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What is the Difference Between ADD and ADHD?

It is common for people to interchangeably use the neurodevelopmental attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). And although they only differ with one letter (H for hyperactive), the additional term makes a huge difference in terms of symptoms. In this article, we’ll define both of them to better understand the difference between ADD and ADHD.

What is ADD?

ADD or attention deficit disorder refers to an individual who has trouble focusing and experiences difficulty in attending to and following instructions, but is not hyperactive. ADD is an outdated term and psychiatrists rarely use it nowadays as attention deficiency is also a symptom of ADHD.

What is ADHD?

ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is characterized by an ongoing pattern of severe inattention, being overly active and difficulty controlling impulsive behavior. These patterns may leave children with ADHD struggling at home, at school or with friends. ADHD is usually diagnosed during school age, but may last up to adulthood.

Types of ADHD and Their Symptoms

There are three types of ADHD, and each type depends on which symptoms are most evident in the person. And because symptoms can change over time, the type of ADHD that an individual has may change as well.

1. Inattentive Type

Lack of focus is the strongest symptom of the inattentive and distractible type. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, some of the signs include:

  • Avoiding or withdrawing from tasks that require thinking or mental effort
  • Being easily distracted
  • Being forgetful
  • Daydreaming
  • Difficulty in organizing tasks and/or activities
  • Losing things often
  • Overlooking or missing important details needed at school or other activities
  • Unwillingness to listen

2. Impulsive-Hyperactive Type

Hyperactivity and impulsivity are the most evident symptoms of this type of ADHD. Some of the signs in children include:

  • Being constantly in motion
  • Inability to play or engage in activities quietly
  • Interrupting or intruding on other people
  • Leaving their seats even if it’s not allowed
  • Squirming or fidgeting
  • Struggling with waiting for his/her turn
  • Taking unnecessary risks
  • Talking tirelessly and excessively

3. Combined Type

As its name suggests, children with combined type of ADHD usually show signs of both the inattentive and impulsive-hyperactive types of ADHD.

Therapies and Treatments

Although there is no cure for ADHD, there are treatments and therapies that may be able to help you manage your child’s symptoms and help your child improve the quality of his/her life. Some of the treatment options for ADHD include medication, behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, parenting skills training, classroom management interventions and more.


While closely related with each other, the difference between ADD and ADHD lies on the presence or lack of hyperactivity symptoms. ADD is an outdated term and is less used by experts as its symptoms are also signs of ADHD.

Meanwhile, if you suspect that your child has ADHD, please speak with a pediatrician right away for proper diagnosis and treatment options.

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Mental Health
U.S. News

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