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Difference Between ADHD and ADD, Types Causes, Diagnoses & More

To understand the difference between ADHD and ADD we need to understand how our brain and body function. Our body is a highly organized thing. This organization is not just on one but multiple levels. Different types of cells organize to form a tissue.

Different types of tissues organize to form an organ. Then different organs organize to form an organ system. Finally, the organ systems organize to form one functional human body.

It is like a highly organized corporate company having functional units on multiple levels. But like in every corporate company, there has to be someone to supervise the functioning of all the units.

In our body, this function is performed by our brain. The brain is the master of the whole body. It regulates most of (if not all) the functions of the body.

Despite being the ruler and master of the body, the brain is not always perfect. It can go a little crazy. Its functioning can decline like any other organ in the body.

And when the functioning of the brain is affected, we lose control over our body. We lose the organization between our organs.

Difference Between ADHD and ADD, Types Causes, Diagnoses

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactive disorder. It is a neurological and psychological disorder in which the person has a problem in focusing and low control over his or her impulses.

What is the difference between ADHD and ADD?

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) and ADD (attention deficit disorder), these two disorders are very confusing. Their name is so similar that people consider them to be two different names of the same disorder.

It is not true, however. These two are different from each other. In old days, if a person had trouble focusing and lack of attention but he lacked hyperactivity and impulsiveness, he or she was said to be suffering from attention deficit disorder (ADD).

And if someone has was hyper and impulsive rather than lacking focus and energy, he or she was said to be suffering from attention deficit and hyperactive disorder (ADHD).

Things have changed now. Both of these disorders now come under the heading of ADHD. Now, ADD is one of the types of ADHD called primarily inattentive ADHD. Even the term ADD is not used nowadays.

The disorder characterized by hyperactivity and impulsivity is now called primarily hyperactive ADHD and is the other type of ADHD.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of ADHD are given below:

Symptoms in children: ADHD is common in childhood. The symptoms are divided into different types i.e., inattention and hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

  1. Inattention: Children with primarily inattentive ADHD shows the following symptoms:
    1. The kid could focus on the tasks and activities.
    1. Has a poor memory. Often forget about daily activities like homework or class test
    1. The kid is very shy.
    1. Does not respond or ignores when someone is speaking to him/her
    1. Has difficulty maintaining attention in the classroom
    1. Often make careless mistakes
    1. The kid is easily distracted or sidetracked.
    1. He/she is not very good at following instructions.
    1. Faces trouble while organizing things.
    1. Has poor execution of daily activities
    1. Could not perform daily school activities
    1. Avoids tasks that require him/her to focus and put mental effort for a long time, for example, the homework.
  2. Hyperactivity and Impulsivity: A kid with primarily hyperactive ADHD shows the following symptoms:
    1. Looks full of energy every time
    1. Randomly stands up from the seat in the classroom during a lecture
    1. Is very impatient and could not wait for his or her turn
    1. Finds it very hard to sit still and do nothing
    1. Runs around and climb things in inappropriate situations
    1. Talks too much even if it does not make sense
    1. Constant taps his hands or feet fidgets or squirms while sitting in a chair
    1. Cannot play quietly
    1. Often interrupts others during conversations
    1. Gives out the answer even before the teacher has finished the question
    1. Could not relax and always appear “on the go”.

Symptoms in adults: Although ADHD is commonly seen in small children and teenagers; it can be sometimes present in adults as well. It is because the person had ADHD in childhood which was not diagnosed at that time and is now present even in adulthood.

Symptoms are mostly similar to those present in children. However, few symptoms are different because of the difference in social and work environment of the two stages of life.

An adult with ADHD shows the following symptoms:

  1. Has poor memory. Forget about his/her office tasks and house chores
  2. Cannot sit quietly in leisure time
  3. Very impatient
  4. Have quick mood swings and irritability
  5. Poor organizational skills
  6. Makes careless mistakes
  7. Cannot focus on the work
  8. Easily distracted and sidetracked
  9. Speaks too much
  10. Often interrupts other people in conversations and is very difficult to keep silent.
  11. Always feels restless
  12. Starts a new task before finishing the previous tasks
  13. Blurts out responses even before the other has finished his or her sentence
  14. Cannot deal with stress
  15. Takes risks in activities having little or no regard for personal safety

What are the types?

ADHD or attention deficit hyperactive disorder has the following types:

  1. Primarily inattentive ADHD: It is the term used to describe ADD nowadays. If a person has trouble focusing and lack attention but does not have hyperactivity and impulsiveness, he or she is suffering from primarily inattentive ADHD.
  2. Primarily hyperactive ADHD: It is the term used to describe ADHD nowadays. If a person is hyperactive and has uncontrolled impulsive behavior, he or she has primarily hyperactive ADHD.
  3. Mixed or combined ADHD: It is a mixture of both primarily inattentive ADHD and primarily hyperplastic ADHD. It has symptoms of both inattention and hyperactivity and impulsivity.

What are the causes?

Following are the possible causes for ADHD:

  1. Brain problem: Focus and control and the functions of the brain. Brain functioning depends upon signal transmission between the neurons. Neurotransmitters play an important in signal conduction in the brain. An increase or decrease in the release of the neurotransmitters can damp or exaggerate brain functioning causing ADHD.
  2. Genetics: ADHD also has a genetic inheritance. You can have ADHD because your parents had it and they transferred this disorder to you as an inheritance.
  3. Problems with brain development: Embryonic development is a highly organized process. However, sometimes there is some problem with the genes or signaling molecules and the development is affected. A person can have ADHD because of some problem in brain development during embryonic development.

