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Are ADHD and ADD the same thing?

You've likely heard people say they have ADD and others say they have ADHD. When you hear these, you likely get the message that the person with ADD is distractible and the person with ADHD is hyper.

If you've been told you have ADD by a qualified professional, guess what? You have ADHD, my friend. Let's explore why.

A Little History

First, let's go over some terms. ADHD = Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADD = Attention Deficit Disorder.

Technically speaking, ADD does not exist anymore. At least, it doesn't exist in the DSM 5 which is what we currently use to diagnose mental health and developmental disorders.

Where Did the Term "ADD" Come From If It No Longer Exists?

We used to differentiate ADHD and ADD, because some people would present more hyperactive and others more inattentive. ADHDers were the hyperactive ones, and ADDers were the inattentive ones.

Makes sense right? Well, there were a few problems:

  1. ADHDers still showed some inattention, and ADDers still showed some hyperactivity.

  2. ADHDers and ADDers sometimes seemed to... switch. That is, some people would be more hyper as kids and inattentive as adults, and vice versa. Shoot, some people could be more hyperactive on Tuesday and more inattentive on Wednesday.

  3. The ADHD and ADD brains work largely the same. They are caused by the same mechanisms In the brain no matter the name.

So, What Terms Do We Use Now?

All this to say... ADD is just a type of ADHD. So, it was decided that there would be three types of ADHD:

  1. Predominantly hyperactive type - ADHDers who present with a mixture of symptoms, but mostly hyperactive symptoms (ex. fidgeting, talkative, trouble staying in seat)

  2. Predominantly inattentive type - ADHDers who present with a mixture of symptoms, but mostly inattentive symptoms (ex. getting distracted easily, losing items)

  3. Combined type - As it sounds... a fairly equal mixture of inattentive and hyperactive symptoms


So, if you want to get real technical, ADD would now be called ADHD, predominantly inattentive type.

Are they the same thing? Pretty much. They need a lot of the same supports, but more on that later. For now, I hope you learned something! Use whatever terms feel right to you.



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