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What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?
One's an older term sometimes used to describe a subtype type of the other
Co-Director, Selective Mutism Program
Child Mind Institute
Q: What is the difference between ADD and ADHD?
A: ADD, or attention-deficit disorder, is an out-of-date term that was previously used to describe children who have difficulty paying attention, but are not significantly impulsive or hyperactive—the other two parts of the triad of symptoms that define what we now call ADHD, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Most of the time when people use the term ADD now, what they really mean is the inattentive subtype of ADHD.
One way to conceptualize it is to think of ADHD as three scales, one for inattention, one for hyperactivity, and one for impulsivity. If children are rated from 1 to 10 on each scale, there can be a child who will be 10-0-0. There can also be a child who is 0-10-10. But most children will be some variation more like 5-7-8.
The important thing is that a child who has a real deficit in paying attention, without the other symptoms that tend to result in disruptive or problematic behavior, he still needs to be understood and get help. By about the second grade it starts to be a real problem for children if they can't start paying attention, and keep paying attention to a teacher in a classroom where there is competing activity in the room.
And, by the way, when we say a deficit in paying attention what we mean is paying attention to dull, boring or repetitive tasks not of your choosing. Anyone with a child who has ADHD can tell you that they have no trouble paying attention to video games or a movie.
Read our Quick Facts on ADHD.