What are the risk factors?

Following are the risk factors for ADHD:

  1. Family history: If your parents had ADHD, there are good chances that you can also have this disorder.
  2. Environmental toxins: Lead is a heavy metal that damages the brain. If you live near a lead factory or have been exposed to lead at a young age by some others mechanism, you can have ADHD.
  3. Brain injury: If you had brain injuries from an accident or a fight, you are at increased risk of having ADHD.
  4. Premature birth: If you were delivered prematurely, your brain might have developed properly putting you at risk of getting ADHD.
  5. Substance abuse in pregnancy: Smoking, drinking and drug use by your mother during pregnancy can affect your brain development putting you at high risk of ADHD.
  6. Toxin exposure during pregnancy: If your mother was exposed to chemical toxins during pregnancy, these substances could affect your brain development increase the risk of ADHD.

What are the complications?

ADHD can cause the following complications:

  1. Financial issues
  2. Poor school performance
  3. Poor performance at work
  4. Frequent car accidents and other accidents
  5. Poor physical and mental health
  6. Unstable relationships
  7. Frequent problems with the police and lawsuits
  8. Unemployment
  9. Poor self-image
  10. Poor social life
  11. Excessive drinking
  12. Drug abuse
  13. Suicide

When to see a doctor?

You should consult with a doctor if:

  1. The symptoms are severe
  2. Symptoms are present for a long time
  3. Your life is being significantly affected

What is the diagnosis?

Diagnosis of ADHD is made by a psychiatrist, pediatric or occupational trained in ADHD. The doctor will ask about your symptoms and your concerns and check if you fulfill the criteria for ADHD. A physical examination is also performed to rule out other problems causing the symptoms.

The criteria for diagnosing ADHD in children are:

  1. Symptoms are present for at least 6 months
  2. Symptoms are affecting the kid at the social, academic and developmental level
  3. Symptoms are present in two to three different settings like school, home, with friends and other gatherings
  4. Symptoms started before the age of 12
  5. No other physical or psychological cause could explain the symptoms

The criteria for diagnosing ADHD in adults are:

  1. 5 or more symptoms of ADHC are present
  2. Had these symptoms in childhood affecting school performance
  3. Difficulty in dating and poor marital relationship
  4. Difficulty in making friends
  5. Underachievement at work
  6. Dangerous driving

What is the treatment?

Treatment for ADHD consists of medications and psychological interventions. These can be used alone or together to treat ADHD.

  • Medications: Different stimulant and non-stimulant medications can be used to treat ADHD. These medications act on the receptors in the brain and change brain functioning to relieve your symptoms. The medicines approved to treat ADHD are:
    • Methylphenidate
    • Dexamfetamine
    • Atomoxetine
    • Lisdexamfetamine
    • Guanfacine

These medicines can have side effects. Thus close monitoring is necessary with the use of such drugs.

Psychological interventions: Different psychotherapies and psychological interventions can be used to treat ADHD. These therapies are listed below:

  • Behavioral therapy: It involves making positive changes in your behavior like controlling anger, organizing your work, sharing your toys, being patient, responding to criticism.
  • Stress management techniques: These techniques help you deal with stress.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy: It is similar to behavior therapy. It involves a change in behavior as well as thinking.
  • Parenting skills: Parenting is not a very easy job. It is more difficult when your kid is suffering from ADHD. Parenting skills help parents in encouraging positive behavior and discouraging bad or negative behavior in their children.
  • Family and marital therapy: Persons with ADHD do not have good relationships with their families, friends and life partner. Family and marital therapy can help the family members, friends and spouse to encourage behavior change, handle disruptive behavior and improve the relationship with the patient.

What are the home remedies?

You can use different tips to manage your ADHD or help your kid suffering from ADHD.

For children: You can use following tips to help your kid if he/she has ADHD:

  1. Organize everyday items like clothes, stationery, backpacks, notebooks and toys.
  2. Keep a routine or schedule for daily activities like sports, homework, using mobile, watching TV etc.
  3. Make clear rules for your kid to understand and follow
  4. Praise and reward your kid on good behavior

For adults: You can manage your ADHD with the following tips:

  1. Make a routine for yourself and follow it on daily basis.
  2. Divide your work into smaller and more manageable parts
  3. Use sticky notes to write notes about your daily tasks.
  4. Make a checklist of the tasks for each day. Put the most important tasks at the top of the list.
  5. Use a diary to note down appointments, deadlines, tasks, activities and ideas.
  6. Take help from your family, friends or ADHD support groups

What is prevention?

You can prevent ADHD by following methods:

  1. Stay mentally and physically active. Exercise and play sports to keep both your mind and body active and healthy.
  2. Never use alcohol, cigarettes or drugs during pregnancy.
  3. Live in a clean neighborhood. Stay away from areas with a lot of factories nearby.
  4. Use activities to sharpen your brain.
Abdur Rashid
Medically Reviewed By Abdur Rashid
MSC Public Health, MCSP, MHCPC
BSC (Hon) Physiotherapy
Consultant Neuro-spinal & Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist


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