ADD vs ADHD: What's the Difference?

ADD vs ADHD: What's the Difference?

"...despite what type of ADHD a person has, or how their symptoms manifest, the same part of the brain is affected and remains affected even if symptoms seem to go away."

For decades, the term ADD — or “attention deficit disorder” — was used by clinicians to refer to individuals who had trouble focusing. However, by 1994, researchers had gained a deeper understanding of the condition and revised the DMS-IV — which outlines the diagnostic criteria for ADHD — so that it no longer distinguished between ADD and ADHD but rather subcategorized the types of ADHD as: inattentive, hyperactive/impulsive, and combined. The DMS-V, which was published in 2013, contains the most recent diagnostic criteria and details the ways the various subcategories of ADHD present themselves in individuals at various stages of their lives.

Understanding ADHD and how it presents itself is crucial to diagnosing and treating the condition. If you, as a parent, want the best possible outcomes for a child who lives with symptoms of the condition, or you’re trying to find out if you have ADHD, familiarize yourself with how the condition manifests across its subtypes  and how you can get help.

What is ADD?

Though an outdated term, ADD is still sometimes used to refer to someone who is easily distracted and has difficulty focusing, but who is not hyperactive. The DMS-V refers to this type of ADHD as inattentive. Though symptoms of inattentive ADHD  vary from person to person, the hallmark signs are as follows:

  • Trouble paying attention
  • Difficulty staying on task
  • Avoiding long mental tasks
  • Disorganization
  • Forgetfulness
  • Does not seem to listen when being spoken to
  • Inability to pay attention to details or to follow directions
  • Prone to careless mistakes
  • Frequently loses items

Because the symptoms are not overt or externalized, children who present ADHD in this way often go undiagnosed. Girls and women are more likely to have inattentive ADHD, which is why experts estimate 50 to 75 percent of ADHD cases in girls are missed.1

What is ADHD?

Though ADHD now refers to both inattentive and hyperactive ADHD, or combined type, doctors previously used this term to refer to hyperactive/impulsive ADHD.

Symptoms of hyperactive/impulsive type ADHD include the following:

  • Squirmy or impulsive behavior
  • Unable to wait one’s turn
  • Tendency to interrupt others, speak out of turn or say inappropriate things 
  • Excessive talking
  • Running and climbing in inappropriate situations
  • Fidgeting or tapping
  • Acting “on the go” all the time
  • Engaging in risky, dangerous behavior

Because people who have this predominant form exhibit their symptoms externally, they are much more likely to receive a diagnosis at a young age. Boys tend to have hyperactive/impulsive ADHD, which might explain why they are three times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.2

To be diagnosed with ADHD, a child must have six or more symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity in two or more settings and a teen or adult must have five.3 There must also be clear evidence that their symptoms are interfering with their daily life, such as their academics, their work, or their relationships. 

If a person has combined type ADHD, they will have enough symptoms of both criteria for inattention and hyperactivity for the last six months. 

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ADD vs. ADHD: Are They Different at All?

Since the DMS-V no longer distinguishes between ADD and ADHD, it’s an outdated idea to separate them as two different conditions. The differences are really between the subtypes: inattention and hyperactivity. 

It’s important to note that a person who lives with ADHD does not necessarily have to fall into one distinct category and symptoms can change over time. They can also be affected by life circumstances. For instance, many children with hyperactive ADHD grow into adults who no longer display hyperactivity. However, they may still have symptoms of inattention, restlessness, and impulsivity.

And despite what type of ADHD a person has, or how their symptoms manifest, the same part of the brain is affected and remains affected even if symptoms seem to go away. Some research shows when comparing brain scans of adults without ADHD to those who had a diagnosis as children, the section of the brain that contributes to a variety of cognitive functions was markedly different in those who had been diagnosed with ADHD even though they no longer displayed symptoms.4 This proves that no matter how ADHD presents (or how long ago), the underlying condition remains.  

ADHD Symptoms: How to Diagnose Yourself or a Loved One

There’s no simple ADHD test to determine whether you or a loved one has ADHD, but if you are struggling with some of the symptoms above, you can see your doctor for an examination and assessment of your symptoms to receive a diagnosis. They will also be able to help rule out any other medical conditions that may be contributing to the symptoms. 

If you suspect your child has ADHD, it can also be helpful to ask their teacher about their behavior at school. Other adults who have observed your child can give you valuable information about how your child behaves in different settings and this will be useful when consulting with your child’s doctor.

While there are a number of online tests that claim to be able to give you a quick diagnosis and even write you a prescription, it’s recommended to be cautious with these increasingly popular websites. Telehealth sites can be dangerous for overprescribing and are considered to be less accurate than in-person assessments. 

What Are the Best Treatment Options? 

Treatments for ADHD are designed to help the individual manage symptoms, not cure the condition. Additionally, many children and adults require a combination of treatments, which may evolve over time as symptoms change. Common courses of treatment may include stimulant medications, behavior therapy, education services, counseling or all of the above.

Although prescription medication can be helpful for some, these medications are associated with a number of side effects, which include headaches, moodiness, sleep problems, and appetite changes. At Brillia, we see the value in prescription medication, but prefer to see this option as a last resort, not the first and only option. There are a number of other approaches you may want to try first, especially if you’re not even sure you or your child meet the criteria for an official diagnosis.

Making healthier lifestyle changes have been proven  to greatly reduce symptoms of inattentionimpulsivityhyperactivity, and restlessness. This includes improving your diet, getting better sleep, practicing mindfulness/relaxation techniques and controlling your screen time. These simple actions set the foundation for whole-body health and self-regulation, and research shows the risk of an ADHD diagnosis is actually lower in those who eat healthily, sleep well, limit screen time, and even exercise. 

If you need more support, consider taking Brillia, a homeopathic medication that reduces symptoms associated with ADHD and anxiety without a prescription or official diagnosis. Brillia’s unique formulation consists of targeted antibody ingredients that zero in on the S100B protein, which is a crucial regulator of many different intracellular and extracellular brain processes. Almost all mental and neurological disorders (as well as temporal stress-induced conditions) are accompanied by a disturbance of these processes. Free from harsh, synthetic chemicals and harmful side effects, Brillia helps to reduce symptoms like inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity, and restlessness without affecting any other systems in the body, altering blood chemistry, or masking the personality. 

While Brillia is not a quick fix, when taken correctly and consistently, the results are undeniable. Have a look at our clinical studies and real customer reviews for more insights into how Brillia can change your ADHD journey no matter what type you have.

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References: 1, 2, 3, 4
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