What Is ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)?
Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is the term commonly used to describe a neurological condition with symptoms of inattention, distractibility, and poor working memory. Patients who have trouble focusing on school work, habitually forget appointments, easily lose track of time, and struggle with executive functions may have ADD — or what clinicians now call Predominantly Inattentive Type attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). ADD is an outdated term and no longer a medical diagnosis, though it is often still used to refer to a certain subset of symptoms that fall under the umbrella term, ADHD.
The Difference Between ADD and ADHD
Many people use the terms ADD and ADHD interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. ADD (attention deficit disorder) is the colloquial term for one particular type of ADHD — Predominantly Inattentive Type, formerly called attention deficit disorder. To summarize:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological or psychological disorder.
- Technically speaking, attention deficit disorder (ADD) is no longer a medical diagnosis, but “ADD” is often used to refer to Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD and associated symptoms.
- Since 1994, doctors have been using the term ADHD to describe both the hyperactive and inattentive subtypes of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder1.
- Still, many parents, teachers, and adults continue to use the term “ADD.”
Symptoms of ADD (Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD)
Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD (formerly ADD) does not present in the same way as the other two types of ADHD, known as Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type ADHD and Combined Type ADHD.
Hallmark ADD symptoms include:
- Poor working memory
- Poor executive function
What Is ADHD?
The term ADHD is commonly used to describe what doctors now diagnose as Predominantly Hyperactive Type ADHD. The ADHD symptoms associated with this diagnosis align more closely with the stereotypical understanding of attention deficit:
- A squirmy, impulsive individual (usually a child)…
- Bursting with energy…
- Who struggles to wait his or her turn.
Adults with hyperactive or impulsive ADHD may be…
- Have nervous energy
What are the Symptom Differences Between ADD and ADHD?
People with ADD often lack the hyperactivity component that is a prominent symptom of Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD. They might be considered daydreamers or appear to be disinterested and disorganized in the classroom or the workplace. They can also be prone to forgetfulness and losing things, and struggle to follow instructions.
In comparison, those with Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD align more closely with the stereotypical understanding of attention deficit — a fidgeting, impulsive individual (usually a child), who is bursting with energy and struggles to wait their turn. Those with this type of ADHD tend to act out and demonstrate behavior problems.
How is ADHD Diagnosed?
We can help identify Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD (formerly ADD). In fact, since children with ADD are most often not disruptive in school, they may be mistakenly viewed as simply “shy” or a “in a world of their own” from time to time.
To make a diagnosis, we will assess any ADHD symptoms exhibited in the past six months and may recommend a brain map. We may also review your medical history to rule out any other medical or psychiatric conditions that could be causing symptoms.
A Closer Look at the 3 Types of ADHD
Symptoms of Primarily Inattentive ADHD (Formerly ADD)
People who say they have ADD most likely have symptoms of inattentive type ADHD like forgetfulness and poor focus, organization, and listening skills. Inattentive ADHD often resembles a mood disorder in adults, while it’s seen as spacey, apathetic behavior in children, particularly girls.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V (DSM-V), six of the following symptoms must be present to warrant a diagnosis of ADHD, Primarily Inattentive Type:
- Often fails to give close attention to details, or makes careless mistakes
- Often has difficulty sustaining attention
- Often does not seem to listen when spoken to
- Often does not follow through on instructions and fails to finish projects
- Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities
- Often avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort
- Often loses things necessary for tasks/activities
- Is often easily distracted
- Is often forgetful in daily activities
Symptoms of Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD
This subtype encompasses many of ADHD’s stereotypical traits: a child (usually a boy) bouncing off the walls, interrupting in class, and fidgeting almost constantly. In reality, only a small portion of children and adults meet the symptom criteria for this type of ADHD.
According to the DSM-V, six of the following symptoms must be present to warrant a diagnosis:
- Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat
- Leaves seat in classroom or in other situations in which remaining seated is expected
- Runs about or climbs excessively in situations in which is it inappropriate; feelings of restlessness in teens and adults
- Has difficulty playing or engaging in leisure activities quietly
- Appears “on the go” or acts as if “driven by a motor.”
- Talks excessively
- Blurts out answers
- Has difficulty waiting for their turn
- Interrupts or intrudes on others
Symptoms of Combined Type ADHD occurs if you have six or more symptoms each of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD.
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(Read Part 2)