What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?

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What is ADD?

The term ADD stands for Attention-Deficit Disorder. This was the term for a developmental condition in which people experience restlessness, trouble concentrating, and excessive impulsivity. However, since 1994, experts in the West have used the term Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) for all forms of the condition, including Attention-Deficit Disorder. People with this neurodivergence are typically diagnosed between the ages of 6 and 12, as their traits are more noticeable within the school environment, where children are expected to concentrate for extended periods of time and behave calmly. Although the traits of ADHD may reduce as a person ages, many people experience their symptoms into adulthood.

Are ADD and ADHD the same thing?


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Since 1994, experts have used the term Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder to refer to all neurodivergence that affects attention and concentration. However, some people continue to use the term ADD, as they do not experience hyperactivity and associated traits such as lower risk aversion or impulsivity. However, the new definition, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder includes the forward-slash (/) between Attention-Deficit and Hyperactivity. This means that people diagnosed with ADHD could have either or both presentations (inattentive or hyperactive-impulsive). The presentations are:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity, combined presentation
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity, predominantly inattentive presentation
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity, predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity, predominantly inattentive presentation would be comparable to the condition previously known and occasionally referred to, as Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD).

What are the differences between ADD & ADHD?


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While ADD is no longer an official term used, many people still refer to their condition as ADD and many doctors recognise the term as referring to the inattentive presentation, and will recognise ADHD as referring to the hyperactive-impulsive or combined presentation. All presentations of ADHD are similar and are diagnosed based on the individual’s difficulty with focus and attention. However, there are key differences between the presentations:
People the predominantly inattentive presentation of ADHD may:

  • Have difficulty organising their work and time
  • Become easily distracted
  • Forget to complete important tasks
  • Frequently lose their belongings
  • Struggle to complete tasks that do not interest them
  • Struggle to focus on schoolwork, chores, or work tasks
  • Experience difficulty following directions
  • Appear to not listen or engage in conversations
  • Be unable to focus on one task at a time

People with the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive presentation of ADHD may:

  • Struggle to sit still and not fidget
  • Have difficulty remaining in their seats
  • Talk continuously
  • Have trouble waiting for their turn during activities
  • Obstruct other people’s conversations
  • Shout the answer before the question is finished
  • Have reduced risk aversion
  • Drive very fast
  • Overwork

People with the combined presentation of ADHD may experience a combination of the above traits, and these may change as people move from childhood to adulthood.

Do you treat ADD and ADHD differently?


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Many people with ADHD, regardless of their presentation, consider their neurodivergence as an integral part of their personality, and as such choose access treatment. However, some people who find their traits interfere with their daily lives may choose to discuss introducing medication, such as methylphenidate, with their doctor. Medication to reduce the intensity of the traits of ADHD can either be taken every day or on certain work or school days, for example during examinations. In addition to this, some experts prescribe a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a form of talking therapy that seeks to help the individual change their thinking patterns, particularly any anxiety which may be present as a result of people’s experience of living in a “neuro-typical” world. Children with ADHD may be offered an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP) in the UK, which is a support plan designed to meet any additional requirements in order to access and achieve in education. This could include 1-to-1 specialist support. Additionally, some individuals may find that certain diets can affect their traits, and choose to limit alcohol and high sugar foods from their diet. Please note, this is not medical advice, you should speak to your GP before starting any treatment.

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