What is the difference between ADD and ADHD? Not only do both disorders contain different traits, but one of them technically doesn't exist anymore.

Around the world, science advances at a rapid pace. And within this cycle of learning and evolving, the field of psychology tends to be in flux. We're left to wonder: What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?

What Is the Difference Between ADD and ADHD?

The short answer to this popular question is that, technically, there is no difference because ADD doesn't officially exist anymore. The tool used to manage and diagnose disorders is called the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM.) This extensive manual contains descriptions and definitions of every mental disorder in the world.


And it's where one used to go to find out what is the difference between ADD and ADHD.


Every few years, the manual is updated as new research and theories pop up about mental disorders. At the time of this writing, the DSM is in its 5th edition. Within this edition, ADD is no longer an official disorder. Instead, sub-categories exist under ADHD.


So, officially, the answer to the question of "What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?" is that there are no difference.


ADD folds under the umbrella of ADHD. But, to understand these disorders and sub-categories, it's essential to understand the types of neurodevelopmental disorders out there and how they are categorized.

The Definition of Neurodevelopmental Disorders

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ADHD falls under the category of a neurodevelopmental disorder. Doctors describe neurodevelopmental disorders as a "group of disorders in which the development of the central nervous system is disturbed." Things under this broad definition include problems with motor function and language.


Learning and non-verbal communication problems also fall under this definition. These types of mental disorders also include issues with the brain. Specifically, developmental brain dysfunction.


In more familiar terms, these disorders include the popularly known attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They also include learning disabilities, autism, and cerebral palsy.


These types of disorders affect a large number of people. Looking at the numbers for autistic spectrum disorder alone reaches around 62 million globally.

The umbrella of ADHD

Finally, we come to ADHD. Most people possess a vague understanding of the disorder, but may not understand the disorder as a whole. Most people assume that if a child or teen can't sit still and continuously doesn't pay attention, then they may have the disorder. However, within ADHD are sub-categories that dive further into the varying types.


Just because a child doesn't pay attention in class doesn't mean they have a disorder. But, it shouldn't be ruled out. For a child to be diagnosed with ADHD, they have to suffer from this type of behavior to an extreme degree.


Don't use your judgment and random facts on the internet. Inform yourself using trusted resources and then schedule an appointment with a doctor or psychologist. They are the experts and know just what to look for in actual cases of ADHD.


These are the very people who can help you stop asking "What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?" and explain where your real challenges lie.


Also, please note that many treatments exist for teens and children who are diagnosed with ADHD. There is help out there, and you can find it. Just be sure to take the proper steps to do it.

Types of ADHD

Below are the three types of ADHD as defined by the DSM 5. Each one contains its own set of traits.

Inattentive type

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Ever wonder why your teen isn't paying attention to anything you say? Well, for most teens, this is quite common. Going against their parent's wishes is a typical sign of teen rebellion. It's not a cause for alarm. However, when their inattention interrupts their life in a significant way, then it's time to contact someone for help.


The inattentive type of ADHD used to be known as ADD. However, it's now a sub-category of ADHD.


The symptoms of this inattentive type of ADHD include forgetfulness and distractibility. For instance, if you continuously tell your teen to clean their room, it may be ADHD.


Also, your teen may distract easily. Concentration for these teens requires a lot more effort than their peers. They don't do it on purpose and yelling at them solves nothing.


The inattentive type also tends to manifest itself as not putting the effort into tasks that take a lot of mental energy over a long period. For them, it's just too much to handle. Lastly, they may also lose things like keys or school materials repeatedly.

Hyperactive/impulsivity type

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On the other end of the ADHD spectrum is the child or teen who can't seem to sit still. An abundance of energy and almost constant movement is what most people peg as a symptom of the hyperactive/impulsivity type.


This assumption is generally true, but there are also a handful of similar symptoms that parents should be aware of.


While most little kids love running around, it becomes an issue when they run into people consistently. If they can't control where they run, be wary. Later in life as a preteen, they interrupt people. They don't respect the boundaries set by their superiors. They generally "get into things" and don't stop.


Once they hit adolescence, they bug people constantly. They don't sit still in class and tend to fidget. Again, while some of these occur in almost every child at some point, it tends to matter more when it happens virtually non-stop.

Combined type

Finally, a combination of both the inattentive type and the hyperactive type exists. It may be hard to wrap your brain around, but this type is actually the most researched.


If your child gets a diagnosis of a combined type of ADHD, they join the majority of kids who are diagnosed with one of the three types. It's the most common, and it doesn't mean their ADHD is worse than someone who has the strictly inattentive or hyperactive/impulsivity type.


Just because a child is diagnosed with the inattentive type doesn't mean they won't show symptoms of the hyperactive type and vice versa.


It all comes down to how many symptoms of each they have. Generally, the combined type tends to have more symptoms of both. However, that doesn't mean they're more severe.

How You Can Help Someone with ADHD

A variety of resources exist for people coping with children who have ADHD. Contacting your local care provider is a significant first step in helping your child. Don't try to diagnose yourself and let the doctors do their jobs.


However, there are things you can do at home to help out. Creating a quiet space helps bring the child's hyperactivity levels down.


Set good examples and keep an organized home. Children seeing an organized home may adopt this behavior into their own. Finally, praise the child. Scolding them for everything gets you nowhere. Positive feedback goes a long way in helping your child.


Do you have any experience with ADHD? Do you think you or a loved one may fall into one of these categories? Tell us your story in the comments!


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