When searching for information on attention and focus difficulties, you’ll find attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) lumped together. In fact, you’ll often read ADD/ADHD. So it’s easy to see why people get confused. I have had many people ask me what the difference is between the two terms.
Before we talk about the differences, it’s worth it to take a brief historical look at attention deficit disorder to get an idea of how the term came about.
The diagnostic system of psychiatric disorders is relatively young, having been adopted back in 1980. Before that, the term that doctors used to describe hyperactive and inattentive children was “Hyperkinetic Disorder of Childhood.”
Then a new publication of the psychiatric diagnostic reference, called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 3rd Edition (DSM III), came out in 1980 and the terms “attention deficit hyperactivity disorder” (ADHD) and “attention deficit disorder without hyperactivity” (just plain ADD) were formalized.
So What are the Real Differences Between ADHD and ADD?
The real difference between ADD and ADHD is who is diagnosing the person and which terminology (older or newer) they prefer to use. For example, the term “Attention Deficit Disorder” is shorter and easier to say and write. It is often used by people, as well as medical professionals, as a shorthand version of the full-blown Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.
To be clear, and technically speaking, there is no longer an official “attention deficit disorder (ADD)” diagnosis — it is all known as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), with a specifier made for the actual type of ADHD the patient suffers: inattentive type, hyperactive-impulsive type, or a combination type.
That being said, ADD is often used as a shorthand to describe the inattentive type of ADHD.
Treatments for ADD and the other types of ADHD (hyperactive-impulsive and combination) are similar and typically include some kind of therapy and/or medication as interventions.
Common therapies include:
Behavioral therapy: Often using rewards system, the goal of behavioral therapy is to change negative behaviors into positive ones. This therapy is often used in conjunction with medication.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): This is a type of talk therapy that encourages individuals to think about their feelings and behavior. In part, CBT helps kids and adults replace negative thoughts with ones that are more realistic and positive. It also helps kids build self-esteem, which tends to be negatively affected by ADHD.
CBT is also effective for treating ADHD, anxiety and depression. Anxiety and/or depression occur in about 50 percent of people with ADHD.
Social skills groups: This is a therapy primarily used to treat kids and adolescence with ADHD. For some kids, ADHD symptoms can make it hard to socialize. Kids may talk nonstop or have trouble thinking before they speak. Some children with ADHD may also have difficulty dealing with their emotions. A social skills group can help kids learn and practice important skills for interacting with others.
If you think you or a loved one may have ADHD head over to our services tab and read about how we typically identify and diagnosis ADHD in children and adults.