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It is not unusual to hear the terms ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) tossed around in everyday conversation, but there seems to be a lot of confusion over what those terms really mean.
Many people use these terms interchangeably or incorrectly to describe an active child or a child who has trouble following directions. In reality, if your child has received a diagnosis of ADHD, you may be wondering about other people’s perception of this diagnosis. What exactly are ADD and ADHD? What do these terms mean and what does that mean for your child?
What is ADD vs. ADHD?
The terms ADD and ADHD are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably. So what is ADD vs. ADHD?
ADHD is characterized by impulsive behavior, distractibility, and restlessness, or hyperactivity. If the physical symptom of hyperactivity or restlessness is absent, then this is referred to as ADD.
ADD is often found in girls or women, although it does also occur in boys and men. Individuals with ADD may avoid diagnosis as they are seen to be shy or quiet rather than struggling.
In children aged 1-3 years, signs of possible ADHD or ADD may include higher levels of activity than other children, problems sleeping and napping, and difficulty transitioning from one activity to another. Signs of inattention or difficulty concentrating may not be noticeable until your child starts school. Children of school-going age may be diagnosed by a combination of signs such as lack of focus, difficulty waiting their turn, self-focused behavior, interrupting, emotional outbursts, inability to complete tasks, forgetfulness, and disorganization.
ADD means an inability to focus
ADD is a diagnosis that means that your little person may have difficulty maintaining attention or focus on an activity. If you have a diagnosis of ADHD, your child may have difficulty with focus and maintaining attention as well as impulsive or hyperactive behavior.
Diagnosis is made by a doctor or another qualified practitioner using a set of criteria. Recently the criteria have been slightly altered, and all fall under the diagnosis of ADHD, but it’s now identified into 3 distinct groups.
ADD is a subset of ADHD
It can be confusing to understand the difference between ADD vs. ADHD. ADD is technically a subset of ADHD. While people generally use the term ADD, it is not a part of the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), which doctors use to diagnose mental health disorders. So what does this mean?
ADHD is a brain disorder that causes inattention, hyperactivity, and poor impulse control. What was formerly known as ADD is now diagnosed as predominantly inattentive ADHD, which presents as inattention and poor impulse control without the component of hyperactivity.
ADD children aren’t hyperactive
ADD and ADHD are often used interchangeably, but their names contain the major difference between them. Children with ADD are inattentive, but they are not hyperactive. They are often perceived as shy or as daydreamers. Conversely, children with ADHD are also inattentive, but that lack of focus is accompanied by hyperactivity and impulsivity.
They are what I have often called as a mom and an educator the ping-pong ball in the class. They are constantly moving and fidgeting, but their activity does not seem to have a clear purpose. They just feel the need to be everywhere, all the time. It is also significant to note that though ADD and ADHD can disrupt learning, they are not learning disabilities but disorders of the brain.