What is ADD?

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) is a complex condition with two distinct presentations. ADD is the term commonly used to describe symptoms of inattention, distractibility, and poor working memory. ADHD is the term used to describe additional symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity. Both are included in the medical diagnosis of ADHD.

The exact cause of ADHD is not known, although researchers continue to study the brain for clues. There are no laboratory tests for ADHD.

Treatment for ADHD is multifaceted. It consists of ADHD medications or behavioural modification therapy or both. Studies have established the safety and effectiveness of using stimulant medications, other drugs, and behavioural therapy.

What’s the Difference Between ADHD and ADD? Symptom Comparison

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurological or psychological disorder. Common ADHD symptoms include inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity in both children and adults.

The term ADD is commonly used to describe what clinicians now diagnose as Predominantly Inattentive Type ADHD. This quieter presentation of attention deficit disorder — not associated with hyperactivity — is more common among girls and women. Common symptoms of “ADD” include:

  • poor working memory
  • inattention
  • distractibility
  • poor executive function

The term ADHD is commonly used to describe what doctors now diagnose as Predominantly Hyperactive Type ADHD. The symptoms associated with this diagnosis align more closely with the stereotypical understanding of ADHD:

  • 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

  • talkative
  • fidgety
  • have nervous energy

Technically speaking, attention deficit disorder (ADD) is no longer a medical diagnosis. Since 1994, doctors have been using the term ADHD to describe both the hyperactive and inattentive subtypes of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Still, many parents, teachers, and adults continue to use the term ADD when referring to inattentive symptoms and presentations of the condition.

Early diagnosis and treatment of ADHD increases the possibility of long-term success for children with the condition. It can be difficult to diagnose ADHD because many of the symptoms are considered “normal” in very young, non-ADHD children. Symptoms in these children eventually go away. The symptoms of ADHD also mimic those of other conditions.

A thorough evaluation by a skilled health care professional is necessary to diagnose ADHD. A parent or teacher who suspects ADHD in a child should recommend that child for an evaluation right away.

For more information about helping your child with ADD, contact Anel Annandale at 083 711 5267 or via email at  anel@childpsych.co.za.

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