Difference Between ADD and ADHD

ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is one of the most commonly reported disorders in children. The condition presents with a broad category of symptoms so the actual clinical manifestation may vary from person to person. According to the current statistics reported by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 6.5 million children in the United States are currently living with this condition.

Formerly this condition is also termed as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which is now not used as frequently as ADHD. In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association published a report on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to redefine the clinical picture. This article entails some key differences between ADD and ADHD.

What Is the Difference Between ADD and ADHD?

Both ADD and ADHD are common brain conditions in which the affected person fails to perform normal day-to-day activitiesrequiring mild focus, such as brushing teeth, doing school work etc.

In clinical practice, psychiatrists define attention deficit disorder (ADD) as a sub-type of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Although the former term is still used by parents and teachers when referring to the condition, professionals have opt to use ADHD over ADD since 1994.

Below are key areas where differences between these two conditions are most evident:


The most significant difference between ADD and ADHD is typical behavior of the patient. Those with ADHD deal with hyperactivity and restlessness; the children have a burst of energy which prevents them from sitting still in a classroom. This behavioral pattern can be easily identified by teachers.

On the contrary, in ADD the energy levels of the child are usually normal. These children generally do not disrupt the class,so in turn they may go undetected due to low-profile keeping. Usually the teachers describe the ADD children as sitting still in a state of day-dreaming, and with shy personalities.

Brain Activities

A noticeable difference is observed in the brain structure and activities of children suffering from ADD and ADHD. Parietal lobe of the brain appears to be responsible for symptoms of ADD, whereas in ADHD the compromised structure is the frontal lobe.These functional abnormalities in specific areas of the brain result in insufficient neurotransmitter activities, leading to an abnormal level of dopamine and norepinephrine.


Another difference between ADD and ADHD lies in the way of communication. Children suffering from ADD tend to beless interactive. They refrain from displaying emotions such as anger, and are not interested in sharing with others. These children are also very shy compared to others of their age. Such withdrawal from communication is caused by their inability to process information well, and can be deemed as immature and having problems connecting with other people.

On the other hand, children with ADHD appear to be more talkative. Also,theyoften have an egocentric personality, and do not care about getting along with others. They display intolerable behaviorsand are rejected by other kids. These children lack the ability to negotiate; instead, manipulating is easier for them.

Learning Difficulties

The cognition process of ADD sufferers is much slower than normal. So they find difficulties in processing information when any task is given. The most common areas where they find problematicare spelling and reading.

With ADHD the cognition ability is fine, so children with this condition do not experience challenges comprehending things; instead the problem appears in applying information and learning from mistakes. Other learning difficulties include dyslexia. However, many of them are highly intelligent and are able to master school subjects.


The difference between ADD and ADHD narrows down when it comes to therapeutic intervention. The medications prescribed for treating ADD and ADHD are the same and generally include use of psychostimulants.

Behavioral modification is a means of treatment which aim to help parents and teachers to better manage children’s symptoms. If a child suffers from ADHD, he/she needs to be placed in activities where more amount of energy is utilized, or learning strategies to help with sitting still when needed; while in children with ADD organizational techniquestend to be more beneficial, such as how to organize their homework systematically, ormanage time using technical equipment like smartphones.

Many times the diagnosis of this condition becomes problematic, for parents and other people surrounding. This happens because a child who is not having any hyperactive behavior may also have ADHD of inattentive type, which can be quite confusing. The following section specifies typical signs and symptoms of each type of ADHD.

Types of ADHD

When it comes to ADHD, every case is different, no one fits every single criteria. Generally, physiciansdistinguish ADHD into three broad categories:

  1. Inattentive

Children with this type of ADHD must fit at least 6 out of the following 9 criteria:

  • Careless mistake making
  • Unable to follow explained instructions
  • Forgetfulness
  • Easily distracted
  • Not listening
  • Lack of attention todetails
  • Unable to keep on tasks with enough attention
  • Not involving in activities that require effort
  • Losing things required to complete a task
  1. Hyperactive-impulsive

Children with this type of ADHD must fit at least 6 out of the following 9 criteria:

  • Sudden  standing up when sitting
  • Interrupting in tasks
  • Too much talking
  • Cannot complete their work quietly
  • Fidgeting
  • Out of turn talk
  • Squirming
  • Often appears to be on edge
  1. Combined

Children suffering from combined type display symptoms of both the above-mentioned types. This is the most common type of ADHD.

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