The Big Difference Between ADD And ADHD

While you may have heard the terms attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and attention deficit disorder (ADD) used interchangeably before, they're not exactly the same. For one thing, ADD is an outdated term that is no longer used as a medical diagnosis (via ADDitude). What was once referred to as ADD, however, is now one of three subtypes of ADHD known as inattentive ADHD. So what exactly is ADHD and how do the three subtypes of the disorder compare and contrast?

Well, ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a person's attention span and impulse control. It is generally characterized by impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and/or difficulty focusing or paying attention. While you can be diagnosed with ADHD at any age, it is usually first detected and diagnosed in early childhood and often lasts well into adulthood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than six million children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD.

What are the three types of ADHD?

The exact signs and symptoms of ADHD, however, vary by type. For instance, inattentive ADHD — formerly known as ADD — is primarily characterized by inattention and distractibility instead of hyperactivity (via Healthline). As a result, children with inattentive ADHD are often forgetful, easily distracted, unable to pay attention to details and follow instructions, have trouble staying on task, lose focus easily, have trouble with organization, dislike homework and other long tasks that require mental effort, and ignore people when they're speaking to them.

Hyperactive-impulsive ADHD, on the other hand, is characterized more by restlessness. People with hyperactive-impulsive ADHD talk excessively, constantly interrupt others, squirm around or get up from their seat, appear to be always on the go, run around and climb at inappropriate times, are unable to take part in quiet leisure activities, and have difficulty waiting their turn. The third type of ADHD is known as combined ADHD, which is just a combination of inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive ADHD.