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ADD and ADHD: Difference & Comparison


What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It affects the ability to pay attention and control impulses. ADHD is common in children, but adults can have it too.

According to a survey, every 1 out of 20 children in the USA has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. If untreated in childhood, it can pose issues in adulthood too. The condition affects hyperactivity behavior and the ability to learn and focus.

What is ADD?

ADD stands for attention deficit disorder. It is a similar condition, like ADHD, but without hyperactivity.

People use this term to describe the ADHD condition, which does not affect the hyperactive, impulsive behavior. However, the APA (American Psychiatric Association) only recognizes attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The DSM5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has no criteria for ADD. As a result, doctors now consider it as an outdated term.


Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder that has various symptoms. The symptoms may include hyperactivity, poor attention or focus, and impaired impulse control.

For diagnosing ADHD, a patient should have severe symptoms for an extended period that interferes with personal functioning.

Types of ADHD

ADHD can have three subtypes:

Primary Inattentive ADHD:

It is a disorder that causes disorganization, forgetfulness, and lack of focus. This type of ADHD was previously known as ADD.

Primary Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD:

It is a disorder that involves impulsive decisions and restlessness, but not inattention.

Integrated ADHD:

It is the combination of the above two types of ADHD, having inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Symptoms of ADHD

The common symptoms of ADHD include:

  • Impulsiveness
  • Poor planning and time management
  • Disorganization and trouble multitasking
  • Problems focusing and prioritizing
  • Restlessness or excessive activity
  • Low frustration tolerance

Inattentive ADHD or ADD

People with ADD or inattentive ADHD doesn’t have signs of hyperactivity. However, they have the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty organizing activities or tasks
  • Being easily distracted
  • Forgetfulness
  • Losing things
  • Avoiding or disliking jobs
  • Losing focus on daily activities such as schoolwork, household chores, office work, etc.
  • Poor listening skills
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Not holding attention on social activities

Hyperactive ADHD

Hyperactive ADHD or hyperactive-impulsive ADHD has the following symptoms:

  • Tapping feet or hands, squirming in seats or fidgeting with objects on the desk
  • Always being ‘on the go.’
  • Leaving their place at inappropriate times such as during presentations, classes, or meetings
  • Excessive talking
  • Trouble waiting their turn
  • Intruding or interrupting others
  • Blurting out answers even before the question gets finished


The above symptoms are not enough to diagnose ADHD in a person. For instance, a person who talks a lot or misses an appointment does not necessarily have ADHD.

For a proper diagnosis:

  • Children must have at the minimum six of the symptoms
  • Adults or adolescent must have at least five symptoms
  • The symptoms must be present for no less than six months or more
  • Minimum three signs of hyperactive-impulsive or inattentive behavior must have been present before the age of 12.

The intensity of the symptoms is also necessary. Not many kids like doing their homework, and everyone, especially men, forget their keys from time to time. However, these symptoms adversely affect the school, work, or social life of a person with ADHD.

The symptoms of ADHD are also inappropriate for the developmental level of a person.

These symptoms must also appear in different environments, such as home, school, work, and social situations. Some clear evidence must show that the symptoms are affecting a person’s quality of life.

A doctor will also see whether these symptoms can be relating to some other disorder.

With cases of ADHD or ADD in children, a school psychologist may be of help. A psychologist observes the child’s behavior in a classroom environment to help in a proper diagnosis.

Other Condition Having Similar Symptoms

The behaviors and symptoms may also be due to some other disorder.

Anxiety disorder, mood disorders, dissociative disorders, and personality disorders also show similar symptoms like ADHD and ADD.

Children who have ADHD have a high risk of other disorders as well. As stated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about two-thirds of all children who have ADHD also have other disorders.

A child with ADHD may have behavior problems, such as:

  • Learning disorders
  • Conduct disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Depression

The disorders mentioned above make it difficult to diagnose ADHD. They also make it harder to treat ADHD, and the child cannot function properly, thus adding pressure on the parents and teachers.

Getting a thorough diagnosis at the early stages increases the chance of appropriate treatment. Apt treatment helps manage ADHD and its effects.

Treatment of ADHD and ADD

Lifestyle changes and medications help manage ADHD and ADD. A doctor may recommend available treatment options for ADHD treatment.

Parents can help their child by:

  • Setting up a routine
  • Creating a quiet and comfortable space
  • Giving lots of praise
  • Keeping the home organized
  • Cutting unnecessary tasks from a child’s routine
  • Finding hobbies that suit their interest and activity level
  • Helping them make and follow a schedule
  • Allowing enough time to complete tasks and activities

Other helpful lifestyle measures include:

  • Eating a healthy and balanced diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Forming good sleep practices
  • Co-ordination with the school

ADHD in Children And Adults

The symptoms of ADHD differ in children and adults. People experience different symptoms according to their age group.


Children having symptoms of hyperactivity are always “in motion.”

They may play, run, or climb excessively, even when inappropriate. In classrooms, they regularly cause distractions, get up often, and talk too much.

Children also have trouble sitting still, often fidget in their seats, play with things in hands, and squirm.

Adults with hyperactivity show a feeling of constant restlessness. They may tap their feet, fidget, or play with a pencil. They also leave uninteresting tasks unfinished and move from job to job at just the first sign of boredom. Like children, adults with ADHD hyperactivity also find it hard to sit still for long periods.


Adults and children show up impulsive behavior in different ways.

Children with impulsiveness appear to be rude as they interrupt others, blurt out answers, run in front of traffic, or move to the front of a line.

Impulsive behavior in adults include:

  • Driving recklessly
  • Spending money randomly
  • Careless sexual life

Adults may also speak without thinking. They may say things that can offend or hurt others without caring for their feelings.


Inattention in children can lead to:

  • Incomplete work
  • Careless mistakes
  • Unfinished activities
  • Short attention spans
  • Lack of attention
  • Poor listening

The symptoms of inattention are similar in adults, but they emerge in some different ways. Adults may:

  • Have problems with self-motivation
  • Forget or lose things regularly
  • Forget doing regular tasks such as picking up kids from school, parking car at night, taking out the garbage, or filling paperwork


ADHD and ADD are different conditions, but their symptoms overlap. A person who has ADD does not have a hyperactivity problem. They only have problems paying attention.

New diagnostic criteria do not entitle ADD as a separate condition from ADHD. Instead, it groups the symptoms of ADD under the name of inattentive ADHD.

People who have ADHD and ADD face difficulties in daily life, both as an adult and in childhood.

It takes some time to diagnose these conditions accurately, but once diagnosed; a doctor helps the person through safe medications and lifestyle changes.

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