What’s the Difference Between ADD vs ADHD?

Although professionals used to believe that ADD and ADHD were distinct disorders, the mental health community now agrees that ADD is not a separate disease. Instead, ADHD is a disorder with three sub-types:

  • Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive
  • Primarily Inattentive
  • Combination

Under today’s diagnostic standards, ADD is not a disorder. Behavioral health professionals consider people who used to fall under the ADD diagnosis to have the Primary Inattentive subtype of ADHD. These patients do not demonstrate hyperactivity as a symptom, even though many people associate hyperactivity with ADD.

Patients who fall under the old ADHD definition now have Primarily Hyperactivity-Impulsivity ADHD. Professionals diagnose patients who show inattentive and hyperactivity-impulsivity with combination ADHD.

What is ADHD?

ADHD is a mental health disorder that causes several problems with cognitive functions such as memory and concentration. Eleven percent of school-aged American minors and 4.4 percent of adults in the United States live with this mental health disorder.

Popular culture often portrays ADHD as a childhood illness. However, people of all ages can struggle with this disorder. Some patients develop ADHD in childhood and do not outgrow when they become adults. Other people with ADHD never exhibit symptoms until adulthood.

Many parents worry that the diagnosis rates of ADHD have gone up dramatically in recent years. Science has not ruled out all possible environmental factors. However, many experts agree that the increase in diagnosis rates is the natural result of heightened awareness among the general population and mental health professionals.

Parents must remember that children with ADHD will have symptoms regardless of whether they receive diagnoses. However, the kids who receive professional help can adjust and learn valuable coping skills.

Signs of ADHD in Adults

As with all illnesses, the symptoms of ADHD in adults vary among patients. However, people who regularly struggle with the following symptoms should seek help for possible ADHD.

Symptoms of Inattentive ADHD (Formerly Known as ADD Symptoms)

  • Paying little to no attention to small details at school or work
  • Unusually short attention span, even with enjoyable activities
  • Difficulty listening
  • Trouble organizing daily tasks and thoughts
  • Completely forgetting basic daily activities
  • Avoiding activities that may require concentration
  • Trouble following even basic instructions
  • Easily distracted
  • Frequently “zoning out”

Symptoms of Hyperactivity-Impulsivity ADHD

  • Constant fidgeting
  • Restless feelings
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Talking too much, sometimes quickly
  • Making hasty decisions
  • Difficulty with delayed gratification

People who have combination ADHD may present with as few symptoms from one of the lists above and many from the other, or just a few from each.

As with all mental and emotional disorders, the symptoms must be severe and frequent enough to keep patients from living their full lives. People who occasionally feel fidgety would not qualify for the diagnosis.

Adults must show at least six symptoms of ADHD for at least six months.

ADHD Symptoms in Children

Kids who have ADHD feel many of the same symptoms as adult patients. However, because children cannot fully express their feelings, they demonstrate other signs that parents, teachers, and other guardians must look out for.

Kids with Inattentive ADHD:

  • Make mistakes in their homework that seem obvious
  • Move between toys quickly
  • Zone out when adults try to have conversations with them
  • Protest doing any activity in which they need to be still
  • Have a habit of losing their everyday items

Minors with Hyperactivity-Impulsivity ADHD:

  • Inappropriately get up during class
  • Fidget during lectures at school
  • Climb on things and play loudly at inappropriate times
  • Seem to have boundless energy
  • Talk much more than their peers
  • Interrupt adults and other children to keep talking

Is There an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Test?

Only a qualified mental health professional can tell someone whether or not they have ADHD. Although many online tests would have people believe otherwise, these quizzes cannot accurately assess a person’s mental health.

Mental health professionals do use a series of assessments to determine if someone meets the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. Adult patients fill out these surveys themselves, but guardians fill them out for children.

The assessments are just one part of the diagnostic process. Counselors may talk to parents and play with children to better understand their unique situations. Therapists can talk to adult patients about their symptoms to aid in the diagnosis.

ADHD Treatment

Right now, the mental health community does not have a permanent cure for this disorder. However, several different types of treatments help patients cope with their symptoms. Depending on the circumstances, professionals may recommend medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, or a combination of treatments.


Professionals typically turn to a type of medication called “stimulants” for ADHD patients. Although this may seem counterintuitive at first, but these medications work for about 70 to 8- percent of children with ADHD.

Some non-stimulant medications have helped patients with ADHD since 2003. These drugs typically do not start to work as quickly as stimulants, but the calming effects tend to last longer than those of stimulants. These medicines are great alternatives for those who react poorly to stimulants.

Of course, many patients and families feel uncertain about trying medication for an ADHD diagnosis. People who feel this way can try behavioral therapy and lifestyle changes first.

Behavioral Therapy

Like with many mental disorders, therapists can use behavioral therapy techniques to reinforce positive behaviors and help stop disruptive ones. Counselors and patients work together to identify triggers and coping mechanisms that work.

Therapists also train parents of children with ADHD. Parents learn how to use the tips and tricks from behavioral therapy in family life. Consistency is an important part of ADHD recovery, especially for children.

Lifestyle Changes

Adults and children with ADHD can benefits from these methods as well:

  • Daily routines
  • Decrease in distractions, especially at school and work
  • A balanced diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Adequate sleep for the patient’s age