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What’s the Difference Between ADD and ADHD?

What’s the Difference Between ADD and ADHD?

You have likely heard the terms attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) but may be unclear of the differences or what the terms entail. Adding to the confusion, many people use the terms interchangeably. 

If you or your child is struggling with difficulty focusing, the team at Wellness Road Psychology can help. Our team of licensed mental health professionals can evaluate your symptoms and help you manage ADHD through effective strategies. Cognitive behavior therapy and targeted medications reduce symptoms so that adults and children with ADHD can function better.

In this post, our experts discuss the terms ADD and ADHD and what it means for those living with the symptoms. 

ADHD: an evolution in what we know

Like many conditions, as an understanding of ADHD has evolved, so too have the terms and descriptions. Decades ago, ADD was an umbrella term used to describe symptoms relating to attention, with hyperactivity as a prevailing feature. 

Today, we know that some people have challenges with attention, without hyperactivity. This led to a change in the umbrella term to ADHD, along with two primary sub-types: ADHD inattentive type, and ADHD hyperactive type. Some children and adults have combined inattentive and hyperactive type ADHD. With the addition of sub-types, the term ADD became obsolete. 

Primary characteristics of ADHD

Regardless of subtype, children and adults with ADHD struggle with executive function. The executive system handles a broad range of neurocognitive task-oriented, self-regulated behaviors. This system helps you plan, prioritize, and execute tasks -- from completing homework and finishing a work project, to planning your schedule, and getting to a meeting on time. 

Children and adults with ADHD have weaknesses in executive function circuitry, resulting in symptoms such as:

Adults with ADHD may daydream, struggle to complete tasks, and find it hard to manage their daily lives. Children with ADHD often have trouble paying attention in school and find it challenging to start or complete tasks. 

ADHD inattentive type

Adults and children with inattentive type ADHD struggle with attention but have few or no symptoms of hyperactivity. If you have this subtype of ADHD you may experience:

Wellness Road Psychology providers are skilled at detecting the form of ADHD you’re dealing with.

ADHD hyperactive type

Children and adults with ADHD hyperactive type struggle with impulse control. If you have predominantly hyperactive type ADHD you may:

The exact cause of ADHD is not yet fully understood. A combination of genes and environmental triggers are likely involved. 

Adults with ADHD

Although the term ADHD is often used to refer to children with the condition, it’s important to know that ADHD is not just a childhood problem. In the past, it was thought that ADHD symptoms diminish as children grow older. It’s now understood that instead of children “growing” out of ADHD, instead, as people get older they learn different strategies to mask or cope with their ADHD symptoms. This means that symptoms appear to persist into adulthood for many people. 

For this reason, ADHD may look different in adulthood than in childhood. An adult with ADHD hyperactive type may come across as impatient and may fall into impulsive habits like gambling, and excessive shopping. An adult with ADHD inattentive type may come across as disorganized, and be chronically late to important appointments. 

Help for ADHD

There is help available for children and adults with ADHD. Cognitive behavior therapy can help you develop strategies and coping mechanisms to work with your brain, instead of against it. Once you understand how your brain works, you can develop habits to compensate. 

Stimulant and non-stimulant medications are available that greatly improve the lives of children and adults with ADHD. 

If you or your child has been diagnosed with ADHD or you’re struggling with symptoms and suspect that you may have ADHD, schedule a visit with a Wellness Road Psychology provider. New and existing patients can call our NYC or Dobbs Ferry clinic to schedule an appointment. We offer in-person, online, and phone therapy. Our helpful and knowledgeable team members are standing by. You can also submit your booking request here on our website.

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