You’ve probably heard the terms ADHD and ADD bandied about indiscriminately. Maybe you’ve been exposed to them in reference to children who have similar symptoms and behaviors, which makes parsing out the diagnosis codes difficult. Check out this brief primer on the difference between these acronyms, and how the diagnosis of patients has changed.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is actually an outdated term. It used to refer to individuals who have trouble focusing and organizing, but who do not suffer from the constant energetic eruptions of hyperactivity. A child like this may be dreamy, inattentive, quiet, and disorganized, but by no means boisterous or disruptive. This form of the attention disorder is more often manifested in girls and women, but as of 2013, patients are no longer diagnosed with it.
In 2013, the American Psychiatric Association changed the way the range of attention and hyperactivity disorders are labeled. ADD has been replaced by one of three distinct types of ADHD:
- Primarily Inattentive ADHD
- Primarily Hyperactive-Impulsive ADHD
- Combined ADHD
A child exhibiting the inattentive behaviors of what would formerly have been called ADD would now be diagnosed with ADHD-inattentive.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Hyperactivity (along with impulsive behaviors) is what separated ADD from ADHD when ADD was still a recognized diagnosis.
Hyperactivity includes a distinct set of behaviors:
- Excessive movement
- Excessive talking
- Difficulty “settling down” for periods of quiet
- Difficulty waiting, taking turns, etc.
Since the 2013 revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a child who exhibits hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors but does not show inattentive behaviors would be diagnosed with ADHD-Hyperactive/Impulsive.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-Combined
In case the conflation of ADD and ADHD didn’t confuse us enough, the changes in diagnosis have included a third version of the overall condition.
ADHD Combined is, as evident by the label, a diagnosis that includes all three major elements of the disorder: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.
Diagnosis labels like ADD and ADHD and others evolve as psychiatric science makes greater strides in understanding the underlying issues. If you’re concerned that someone you love may be suffering from ADHD, contact a mental health professional for testing. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the sooner your loved one can get the help he or she needs.