What is the Difference between ADD and ADHD?

When hearing terms like attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), many of us may find ourselves confused about the differences between them. What we would like to do for you here at Pondworks Psychiatry & Psychotherapy is to differentiate both of these attention disorders, offering a clear understanding of their distinctions, symptoms, and treatments. By the end of this guide, you’ll be all set to identify and manage attention disorders like ADD and ADHD, making life even better for you and your loved ones affected by these conditions.

Key Takeaways

A Brief Introduction to ADD and ADHD

Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are neurodevelopmental disorders that, although sharing some common symptoms, are characterized by distinct differences. While both conditions involve difficulties with focus and attention, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder includes an additional component of hyperactivity and impulsivity, differentiating between the two is vital for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Moreover, the causes of these disorders may include genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and other risk factors. Medical professionals evaluate the symptoms and consider the patient’s medical history to diagnose Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, ensuring that the appropriate treatment is provided.

What is ADD?

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a neurological condition characterized by symptoms of inattention, distractibility, and poor working memory. This disorder is distinct from other mental disorders, such as mood disorders, which may have overlapping symptoms but require different treatment approaches. The official name for ADD, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), is “attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, predominantly inattentive presentation”.

Proper diagnosis and management of ADD necessitate symptom recognition, including adult symptoms. Common symptoms include:

There is no single test for predominantly inattentive type Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (formerly ADD); instead, medical professionals evaluate the child’s behavior, relying on input from parents, teachers, and the child’s self-report to make an accurate diagnosis.

Moreover, boys are more often diagnosed with it than girls. Research has found that boys tend to exhibit more hyperactivity and other externalizing symptoms. On the other hand, girls usually present with inactivity. Accurate identification of the type of ADHD is vital for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What is ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is a common disorder in children. It’s a condition where a constant pattern of distractions or hyperactive behaviors can sometimes get in the way of a child’s normal behavior, daily activities, or even growth. It is further classified into three main types: Predominantly Hyperactive Type ADHD, Primarily Inattentive Type ADHD, and Combined Type ADHD.

Predominantly Hyperactive Type ADHD is associated with excessive movement and impulsivity, while Primarily Inattentive Type ADHD is characterized by forgetfulness, poor concentration, and organization issues. Differentiating ADHD from other conditions like oppositional defiant disorder is key, which may present with similar symptoms but require different treatment approaches.

The potential causes of include genetic predisposition, structural anomalies in the brain, and non-genetic factors such as low birth weight, premature birth, prenatal exposure to toxins, and intense stress during gestation. It is typically diagnosed in childhood, and the evaluation process includes considering the symptoms before the individual reaches the age of 12.

How Has The Diagnosis of ADD and ADHD Changed Over The Years?

The understanding of these disorders has evolved significantly over the years. Sir Alexander Crichton first described a disorder similar to it in 1798. In 1987, the American Psychiatric Association changed the name to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, amalgamating inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity under one umbrella term.

The definition of the syndrome has advanced through family studies and statistical analysis of epidemiological data, and there is ongoing research exploring the evolutionary nature of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder from a genomic standpoint. This evolution has helped medical professionals better understand and diagnose these disorders, leading to more accurate treatments and management strategies for those affected by these conditions.

What are the differences between ADD and ADHD?

Though these disorders are no longer distinct diagnoses, comprehending their differences remains vital for the right treatment and support. The key distinction between these disorders lies in the presence or absence of hyperactivity.

Individuals with ADD primarily experience symptoms of inattention, such as difficulty concentrating, disorganization, and forgetfulness. In contrast, those with ADHD may exhibit similar inattention symptoms but also demonstrate hyperactive and impulsive behaviors, such as restlessness and difficulty waiting.

Grasping these core differences is significant for precise diagnosis and suitable treatment, as the management strategies for inattentive type ADHD and hyperactive-impulsive type ADHD may vary depending on the individual’s specific needs and challenges.

What Are Some Misconceptions about ADD and ADHD?

There are several misconceptions surrounding these disorders, which can lead to misunderstandings and even stigmatization of those affected by these conditions. One common myth is that ADHD is merely a label for typical behavior or an excuse for poor discipline and laziness. In reality, ADHD is a legitimate medical diagnosis that requires appropriate assessment and treatment.

Another misconception is that all individuals with ADHD are hyperactive. This is not the case, as some individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder primarily present with symptoms of inattention, while others may exhibit hyperactivity-impulsivity. Differentiating between the various presentations of ADHD is vital for accurate diagnosis and treatment.

How are ADD and ADHD Diagnosed?

