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Difference Between ADD and ADHD


Updated June 03, 2014

Difference between ADD and ADHD
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Difference Between ADD and ADHD

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a general term frequently used to describe individuals that have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder without the hyperactive and impulsive behaviors. The terms ADD and ADHD are often used interchangeably for both those who do and those who do not have symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the official name used by the American Psychiatric Association, and it encompasses hyperactive, impulsive, and/or inattentive behaviors. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) actually includes three different types of ADHD.

ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type

Symptoms are primarily related to inattention. The individual does not display significant hyperactive/impulsive behaviors.

Most people refer to the predominantly inattentive type of ADHD simply as ADD. These individuals may have trouble paying attention, finishing tasks, or following directions. They may also easily become distracted; appear forgetful, careless and disorganized; and frequently lose things.

Individuals with the predominately inattentive type of ADHD are not only not hyperactive, they can tend to be rather sluggish and slow to respond and process information. They often have difficulty sifting through relevant and irrelevant information. They may seem daydreamy, spacey or as though they are in a fog and may be shy or withdrawn. Their symptoms are less overt compared to an individual with hyperactive and impulsive symptoms. Unfortunately, as a result, many individuals with the predominately inattentive type of ADHD are often overlooked.

ADHD, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type

Symptoms are primarily related to hyperactivity and impulsivity. Individuals do not display significant attention problems.

Those with the predominantly hyperactive-impulsive type of ADHD may appear restless, fidgety, overactive and impulsive. They “act before thinking” and often “speak before thinking” by blurting out and interrupting others. People with these hyperactive/impulsive behaviors may play and interact loudly. They have difficulty staying in their seat, talk excessively, and have trouble waiting turns. They may seem to be perpetually “on the go.”

ADHD, Combined Type

Individuals display both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive symptoms.

Once an ADHD type is determined, proper treatment approaches can be explored.

Additional Reading:
Myths About ADHD
ADHD - More Than Just Hyperactivity
Understanding ADHD in Girls
Wondering If You Have Adult ADHD?
Women with ADHD


American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition, Text Revision) DSM-IV. Washington, D.C. 2000.

Russell A. Barkley, PhD. Taking Charge of ADHD. Guilford Press. 2005.

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