The difference between ADD and ADHD

ByThe Understood Team

If you hear people say ADD instead of ADHD, it may not be clear what they mean or what the difference is. That’s because ADD is an old term. For many years, ADD was used to describe a type of ADHD. But it hasn’t been an actual diagnosis for decades.

Learn more about the difference between the terms ADD and ADHD.

What people mean by ADD

The difference between the terms ADD and ADHD has to do with symptoms. ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) has three main symptoms:

  • Inattention
  • Hyperactivity
  • Impulsivity

Most people with ADHD struggle in all three areas. But some mainly have trouble with attention, or focus. Before 1994, they would have been diagnosed with ADD (attention-deficit disorder). Today, the formal diagnosis is ADHD, Predominantly Inattentive Type.

There are other terms people use to refer to this type of ADHD. You might hear:

  • ADHD without hyperactivity
  • ADHD, Inattentive Type
  • Inattentive ADHD

All of these terms mean the same thing — ADHD when the main symptom is inattention.

When kids with ADHD mostly struggle with attention, their challenges aren’t always recognized. They may just come across as shy, “daydreamy,” or off in their own world. But trouble with focus impacts kids in lots of ways.

They might not follow through on projects or have trouble following directions. It’s often hard for them to sift through information and know what’s important and what isn’t. They may be easily distracted and seem forgetful or careless.

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    About the author

    About the author

    The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.