The evaluation process for an ADHD diagnosis involves:

A psychiatric evaluation for ADHD includes:

Identifying the specific type of ADHD (inattentive, hyperactive-impulsive, or combined) is vital for the right treatment and management. The evaluation process typically involves input from parents, teachers, and the child’s self-report to make an accurate diagnosis.

How Does ADD and ADHD Effect My Everyday Life?

ADD and ADHD can have a significant impact on your everyday life, including areas such as school, work, and relationships. In school, these disorders can hinder academic achievement, with individuals experiencing difficulty concentrating, following instructions, and completing tasks.

In the workplace, ADHD can negatively affect professional accomplishments, with individuals struggling to remain organized, manage time, and adhere to deadlines. Interpersonal relationships can also be affected by these disorders, as individuals may have difficulty with verbal communication, interpreting social cues, and controlling emotions.

What are the Best Treatment Options for ADD and ADHD?

Various treatment options are available for these disorders, including medication, therapy, and lifestyle modifications. Medications, such as psychostimulants, antidepressants, and non-stimulant drugs, can assist in managing ADHD symptoms and moderating behaviors that create difficulties. However, awareness of potential side effects of ADHD medication, such as dizziness, loss of appetite, and upset stomach, is necessary.

Therapy, such as behavioral strategies and cognitive-behavioral therapy, can aid individuals in managing daily challenges more effectively. Mental health professionals also recommend regular physical exercise and practices like yoga, as research has indicated that they can be beneficial in improving:

In individuals with inattentive ADHD, anxiety disorders and mood disorders may be common concerns, as they require sustained mental effort to manage, which can be challenging for those already struggling with sustained mental effort.


Comprehending and managing these disorders are vital for improving the quality of life, especially under the scope of the Disabilities Education Act. By recognizing and managing these conditions, individuals can devise strategies to optimize their daily habits, capitalize on their strengths, and work more productively.

Proper treatment of these disorders, such as medication and therapy, can assist in decreasing symptoms and enhancing functioning in everyday life. Comprehending ADD and ADHD can also be beneficial in personal relationships, allowing for better support, decreased conflict, and a stronger bond between partners. Ultimately, by gaining a deeper understanding of these disorders and their management, individuals affected by ADD and ADHD can lead more fulfilling, successful lives.


In summary, understanding the differences between these disorders, their symptoms, causes, and treatments is critical for accurate diagnosis and management. This blog post has provided a comprehensive overview of these disorders, debunked common misconceptions, and explored various treatment options. By raising awareness and understanding of these disorders, we can foster more inclusive environments and support those affected by these conditions in achieving their full potential.

Whether you or a loved one is navigating the challenges of these disorders, the team at Pondworks Psychiatry and Psychotherapy is here to help. We understand the intricacies of these conditions and are committed to providing personalized care to address each person’s particular needs and challenges. Our approach includes a thorough diagnosis process, a wide range of treatment options, and continuous care to ensure you are well-equipped to manage everyday life successfully.

Don’t let the difficulties of these disorders rule your life. Our compassionate, experienced team is ready to lend you the support you need. Begin your journey to a better understanding and healthier management of ADD or ADHD with Pondworks Psychiatry and Psychotherapy today!

Schedule your consultation with our team of professionals today. Let us help you lead a fulfilling, successful life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 3 signs of ADHD?

Signs of ADHD in adults may include impulsiveness, disorganization, poor time management skills, difficulty focusing on a task, trouble multitasking, restlessness, poor planning, and low frustration tolerance.

What ADHD does do to a person?

ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder that can lead to difficulty paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors, being easily distracted, and exhibiting hyperactivity. People with ADHD may find it difficult to focus, prioritize, and manage their emotions, resulting in missed deadlines and social issues.

Is anxiety a coping mechanism for ADHD?

Yes, anxiety is a common coping mechanism for adults with ADHD. It is the most common comorbidity associated with ADHD and those who experience the condition often lead an anxious life. Anxiety can manifest in many different ways, such as difficulty concentrating, restlessness, irritability, and difficulty sleeping. It can also lead to physical

What is ADD vs ADHD?

these disorders are one and the same, with ADD being an outdated term for the modern diagnosis of ADHD. Although some children with ADHD may exhibit hyperactive behaviors, this is not a requirement for the diagnosis.

What are some common misconceptions about ADD and ADHD?

There are several common misconceptions surrounding these disorders, such as that it is a label for normal behavior, all individuals with ADHD are hyperactive, and ADD is an excuse for poor discipline or laziness.