What Is Hyperactivity? ADD Vs ADHD

By BetterHelp Editorial Team|Updated May 13, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Tonia Cassaday , LISW

If you were used to hearing the term ADD as you were growing up, you might be confused as to why you’re now hearing the term ADHD so much. It may you leave you wondering if ADD and ADHD are the same disorder, or if there is any real difference between the two. The “H” in ADHD stands for hyperactivity. Understanding what hyperactivity can help you have a better understanding of the disorder itself, as well as how to cope with it.

ADD / ADHD – What’s The Difference?

ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder used to be an official diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is a book that is like an encyclopedia of mental health disorders. It’s used by mental health professionals for diagnosing disorders. In the past, ADD was listed in the DSM as being “with or without hyperactivity.”

However, in 1987, the official diagnosis was updated to be listed in the DSM as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ADHD. The updated version, DSM-5, lists three different presentation options with ADHD: inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, and combined.

So, that’s really just a more technical way to say that the difference between ADD and ADHD is the presence of hyperactivity. ADD and ADHD share so many similarities in symptoms that they actually fall under the same diagnosis. If hyperactivity is not present, then the diagnosis is Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD. If it is present, then the diagnosis is Predominantly Hyperactive Type ADHD. However, you’re likely to hear people refer to it merely as ADD or ADHD.

While some people think of ADD and ADHD as learning disabilities, they’re not. However, the Learning Disabilities Association of America reports that 20% to 30% of people diagnosed with the disorder also have a learning disability. The two together can be more of a challenge to deal with, but with the right treatment, they don’t need to be something that holds you back.

What Is Hyperactivity?

In the simplest explanation, hyperactivity means precisely what it sounds like lots of activity. People that struggle with hyperactivity may feel the need to move around always. This could include tapping fingers, wigging feet, and even talking excessively. To others that are around them, their action can be exhausting and challenging to keep up with.

Hyperactivity can be easier to spot in children because they have the tendency to run, jump, get up in the middle of class, squirm and fidget. However, chances are good as an adult, you’ve learned to keep some of your behaviors in check. This means you probably aren’t going to get up in the middle of a board meeting and run around the room. But it does mean that you may feel like doing that.

Hyperactivity in adults is more likely to present as a general restlessness. It can also present as impulsivity, meaning you may act on ideas or things without really thinking them through all the way.

Additional Information For Treatment Options

While it’s true that there is not a cure for ADHD, there are plenty of treatment options to help you live a very successful life. Some of the most common forms of treatment include:

Prescription Medication

Prescription medication is a popular form of treatment for ADHD. Many children that are diagnosed with the disorder end up on medication to stay focused in the classroom and pay attention to their studies. You should speak with your primary care provider or consult a psychiatrist to discuss potential prescription medication treatment options.

While medication is beneficial to many people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, being diagnosed with a disorder does not automatically mean that you need to take prescription medication. Many people can cope with their symptoms by making lifestyle changes such as reducing the amount of sugar that they take in. If you are unsure about taking prescription medication, talk with your medical professionals about your questions and concerns.

Therapy Sessions

Working with a therapist can also help as you learn to deal with your symptoms from ADHD. Therapists, such as those with BetterHelp, can assist you in learning coping strategies to deal with the challenges that you face from the disorder.

This can include helping you learn how to manage your time better, make better behavioral choices, and deal with the anxiety symptoms that you may experience because of your ADHD. Some people with ADHD may also struggle with relationship struggles because of their ADHD related behaviors. Therapists can help you and your partner learn how to move forward with a healthy relationship. These are just a few of the ways that a therapist can support you in your treatment.

If you prefer to speak with someone face-to-face, it’s essential to research your local therapists’ backgrounds. Make sure to look at their past experience online, or call their office beforehand, to see if they have treated ADHD in the past. However, not everyone has access to reputable therapists nearby. This is where online counseling platforms offer solutions. You may access online counseling platforms like BetterHelp from the comfort of your own home. All BetterHelp counselors have at least three years and 2,000 hours of experience.

You may also find it beneficial to join a support group for people with ADHD. It can be helpful to hear advice and be supported by others that understand exactly what you’re going through from personal experience.

How To Put Hyperactivity To Work For You

There’s a lot of information you can find about the drawbacks of living with ADHD. And, while the treatments options listed above can help you overcome many of those challenges, the disorder can also give you some unique advantages and benefits. When you learn how to harness the traits that come with ADHD, you can put them to work to your advantage. These can include the following:

  1. High Energy Levels

The high energy level that your hyperactivity brings can be viewed as an asset if you learn how to manage it a little. When others are wearing out and getting burnt out at work, you can still be going strong. When others are ready to sit on the couch and binge on Netflix after a stressful day, you may still have the energy to take on a project or get something productive done.

If you find that you’re starting to lose focus because of your restlessness, take a moment to do something to get some of your energy out so you can refocus. One successful entrepreneur shares that he does pushups in the hallway if he starts to lose focus during a meeting. Look for little things that you can do like this to help use up some of your energy while being able to stay focused on your task.

  1. Creativeness And Innovation

It is believed that adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder tend to be more creative than those without the disorder. If you find that you’re continually coming up with new ideas or ways to do things, you may have your ADHD to thank for it. You may enjoy looking for careers and activities that allow you to put your creativity to use. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box—the ability to do so maybe a gift that you have because of your diagnosis.

  1. Hyperfocus

While it’s true that inattention can be a problem for some causing them to be easily distracted, others with adult ADHD experience the ability to hyper-focus on specific areas and projects. This can benefit you in everything from your work life to your personal life to help you accomplish things that you’re trying to do.

The thing to keep in mind is to find the balance of being able to hyper-focus and in one area without neglecting other areas that you need to be paying attention to. When you get this balance right, your ability to hyper-focus becomes a huge asset.

  1. Living A Healthy Lifestyle

The extra energy that you have from ADHD can be harnessed to help keep you healthy. When many people struggle to get in a workout during the day, you may not have as much of a struggle in this area. And, the time you spend exercising can help use up some of your energy which can help you keep a better focus later in the day. You can look at it as a win-win situation.

Moving Forward With ADHD

Despite what you may have been told in the past or what you believe about ADHD, being diagnosed with a disorder does not mean that you need to live a life filled with a lack of concentration, careless mistakes, and the inability to sit still through meetings.

While some of these things may be symptoms of the disorder that you’ve been diagnosed with, there are many coping strategies, treatments, and things that you can do to overcome these symptoms and learn how to put them to use for your benefit.

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