Difference between ADD and ADHD
If you’ve spent any time exploring attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, you’ve likely seen ADD used interchangeably with ADHD. While these two terms have been used in the past to describe the same condition, they aren’t technically the same thing.
In fact, anyone who has been diagnosed with ADHD will tell you they don't necessarily have the same symptoms as others. Don’t assume everyone will act the same, nor will they have the same experiences. The subtle distinctions make a world of difference to the person living with ADHD.
Let’s take a closer look at what the term ADHD means and the differences between ADD and ADHD.
What Is ADHD?
ADHD refers to all forms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, including those types that don’t involve "hyperactivity." Essentially, someone can be diagnosed with ADHD and have zero hyperactivity or impulsive tendencies.
The bottom line with all types of ADHD is that there are biological differences in the brain: slower brain development in childhood, less blood flow to the area of the brain that’s responsible for planning, task initiation, memorizing, and other executive functions, and a dysregulation of the dopamine system. As a result, individuals with an ADHD brain may behave and learn differently than those with a non-ADHD brain.
What Are the Three Types of ADHD?
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association released the fifth edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, outlining three distinct types of ADHD: inattentive ADHD, hyperactive/impulsive ADHD, and combined ADHD.
- The first type, inattentive ADHD, is also known today as ADD – it’s ADHD without the "H." People who are diagnosed with inattentive ADHD may seem forgetful or spacey. They’re easily distracted and may have difficulty sustaining attention or listening to long instructions, but they aren’t impulsive or hyperactive, nor do they appear overly-energetic or disruptive.
- The second type, hyperactive/impulsive ADHD, describes someone who appears to be “on the go” all the time. They may interrupt conversations, fidget while sitting, and have trouble waiting their turn. Adults with hyperactive/impulsive ADHD may exhibit an "adult version" of hyperactivity, such as being a workaholic or talking excessively.
- The third type, combined ADHD, refers to someone who exhibits several symptoms of both of the first two types.
There’s No One Set of Symptoms for ADHD
There are some similarities between people with ADHD, but the reality is, every individual is unique, and not everyone will have obvious symptoms. This is why it’s important to get a professional evaluation if you think you or your child may have ADHD rather than making assumptions. With an assessment conducted by a licensed psychologist, you can start moving forward with the tools and treatment that will enable you to thrive.