ADD Vs. ADHD | What's The Difference?

Updated February 4, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Over 360 million adults worldwide were noted as having a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 2020. Although initially studied mostly in children, ADHD can impact teens and adults, whether it starts in childhood or is noticed later in life.

When researching ADHD, you may see the acronym "ADD" pop up. You may have heard someone using it to describe themselves in the past or seen it mentioned in the media. You may wonder if ADHD and ADD are similar, the same, or completely different conditions.

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ADD Vs. ADHD

Criteria for ADHD has changed over time, and as psychologists learn more about the condition, the noted symptoms of ADHD continue to adapt. In the past, ADD stood for "attention deficit disorder," whereas ADHD stood for and continues to stand for "attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder."

Before the release of the fourth edition of the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (the DSM-4), ADD was often described as ADHD without symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity.

ADD is now considered an outdated term. Now, as opposed to being separate terms or diagnoses, the DSM specifies different presentations of ADHD in the criteria for the condition.

Types Of ADHD

While ADD is no longer used as a diagnosis, presentations of ADHD that are not dominated by symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity still exist.

There are three main "types" of ADHD, describing how the condition may present. They include the following.

Predominantly Inattentive Presentation (ADHD-PI)

If enough symptoms of inattentiveness are present in someone who meets the criteria for ADHD but not hyperactivity/impulsivity, this is referred to as predominantly inattentive presentation.

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation (ADHD-HI)

The ADHD-HI presentation is mostly an impulsive presentation. If enough symptoms of hyperactivity or impulsivity, but not inattentiveness, are present in someone who meets the criteria for ADHD, they may receive a predominantly hyperactive-impulsive diagnosis.

Combined Type Presentation (Combined ADHD)

If enough symptoms of hyperactivity/impulsivity and inattentiveness are present in a person who meets the criteria for ADHD, they may receive a combined presentation diagnosis.

Diagnosing ADHD

All the above presentations fall under the diagnosis of ADHD, and no one presentation is more authentic or severe than another. Although symptoms vary and present differently from person to person, they can all potentially impact a person's life. 

Symptoms Of ADHD

Symptoms of ADHD may include but aren't limited to the following symptoms.

Inattentive Symptoms

Inattentive symptoms may consist of the following:

  • Trouble with attention to detail (for example, difficulty following instructions at work or school)
  • Difficulty completing tasks such as chores, activities at work, or activities at school
  • Frequently misplacing or losing objects, no matter how much one tries not to
  • Difficulty with time management
  • Getting distracted easily
  • Avoidance of tasks or difficulty with tasks that require sustained focus or concentration
  • Trouble focusing on what someone is saying during a conversation, or feeling that one is "spacing out"

Hyperactivity/Impulsivity Symptoms

Hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms may include:

  • Fidgeting ( Example: Shaking one's leg, squirming in a seat, noticeably moving hands and feet, not being able to sit for long periods)
  • Feeling restless or experiencing bursts of energy/hyperactivity
  • Feeling as though one is "on the go" or "driven by a motor"
  • Interrupting others
  • Difficulty waiting for one's turn
  • Difficulty engaging in leisure activities quietly
  • Talking often or in a rushed manner

Combined type ADHD may simultaneously include symptoms from the hyperactive/impulsive list and inattentive list.

Diagnosing ADHD

For an attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder diagnosis to occur, a practitioner may first test to see if symptoms are attributed to another condition. 

ADHD can be diagnosed in any person of any gender, age, or life experience. The condition may impact your life as an adult. ADHD can interfere with work, interpersonal relationships, daily self-care activities, attending appointments and meetings on time, or household chores.

If you believe you may have symptoms of ADHD, consider reaching out to a primary care practitioner for a referral for psychiatric testing.

Facts And Statistics About ADHD

Here are some facts and statistics about ADHD:

  1. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder can impact people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.
  2. Those with a parent or sibling with ADHD are statistically more likely to live with ADHD. Studies show a 74% hereditary rate for the condition.
  3. 4% of children in the United States are said to receive a diagnosis of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder at some point, whereas 8.4% have a current diagnosis.
  4. About 4.4% of adults in the United States live with ADHD.
  5. People with ADHD are significantly more likely to experience sleep disturbance when compared to the rest of the general population. This disturbance may include trouble falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep.
  6. Several comorbidities or co-occurring conditions may be more likely to present in those with ADHD than in the general population. These include but are not limited to anxiety disorders, depression, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and substance use conditions*.

*Substance use conditions may feel isolating. If you or someone you know struggles with substance use or a substance use disorder, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit the SAMHSA website.

Getting An ADHD Diagnosis

If you or someone in your care may have ADHD, you might wonder how to start the diagnostic process. Often, the diagnostic process for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may involve seeing a qualified provider who works with or specializes in ADHD.

To find someone qualified to provide an ADHD diagnosis, you can:

  • Search the web for centers or providers in your area
  • Ask your general doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist to refer you to someone who can provide an ADHD evaluation

Once you find someone who can evaluate individuals for ADHD, consider reaching out for an evaluation. During your appointment, a provider may look at symptoms and history. It may be a lengthy process. However, a diagnosis can be valuable and potentially life-changing for someone previously living with undiagnosed ADHD.

A diagnosis may provide relief because it can allow you a starting point to address your symptoms adequately. With a diagnosis, you may be able to manage ADHD through treatment, a personal understanding of your symptoms and how they affect you, and potential accommodations at work or school.

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Treatment For ADHD

ADHD is often treated using medication or a combination of medication and therapy for children and adults. There are stimulant and non-stimulant options for medication used to treat ADHD. Consult your prescribing doctor or primary care physician when considering medication, primarily if you already take other medicines.

ADHD symptoms may impact all areas of your life. In this case, therapy may be an effective treatment option. ADHD might affect work and school experiences, daily tasks, interpersonal relationships, stress levels, and a person's emotions. For example, many people with ADHD face increased rejection sensitivity. A counselor may help you learn to deal with these symptoms on an emotional level. Studies show that online counseling is as effective as traditional counseling for those with ADHD. It could be a valuable alternative for someone who struggles to remember appointments or find the motivation to leave home. 

A counselor may benefit you if you struggle with ADHD symptoms, interpersonal relationships, life stress, or other mental health concerns. To find a therapist, you can ask your primary care physician for a referral, contact your insurance company to see who they cover, search the web, or sign up for a reputable online therapy platform such as BetterHelp.

Consider reading below to find counselor reviews from others who have had similar questions.

Counselor Reviews

"She really helps me focus and see the bigger picture without getting caught up in my anxiety. She listens and makes me feel heard. She give advice that I didn't think about and puts things into perspective while validating my emotions and experiences without letting me get wrapped up in them. She has made it easier to open up to those around me and be my true self and grow into a better version of my self over time."

"Yusra is extremely easy to talk to, she makes it very simple to discuss anything. She listens well, is clear in her communication and feedback, is non-judgmental, kind, caring and is always professional in her conduct. As someone who regularly finds it difficult to open up, I can't stress enough just how easily she facilitates a discussion."

Takeaway

Although ADD is no longer a clinical term, there are several types of ADHD, and the inattentive type may exhibit symptoms similar to those initially outlined under ADD. If you're interested in learning more about this topic concerning your own mental health, consider reaching out to a counselor and taking the first step towards a better self-understanding.

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