child has symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity, but not inattention.

Combined: Combined attention deficit hyperactivity disorder occurs when a person has symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.


One symptom of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is inattention or difficulty concentrating. The doctor may diagnose the child as inattentive if the child:

  • forget daily activities
  • is easily distracted
  • cannot give close attention
  • has trouble keeping attention on tasks
  • ignores when spoken to directly
  • cannot finish home works
  • has trouble with organizing
  • dislikes and avoids homework
  • frequently loses important things such as pencils

Hyperactivity and impulsivity

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The doctor can diagnose the child as hyperactive or impulsive if the child:

  • has difficulty waiting for turn
  • appears to be always on the go
  • squirms in their seat, or fidgets
  • has trouble seated calm
  • talks loud and excessively
  • runs around and make noise
  • climbs in inappropriate situations
  • blurts out an answer before question
  • intrudes on and interrupts others constantly
  • is unable to quietly play or take part in activities

Combined Type

A child with combined type can have signs of both inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Combined type ADHD does not always mean that the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is more severe compared to someone who is diagnosed with a predominantly hyperactive type or an inattentive type. For example, a child with a predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type can still experience some symptoms from the list of inattentive symptoms. When diagnosed with a combined type of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the symptoms are more likely to be distributed between the two types.

Related: ADHD in Children: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

ADHD in Adults

The signs and symptoms of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder begin early in childhood and continue to develop in adulthood. Every adult who has ADHD, therefore, had it as a child. In addition, adult Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder affects both men and women in the same way.

Adults may have any of the 3 types of Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Recognizing ADHD symptoms in adult can vary from those of children because of the relative maturity of adults and physical differences between adults and children.

The symptoms of ADHD can range from mild to severe depending on the particular physiology and background of an individual. Some children are inattentive or hyperactive when doing a task they don’t like, but they can concentrate on the tasks they like. Others may experience more serious symptoms. These can influence education, work, and social circumstances.

Related: The Link Between ADHD and Depression

Other symptoms

Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are significant signs for the diagnosis of ADHD or ADD. In addition, the child or adult must meet the following conditions in order to be diagnosed with Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder:

  • Shows many signs before the age of 12
  • Shows obvious symptoms interfere with their functioning at school, at work, or in social environments.
  • has symptoms in more than one environment, such as school, at home, with friends, or during activities.
  • Has signs that are not defined by any other disorder, such as mood disorders or anxiety disorders.
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Related: Practicable Natural Remedies for People With ADHD

Bottom Line

ADHD is the official medical term for ADD. However, ADD is an out-of-date term that is used to describe inattentive-type ADHD, which has symptoms including disorganisation, loss of concentration, and forgetfulness. People with inattentive Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are not hyper-or impulsive. Figuring out the type will take you one step closer to finding the right treatment for your children’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Be sure to discuss all of your child’s symptoms with your doctor so your child gets a correct diagnosis.

Related: Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of ADHD in Toddlers


ADD vs. ADHDwebMD.

About ADHD–Overview. CHADD.

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. NIMH.

What Is Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? American Psychiatric Association.

Is it Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Mayo Clinic.

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Naeem Durrani BSc
Naeem is a freelance medical and nutrition writer. His interests include medical research, and the scientific evidence around effective wellness practices, which empower people to transform their lives.

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